How can your business align itself with the expectations of millennials?

Employment & Skills | Reports

Business Leader recently hosted a roundtable debate, to discuss how millennials are changing the workforce.

AS A BUSINESS OWNER/ENTREPRENEUR, DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THE NEXT GENERATION OF WORKERS HAVE EXPECTATIONS THAT ARE DIFFERENT TO GENERATIONS BEFORE THEM?

Cliff Fox: “I think there’s a lot of exaggeration and myth about millennial expectations and some sweeping generalisations. I regularly read about this generation feeling overly ‘entitled’ or wanting to work differently, like that’s a bad thing. The millennials I work with want the same things we all do – reward for great work, career development and to enjoy work socially.”

Luke Smith: “I don’t feel this. There may be pockets of ‘entitlement’ amongst that group, but largely I find millennials to be super smart and prepared for the workplace like no generation before. And we should know – at Croud over 80% of our workforce would be classed as ‘millennial’.”

Katy Howell: “I really dislike the term millennials. Sweeping generalisations about a whole generation adds very little to employee relations and is a very blunt tool with which to ensure a happy and productive workforce. What has changed across the board, regardless of age or gender, is the attitude to work, life and technology.

“It isn’t about generations, it is a set of new work expectations. We all want more from work. We all demand a work-life balance. We want to enjoy living and love working. Back in the day before the ubiquitous laptop and smartphone, when manufacturing was at its height, career longevity was valued.

“In today’s flexible working environments, in predominantly service industries stuffed full of gadgets and SaaS operations, it’s agility, curiosity and innovation that counts – in both careers and businesses.”

SHOULD BUSINESSES ALIGN THEMSELVES TO THE EXPECTATIONS OF millennials?

Cliff Fox: “It’s less about aligning a business to a generation than a mutual understanding of what the business and its people are trying to achieve. I think it is true that younger people want transparency and open dialogue, but that’s no bad thing for any organisation.”

EJ Flynn: “Millennial founders now represent half of all new members of The Supper Club. While they are joining to gain insight from peers on how to scale and manage rapid growth, their give back to fellow members is a better understanding of how to develop millennial leaders.

Most founders prefer to develop people internally for management and senior leadership positions because they’re already bought into the culture and vision and understand how the business works. It also rewards loyalty while creating aspiration in the wider team.”

HOW CAN BUSINESSES CREATE AN INFRASTRUCTURE THAT APPEALS TO MILLENNIALS?

Harry Hugo: “Millennials are looking at options aside from university to access the workplace, so offering opportunities to younger people and training to people who don’t have these opportunities in place is essential. Offering opportunities to people without professional qualifications and training them up within your company can have great value.

“Going into a role knowing there is room for growth is always on the mind of a millennial. Being able to know where they stand, the potential for progression and meeting their expectations is a big aspect.

“If you want to attract and retain millennials, then aligning and managing their expectations is vital. Having open communication about the future of your business is critical for millennials to understand and ensure that they are working towards the same goals.”

EJ Flynn: “The interview process is always a two-way street, and millennials will use a range of sources to reference a potential employer. They will look at the Twitter feed to see how social the team are or Glassdoor for how people rate the company and its leadership, for example. Some members post videos about the company and culture on their LinkedIn page to appeal to new recruits.

“The right approach to interviewing can help you determine the cultural fit, value and potential of a candidate and minimise the risk of a toxic hire.”

Kathy Hartley: “The emerging nature and quality of new jobs is likely to set the tone for how millennials respond. While individual studies have identified attitudinal differences such as a preference for swift, regular feedback from line managers rather than reliance on formal and bureaucratic processes, and for flexibility, meta-analyses indicate that a substantial difference in attitudes from previous generations has been exaggerated.

“Notions that millennials lack the commitment of older workers may simply reflect responses to new realities: a growth in insecure work and a prevailing discourse of transformation and uncertainty. Older workers meanwhile are also considering their futures, with some likely to continue working for longer, for financial and other reasons, alongside millennials.”

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE WILL BE THE CONSEQUENCES FOR BUSINESSES THAT DON’T ADAPT TO MILLENNIALS?

Cliff Fox: “We work hard at attraction, development and retention. For us the IT skills shortage is a very real challenge and one that’s overcome only by effort. Any business that doesn’t invest in its talent likely won’t prosper or survive in the long term.”

Harry Hugo: “As the global market continues to shift so does the human market and being able to keep on top of that is key, especially as the world develops simultaneously with industry understanding.

“Developing and motivating already engaged millennials within a company has the power to drive it forward.

“I believe that if you have a talented and dedicated employee and there’s room for progression and growth for them, they will be with you for a long time and want to go above and beyond.

“Companies who don’t adapt to millennials will find it harder to progress and won’t be able to connect with and employ the top talent.”

Katie Howell: “Those that don’t change will struggle with more than just recruitment. They’ll miss the opportunity. Don’t be misled by the headlines. Change is not all about office beanbags and four-day weeks. In fact, there are no set rules to adapting to the new workforce, except one: listen to your employees.

“Often the fundamental goals are the same for your business as it is for your employee. They want to be valued. They want work to be fulfilling. They want to learn and grow. They want to make a difference.”

Luke Smith: “It’s not just millennials – every business now has to be fit for the modern age, to be forward looking, inclusive, and quite simply an interesting place to work. If you don’t tick these boxes you won’t attract or retain the best talent.”

IS AN EMPLOYEE FOR LIFE NOW AN UNREALISTIC EXPECTATION?

Cliff Fox: “Yes, but that’s been the case for some time. The average millennial is forecast to have 12 or more jobs in their career, so I’ve just counted mine – 13 roles within 10 organisations – and I’m Gen-X, so what’s different?”

Katie Howell: “Anyway, who wants an employee for life? Surely it is what together you and your employee can achieve that has more rewards than meaningless KPIs such as length of service.

“Our modern-day workforce is more aware of how and where ‘working life’ fits into ‘living’. And work isn’t all consuming. Staff want to work for companies with a purpose, that consider mental health and employee wellbeing.”

Luke Smith: “Yes, an employee for 10 years would be a first step. Remember with digital and tech in particular that most businesses weren’t even around 20 years ago.”

DO YOU FIND YOUNGER EMPLOYEES RESPOND BETTER TO FINANCIAL INCENTIVES OR OTHER WORK PLACED BENEFITS?

Cliff Fox: “Both, in equal measures. Most businesses in our sector reward well for sales but there’s a tendency not to reward on results for technical or operational roles. We tackle that head-on through a profit-share scheme for non-commercial personnel linked to commercial and operational success, with flexible benefits tailored to individual wants/needs. With all those things in place you can focus on making work enjoyable, fun, social – it all has to fit together, for everyone.”

AS SOMEBODY IN THEIR EARLY TWENTIES – WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR FROM YOUR EMPLOYER IN REGARD TO EMPLOYEE BENEFITS AND YOUR WORKING PATTERNS?

James Blackburn: “Being a marketing manager in a technology company, my expectations are to have the latest and best technologies at my disposal. I value flexible working and the chance to achieve my potential through funded development, whilst realising results-based rewards. The beer fridge isn’t a bad feature either.”

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