Born from around 1980 – 2000, between the launch of the Walkman and the founding of Google, Generation Y (or Millennials) is the largest generation of youth in history. They are almost three times as big as Generation X before them. They’re the instant information, instant gratification generation with the world literally at their fingertips. Smartphones and social media simply part of daily life. Their connection to technology sets them apart from generations before them.
With Millennials on target to form 50% of the global workforce by 2020 and the battle for talent hotting up across many sectors, business leaders need to be putting measures in place now to cope with this shift both in mindset and needs in the modern workplace. According to Simon Sinek, leaders are not doing nearly enough to help them cope in a world where the corporate environment is at odds with every part of a Millennial’s being.
The following takes a look at Millennials through the lens of Engage for Success’ Four Enablers, talking about the traits that define this generation and suggesting what workplaces need to do today to best appeal to the workforce of tomorrow.
1st Enabler – Senior and line managers providing strong strategic narrative #knowthescore
Millennials want a management style and culture that is different from anything that’s gone before.
They’ve got an entirely more collaborative approach and are turned off by rigid corporate structures and information silos. As PWC says in its report ‘Millennials at work’: “They expect rapid progression, a varied and interesting career and constant feedback.”
A study by the Intelligence Group found that 64% of Millennials say it’s a priority for them to make the world a better place.
This is where the importance of a strong strategic narrative comes in, setting out an organisation’s ambition and purpose; where it’s come from and where it’s going. Gen Y need to see how their work directly impacts the organisation’s success; they believe that the work they do should have actual meaning. They look for greater fulfilment and prefer to work at places that provide this. It isn’t a case of not being committed; it’s a case of actually finding a purpose and working hard to accomplish it.
2nd Enabler – Line managers #greatjob
The role of the line manager has always been pivotal.
Now having strong line managers who can mentor and inspire is more important than ever. According to PWC in ‘Millennials at work’, “The most valued opportunity (for Millennials) was the chance to work with strong coaches and mentors.” A note of caution though, research from Engage for Success suggests 43% of employees in the UK think their manager is ineffective.
How managers recognise and reward also needs a seismic shift.
Gen Y have grown up in a world of instant gratification – they can get everything, absolutely everything right now. They expect recognition in the workplace to fulfil this. In a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram era where Millennials are hooked on the dopamine high of the like, organisations need to rethink how they motivate, recognise and reward their younger employees. The days of the annual employee evaluation, quarterly bonuses, employee-of-the-month awards or a round of applause at the bi-weekly sales team meeting are disappearing.
To keep Gen Y motivated technology platforms must be moulded into the workplace, allowing peer to peer interaction, keeping them informed, sharing goal management and best practice and providing a vital life support of regular feedback and recognition.
As Jo Moffatt, Core Team Engage for Success and MD of Woodreed says, “ESN and intranets that fail to address the ‘what’s in it for me’ will fail to engage.” Giving access to different technologies will allow Millennials to maximize performance and creativity.
3rd Enabler – Employee voice #haveyoursay
The myth of the Millennial is that they expect to be heard. The truth is, according to the IPA’s Future Consumer Report, that they simply want the opportunity to provide input.
Employers need to think outside the suggestions box when it comes to employee voice. It needs to be central to their engagement strategy, employees as central to solving business challenges and driving innovation. Technology comes to the fore here again with many new platforms and tools available to gain employee voice and feedback.
Generation Y have been brought up to ask questions when they don’t understand. Independent and outspoken, they can come across as having little respect for authority. The key for employers is realising that asking questions can often lead to answers and solutions that are actually more efficient and effective.
4th Enabler – organisational integrity #walkingthewalk
Gen Y can see right through leaders who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
52% of both Gen Z and Gen Y state that honesty is the most important quality for being a good leader. Trust is key for Gen Y, both as consumers and employees. “I would pay more attention if brands acted more like a trusted person in my life than a big company”.
There’s currently a disconnect between what Millennials want from the workplace and what they’re experiencing. No wonder then that the average length of tenure for Gen Y is 18 months.
With this generation on the verge of making up half the workforce, we need to understand them and take their needs seriously. There’s little point simply paying lip service with wallpaper values and superficial mission statements.
Organisations need to wake up, smell the fair-trade coffee and start shaping their businesses for the unstoppable rise of Gen Y. Those that do will reap the rewards.