Millennials in the workplace
by Camilla Pennington
If you can relate to some of the following “words” and know what they mean, then you might be roughly 20 to 36 years old and able to speak Millennial: “YOLO, FOMO, LOL, Swag, BAE or Whatever….”. Google “adjectives to describe Millennials” and chances are you will be disappointed by unflattering descriptions such as “narcissistic, entitled, spoiled, irresponsible, lazy, or job-hoppers”. Falling somewhere in the cracks between Baby Boomers and Generation Y (I did have to look up “You Only Live Once”, “Fear of Missing Out”, “Laugh Out Loud” and “Before Anyone Else”), I find it difficult to believe that this is a fair characterisation of Millennials. Do Millennials have positive attributes and if so, what are they? How should employers be engaging with Millennials and do we need a new workplace paradigm to accommodate the needs and aspirations of young people? This article will provide you with answers to these questions and, as a Millennial yourself, help you to size up potential employers against criteria that are important to you.
Challenging the stereotypes
Digging a little deeper into Google, my search revealed a wealth of positive traits when comparing Millennials to generations that have preceded you.
Examples of these are as follows:
- You are tech-savvy, having grown up as digital natives;
- You are optimistic and have a strong sense of community;
- You have already embraced diversity and are generally tolerant of others;
- You are confident global citizens with an entrepreneurial mind-set;
- You are the most educated generation in history;
- You are progressive, challenging the way things have always been done;
- You are team-oriented, practical and results-oriented; and
- You are multi-taskers who are nomadic and adventurous.
Now, doesn’t that sound a whole lot more encouraging?
- Entrepeneurial mind
What Millennials value when it comes to the world of work
The South African Graduate Employer’s Association (SAGEA) conducts an annual Candidate Insights benchmarking research project which aims to understand the aspirations and job-seeking patterns and behaviours of young graduates such as yourself.
The 2016 SAGEA survey included 2052 new or future employees from 108 South African organisations who revealed that when looking for work and deciding on a company to join (often for a first job), young graduates are likely to choose an employer based on the following four considerations:
- Access to good training and development opportunities;
- The overall reputation of an employer;
- Long-term career prospects; and
- Security of employment.
Millennials have a strong sense of purpose and community spirit.
This gives us, as employers, a sense of what you, as a young person, might be looking for when it comes to the world of work.
In other words:
- Opportunities to learn, grow and be challenged will be high on your priority list.
- Your community spirit and social conscience translate into a need to feel that you are able to make a meaningful contribution to society through your work and that the company you end up working for should have strong ethical and environmental values.
- Work-life balance is important – your need for social interaction, family time and adventure means that you will value personal time to do so much more than just work.
So how do you want to be engaged in the workplace and what kind of environment and culture might appeal to you?
How to engage Millennials in the workplace
Below are some of the things you will probably want to weigh up when thinking about an ideal work scenario where you are able to thrive:
- Millennials have a strong sense of purpose and community spirit and it is important that this is played out in the work that they do. Making a meaningful contribution and feeling that they are making a positive difference to the world around them counts.
- Millennials place a premium on teamwork and collaboration.They enjoy thinking together, working together, creating winning solutions together and celebrating success together. They will look for companies that are authentic and transparent .
- As a Millennial you will thrive in an environment where you are learning and growing 24/7 – either on the job, through coaching and mentorship, or through formal education and training.
- You will want to have opportunities to advance through learning stages at your own pace and for your progress to be measured and monitored via an individualised learning plan.
- A reasonable workload, work-life balance and flexibility are priorities and you will want to be measured for your output rather than for how long you spend at the office. Fortunately employers are beginning to come to terms with an increased desire for work-life balance and many companies are allowing options to work from home one or more days a week .
- Being digital natives means that Millennials are tech-savvy and used to adapting to the changes that take place as new technologies find their way to the forefront of business. An ideal employer will be one who’s agile and embraces your enthusiasm when it comes to innovating how things are done and how technology can be meaningfully deployed to improve efficiencies.
- A mistake employers sometimes make is to assume that because you are used to electronic communication, online appraisals and feedback are the way to go. But let’s face it – appraisal forms don’t provide feedback quickly enough and can be an impersonal way of acknowledging excellence. You want real-time affirmation, recognition and appreciation.
- When it comes to what you earn, you will expect pay to be competitive and you will want rewards to be linked to performance. And wouldn’t it be cool if you could choose from a menu of rewards that are meaningful to you?
- Last, but not least, relationships and networking are second-nature to most Millennials and these will be important to you in the workplace. The ability to form meaningful personal relationships with colleagues, coaches, managers and leaders will help to facilitate your engagement in the workplace.
Retention – How long are we talking about?
The 2016 SAGEA Candidate Insights research tells us that more than two-fifths of candidates expect to remain with their first employer for up to five years, one in six candidates said that they expect to remain with their first employer for four to five years, while similar numbers were planning to be there for three to four years.
It’s true that you’re unlikely to have a job for life and that a certain amount of turnover is going to occur as your career progresses. Retention is important to employers because they invest in talent and therefore want a return on their investment.
They also want to hang on to valuable skills and future leaders, but they are beginning to adapt their expectations and develop creative ways to retain talent:
- Given that Millennials want to move quickly and enjoy a variety of experiences, employers are building rotational options in to individual career paths to give employees exposure to different parts of the business and/or move between businesses within a larger group of companies.
- Global mobility allows for people to experience working for one company but in different parts of the world and maintains the steep learning curve Millennials prefer. Employers are also beginning to explore ways to re-engineer career paths which will accommodate varied exposure and learning across a number of disciplines.
- An interesting but valuable concept is the idea of a contingent workforce. This allows employers to bring skills and/or manpower into the business when needed over peak times or for specific projects while giving individuals the flexibility to pursue other opportunities such as studying or travelling.
As a Millennial who is about to embark on an exciting career path, there is no question that you will have value to add in the workplace.
Relationships and networking are second-nature to most Millennials.