Millennials (aka Gen Y) have already proven that they are one of the most powerful demographics today with a huge impact on businesses — both as consumers and as a workforce — thanks to its growing population. In fact, by 2025, it is estimated that millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce. In the past, it was easy for employers to classify previous demographics and tailor the work environment around their needs, but millennials have been a bit trickier!
Millennials in the Workplace
It’s not easy to define the behavioural characteristics of millennials. However, all research agrees that one of their most significant characteristics is that they put a premium on “experience”. In fact, 72% of millennials state that they would like to increase their spending on experiences rather than physical things.
This is no different in the working environment. The millennial workforce isn’t looking for a job just to get paid. Instead, they have high expectations for the overall workplace experience. They want to work for a value-driven and purposeful company, perform meaningful tasks and be part of a strong company culture. They prefer to work for companies that foster innovation, encourage skills development, and provide mentoring and feedback — all with flexible working hours.
Not surprisingly, there is a great deal of research when it comes to this most powerful demographic. Studies about workplace engagement are especially alarming in comparison to previous generations. For instance, 30% of millennials see themselves working for less than a year at their current company. Moreover, according to Forbes, 91% of millennials don’t anticipate staying at a job for more than three years. And to make life harder for employers, 60% of them are on the lookout for new job opportunities.
Research clearly shows that millennials are the least engaged and motivated demographic in the workforce. The requirements and expectations of millennials often seem like ‘first world problems’, which might cause frustration for many HR executives. However, organisations need to shift their approach and practices for millennials because, well — they are our future leaders!
That being the case, how can you motivate, engage and inspire this tech-savvy, independent — and high maintenance — demographic? What is this ‘extraordinary experience in the workplace’ that millennials are talking about?
Here are five strategies to ensure you meet your millennial employees’ high expectations:
1- Let Millennials Utilise Technology in Every Aspect
A significant characteristic of millennials is that they are addicted to technology and they expect to use it at all times. These ‘digital natives’ are well aware of using outdated technology decreases productivity (and their motivation) and they are very comfortable using various tools and technologies to handle tasks and even to reduce the time and effort to resolve issues. Therefore, it is very important for organisations to invest in technology and implement a culture of innovation. It is crucial to encourage the use of up-to-date technology (maybe blend it with gamification for more engagement) and modern software and tools, and let the millennial workforce teach other employees how to utilise technology for greater efficiency.
2- Recognise Flexible Schedules and Remote Work
With an increasing share of millennials in the workforce, this new generation expects to have work-life balance. In fact, a study states that 41% of employees would trade 10% of their salary for more flexibility.
Most millennials believe that trust should be established among the organisation, and completing a task and delivering high-quality work on time should be considered more important than the number of hours they spend in the office. This might be hard for older generations to acknowledge, but it has been proven to be more efficient and productive-thanks to opportunities provided by technology. So even if remote work is not an option for your organisation, you can always create an environment with more flexible hours, and build quiet workspaces and common areas where employees can work together and share ideas.
3- Provide a Collaborative Environment with a Sense of Purpose
Many surveys establish that millennial employees strongly value the community at work. According to an IBM study, more than half of the millennial workforce claimed to work better in groups than alone. They prefer brainstorming together in order to think outside their roles and achieve creative solutions.
For this purpose, first, you should emphasise a common goal. Millennial employees are interested in their company’s vision, mission, purpose, and values. They want to be a part of the big picture and to make an impact. So, ensure you communicate your organisation’s vision in order for them to pursue the same goal. Also a quick reminder: millennials are socially conscious and enjoy giving back to the community. Therefore, a well-defined organisational purpose with social impact and ethical values will appeal more to this generation.
You also need to remove the barriers of the hierarchy. A very good way to eliminate hierarchical relationships is to transform your leaders into “coach-like-managers”. Managers with coaching skills will support each employee to leverage their individual skills and allow the millennial workforce to feel empowered to put forward new ideas and make a difference. Needless to say, this is also a great way to increase employee engagement and loyalty
After creating a transparent environment with a common purpose, make sure you encourage team building through collaborative activities that bring talent together regardless of departments, skills, generation, geography, and positions. In addition, you should recognise diversity within the team as diverse teams are more innovative.
This is a great opportunity for millennials to share knowledge, collaborate, and lead other employees. They can learn new skills and demonstrate their project management expertise in a safe environment.
4- Foster Two-Way Communication: Provide Regular Feedback and Be Prepared to Receive It
Millennials were raised in an era where they were asked for their opinions, received feedback, and were recognised for their successes. That’s why they seek out regular feedback and like to work towards measurable goals. A PwC study states that 41% of millennials prefer to be recognised for their work at least monthly. This way, they know they are progressing in the right direction and whether they are adding value to the company.
They are also quite generous when it comes to giving feedback and offering their opinions. It is important to acknowledge that this is two-way communication and the millennial workforce also expects to be heard. According to Inc.com, one of the reasons millennial employees quit their jobs is they feel that their feedback isn’t respected or acted upon.
One of the biggest mistakes that managers often make is they assume giving feedback should be task-based, like a traditional ‘boss’. Instead, they need to support and encourage employees via ‘coaching’ or ‘mentoring’ and avoid micromanaging employees. They need to foster Leadership 4.0 skills and replace outdated annual performance reviews to regular coaching sessions. This will help employees stay on track and give them a clear understanding of the company’s expectations.
Continuous feedback sessions will help the millennial workforce to stay focused on the company’s goals, as well as their own individual goals, and to address issues as they arise. This gives learning opportunities within the company and gives high-potential employees a chance to truly show their skills.
5- Lay the Groundwork for Career Development
One of the main reasons why Gen Y requires constant feedback is that they strongly care about career advancement. They tend to be demotivated quickly if they feel stuck in a dead-end job without any personal or career improvement. So it is very important to encourage employees to continuously develop their skills and keep them engaged by providing career training opportunities.
Ongoing training and learning opportunities can be offered in many ways, including mentorship programs, peer-to-peer training/coaching, and reverse mentoring. With the right platforms and tools, not only you can provide professional coaching to all your employees at scale, but you can also measure, track and report on the coaching and training process.
Providing your millennial employees with opportunities for personal and professional development will show them you are invested in them, and in return, it will result in high performance and engagement.
It is quite clear that organisations need to shift their HR strategies and approach according to the millennial workforce’s needs and requirements. Companies need to provide millennials with a sense of purpose, value-driven goals, and work-life balance. These benefits should always be supported by a sustainable learning environment that enables them to constantly improve themselves and have the opportunity to make a difference.
When this driven and intelligent generation is satisfied with their workplace, it is well worth the effort.