I’m a Millennial but I don’t like to be called that. Or to be put into categories and buckets. Like many of my friends and colleagues, I’ve read too many opinions on who we are and how we should be treated. But this is not an article about stereotypes or about a generation like any other - this is about the majority of the workforce and how companies can create a talent management strategy to support us.
We are the employees you’re looking to hire, the team leaders in your weekly meetings, and the business partners you’re working with. Millennials, defined as those aged between 18 and 34 in 2015, now number 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 51-69).
The reason why everyone is so obsessed with my generation is fairly simple: data. We are now able to capture and analyze so much data, which in turn allows us to better define and understand workforce trends and generational characteristics, to the point where we can predict how workplaces will look 5 years from now. We have the power to be one step ahead of these trends if we interpret the data correctly and map our business strategies to it.
It’s clear that Millennials will be a powerful generation of employees. A growing number of us now occupy senior positions. We are no longer leaders of tomorrow, but increasingly, leaders of today. That is why our views on how businesses do and should conduct themselves are of more than just academic interest.
Understanding the Millennial workforce and tailoring your talent management strategy to it is a smart business move. Creating purpose-driven, values-based workplaces will enable you to attract and retain these bright young minds and have them take your company to the next level.
Here are the key points this article will address:
- Understanding and aligning with Millennials’ values
- What Millennials think of business
- How do they choose their employer
- What can companies do to align to this vision
- Satisfying the demands Millennials have of employers
- Learnability - a must-have
- Flexibility - nice to have
- Supporting Millennials’ professional development ambitions
- 4 actionable ways in which you can do that
If you’re left with only one thing from this article, let it be learnability and the importance of developing key skills. That’s what will make Millennials join your company and choose to remain.
Understanding and aligning with Millennials’ values
Us Millennials, we care about the society we live in. We worry and feel accountable for improving the economic, environmental, and social challenges we see around us. We also believe that businesses have a high potential to impact the society we live in, in a positive way. Deloitte’s 2017 Millennial Survey notes that since 2013, when they first asked Millennials about the impact businesses have on wider society, they continue to give overwhelmingly positive responses. 76% of us now regard businesses as a force for positive social impact.
However, we are not naive. We understand that a business exists to make profit, but the “how” of it is important to us as it links to our values. Almost nine in ten (87%) Millennials believe that “the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance.” (Deloitte)
Rather than blindly chasing numbers, we expect businesses to consider the wider society and behave in an ethical manner while furthering their agendas. Businesses might argue that addressing wider social issues is not their role, but in order to attract and retain Gen Y, they need to engage in issues that concern us, and gain our trust and loyalty.
When choosing an employer or deciding to leave their current one, my generation looks for an alignment between personal values and company values. In 2016, 56% of Millennials surveyed by Deloitte had “ruled out ever working for a particular organization because of its values or standard of conduct.” 70% of the ones who were already employed believed their personal values were shared by the organizations they were working for. This majority was also planning on staying at least 5 more years with their employers.
While pay remains an important factor in choosing an organization, engaging in a bidding war over talent will likely result in unsatisfying results for all parties involved. If a candidate is choosing between organizations offering similar financial incentives, other factors come into play, such as work/life balance, opportunities to progress, flexible working arrangements, deriving a sense of meaning, and training programs that support professional development.
“In the Millennials’ ideal workweek, there would be significantly more time devoted to the discussion of new ideas and ways of working, on coaching and mentoring, and on the development of their leadership skills.”
Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016
To help you apply these insights to your own company culture, Gallup recommends using this functional framework called the "Big Six" changes in leadership:
|My Paycheck||My Purpose|
|My Satisfaction||My Development|
|My Boss||My Coach|
|My Annual Review||My Ongoing Conversations|
|My Weaknesses||My Strengths|
|My Job||My Life|
Satisfying the demands Millennials have of employers
Empowering Millennial employees is the (only) way to retain and engage them. At the moment, this is among the greatest talent challenges currently facing the world’s employers. But how does your talent management strategy address this?
Millennials want a high degree of control over their career and development. When we feel that our career paths are in our own hands and not influenced by outside events we are empowered and more likely to stay. A key finding of Deloitte’s 2017 Millennial report shows that it is in the workplace where Millennials feel most influential and, in turn, accountable.
This perceived level of accountability is very closely correlated with influence; for Millennials in senior roles, there is an even stronger alignment. It’s safe to say that we prefer to be working in environments where we feel generally in control and empowered — something that contrasts with the less stable world that exists outside the workplace right now.
Learnability: a must-have
What sets us apart from previous generations is that we are not looking for a lifelong job, or even a career. On the contrary, we feel an intrinsic need for continuous skill development that we believe will help us remain employable.
Also read: Learning Skills Essential to Every Job
Research from the Manpower Group supports my point, showing that 93% of Millennials want lifelong learning and are willing to spend their own time and/or money on further training. In the same study, 4 out of 5 say the opportunity to learn new skills is a top factor when considering a new job, and 22% intend to take an extended break from work to gain new skills and qualifications. Respondents to the study say they would even pay for it personally and give up their own time to do it, that’s how strongly they feel about it.
“The vast majority of Millennials—93%—see ongoing skills development as an important part of their future careers.”
In How Millennials Want to Work and Live, Gallup reported that 87% of this generation rate "professional or career growth and development opportunities" as important to them in a job. However, only 39% strongly agreed they have learned something new in the past 30 days that they can use to do their job better.
Learnability is a key focus point for our generation, leading to career success. When asked what advice they would offer the younger Gen Z about to enter the workforce in a couple of years, Millennials recommend “Learn as much as possible: Begin your career open-minded and be ready to learn from others.” (Deloitte)
Employers need to recognize and reward learnability or risk lacking critical skills in their workforce. This is especially true in the tech industry, where the opportunity to learn new skills is among the top 7 drivers of retention.
Flexibility: nice to have
Flexible working continues to be a feature of most of our working lives and is linked to improved organizational performance, personal benefit, and loyalty. 69% of Millennials surveyed in the 2017 Deloitte survey are able to start and finish work at times they choose, and even work from locations other than their employer’s primary site.
“A flexible approach to work also helps businesses retain their best talent as they are giving their employees an option to do great work, but in a way that fits their lifestyles, providing a win-win scenario for all.”
Technology has facilitated mobile working to such a degree that employers are becoming increasingly comfortable with such arrangements. Companies offering a high degree of flexibility in working arrangements seem to reward their employers with higher levels of loyalty. In highly flexible working environments, the difference between those who see themselves leaving within two years (35%) is just two points above those anticipating to stay beyond five years (33 %); among those in the least-flexible organizations, there is an 18 point gap (45% vs. 27%). (Deloitte)
Also read: 11 Technology Trends in LMS
Appealing to Millennials’ strong desire for work-life balance, working flexibility supports greater productivity, while enhancing personal well-being, health, and happiness. This translates to higher organizational performance and employee engagement.
These rapid changes in workplace policies regarding flexible working are expected to increase exponentially with the rise of automation. Deloitte’s 2017 survey shows how Millennials recognize the obvious potential benefits of automation in terms of productivity and economic growth; they also see it providing opportunities for value-added or creative activities, or the learning of new skills. It’s a matter of how employers will be able to capture the value in these changes.
Supporting Millennials’ professional development ambitions
Based on these findings, here are some actionable tips on how to tailor your talent management strategy to Millennials’ expectations:
1. Offer challenging work
Talent is only top talent as long as it’s nurtured and stimulated. Challenging work represents an opportunity for growth. A good manager will know the skill level and value of every team member, and they will provide the right projects and tasks to help them upgrade those skills, gain new ones and increase their value.
Challenging work also helps build strong working relationships and improve team communication. We Millennials thrive in a team-oriented culture over a competitive one. This allows us to drive innovation and fulfillment. According to a study from The Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania, employees who feel they are working in a loving, caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork, leading to better performance.
2. Offer career security
Career security, not job security, is achieved by developing in-demand skills that can guarantee employability. This is the preferred form of security that appeals to us.
As an employer, you need to demonstrate that staying with your company can lead to career enhancement. One way to do that is to create a culture of learning that puts employee development at the center of your talent management strategy. You can also share examples of people who’ve progressed through training and on-the-job learning in your organization in your recruiting campaigns.
3. Offer flexibility
Many Millennials are open to alternatives like part-time, freelance or portfolio work. Combine aspects of these work models with your own business model, to better engage and retain Millennial workers.
Be clear what flexibility you can offer and discuss expectations and ways of working early on in the hiring process.
4. Offer mentorship
Mentoring "will be the difference between [Millennials] that succeed and fail," in the corporate world, according to Nigel Dessau, CMO of Stratus Technologies, creator of The 3 Minute Mentor and author of Become a 21st Century Executive: Breaking Away from the Pack. (via CIO.com)
Where it exists, mentoring is having a positive impact. According to Deloitte, 61% of Millennials are currently benefiting from having somebody to turn to for advice, or who helps develop their leadership skills.
A strong mentorship program can provide the access to training and ownership that so much of the workforce currently craves, determining whether employees choose to stay on, and continue to perform at their best.
To understand how your talent management strategy can support Millennials, you need to understand our motivation for doing anything. You need to know what we stand for and how we want to live our lives.
Some companies have managed to capture this in their business strategies. Most have yet to figure it out. Until they do, we’re left with a disengaged workforce that is not emotionally connected to their job and company. And indifference, for a generation that is widely recognized for being involved and demonstrating values, is a bad sign.
So how will you design your talent management strategy to attract, retain and engage us Millennials?