Millennials, also known as, Generation Y, are the new generation of workers in workplaces all over the world. It is estimated that by 2050, over half of the global working population will consist of these professionals born between 1980 and 1996. What this tells us is that in future, they will be a critical group of people that businesses will have to recruit, motivate, engage and retain.
A Unique Workforce
Their unique work ethic calls for a careful study of millennials in order to put them to optimal use. Research has revealed that the average millennial worker thinks, works and acts differently compared with the generational workers of the past; the baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and Gen X (born between 1965 and 1979). Studies into the traits, habits and values of these young workers project that the workplace as we know it now would have to undergo major transformations to accommodate them.
Indeed, the thinking behind prevailing practices within the workplace will have to change to suit the way millennials work efficiently. Organisations will be faced with the challenges of reviewing their practices and overall organisational culture in order to meet the expectations of millennials. Most importantly, Organisations will also have the task of making themselves attractive in order to not only attract and recruit, but retain these professionals.
Management and Millennials
It is undeniable that the practice of Human Resource Management (HRM) has been hit the hardest with this growing challenge due to its peculiar role within the organization. Many aspects of HRM will change in some shape or form. These include, methods of recruitment, reward and recognition, remote working policies and performance management. HR practitioners recognize this challenge and often refer to it as the double-edged sword.
This is because while millennials are considered the most available, they are the hardest generation of employees to engage. As a result, before Human Resource practitioners implement new methods and practices, it is important to explore and understand the mind of the average millennial worker and what makes them tick. This is to ensure that strategies that they are able to relate to are developed and implemented. The three areas which I consider to be most fundamental for us millennial workers which should be a priority for businesses across the world are; career progression, work-life balance as well as reward and recognition.
Progressing on the Career Ladder
As a millennial myself, one of the most important factors I consider when joining an organisation is whether there is opportunity for upward mobility. Many millennials seem to be on a race against time. They want career progression and they want it fast. For the millennial, it is extremely important that in whatever role they find themselves, there is room to grow and develop
Our minds are always thinking about the next thing; the next position, the next organisation; the next career. This is often seen as one of the downsides to having a workforce dominated by millennials. We are deemed disloyal and uncommitted to any company. Unlike Gen X workers, who work in organisations for many years, sometimes in the same positions, the average millennial seeks to stay in one role for a maximin of 2 years then they begin to wonder, what’s next?
I have observed that some organisations have succeeded in retaining millennials by providing opportunities for them to communicate their goals, expectations and dreams. This is very important because it allows managers to understand their aspirations and makes millennials feel that the organisation cares about their development. In return, they adopt positive attitudes towards the organisation.
Therefore, to be able to magnetise millennials to stay, organisations must be ready to implement policies that facilitate career growth and personal development.
Past generational professionals such as Gen X are unique in their own way. They commute to work in the morning and work at their desks until 5pm when they leave the office. This routine is repeated during the week. They are not inclined to think about work during the weekend until Monday morning. This is how they ensure a healthy work-life balance.
However, millennials demand work-life balance from their employers as a matter of course. This is because they are never offline thus always available to attend to very urgent work demands. They therefore consider it essential for organisations to ensure flexibility and work-life balance within the workplace. This is very important in retaining millennial workers. Work-life balance doesn’t just include managing things between home and the workplace, but also involves having flexible work schedules. Remote working policies, flexible annual leave policies, promoting healthy work environments and limiting working hours are really appreciated by millennials. They like the fact that there is always the option to do things in a non traditional way.
The rationale behind this trait of millennials is the desire to be trusted and not micro-managed. They believe that working remotely is less stressful and increases productivity.
Recognizing And Rewarding Good Performance
Like their Gen X colleagues, reward and recognition is equally important for millennials as generally, employees are motivated by monetary incentives. However, this matters more to millennials for a different reason. As mentioned before, work-life balance matters a lot to millennials. In fact, they are regarded as the generation that works hard but play harder. In order to facilitate this lifestyle, the level of their disposable income becomes of utmost priory for them. It is therefore very likely that many millennials will move from one job to another if the reward and incentives are better. With regard to recognition, millennials want to feel appreciated for the hard work that they do. Typically, performance evaluation takes place quarterly based on which high performing employees are rewarded or recognized. This doesn’t work for millennials.
Personally, I appreciate it better when I am recognised instantly for good work done or great results from project that I’ve managed. I think immediate recognition for hard work generates the momentum for one to continue to work at that level. Waiting months after something good has been done can leave one feeling unappreciated and overlooked. I think organisations need to bear these practices in mind when developing performance management structures and reward initiatives. that with enhanced knowledge about things that attract and retain millennials organisations are now adopting them.
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled many organisations to change their traditional ways of working into something they were unenthusiastic about doing in the past. Since these are the very same practices that millennials strongly bargained for, but were denied pre COVID-19, it goes without saying that millennials are the ideal workforce for the new workplace.
By: Antonia Mensah
The writer is an Human Resources Consultant at CarvinClay People Development.