The Dawning of the Age of Millennials

A digitally-native generation is bringing new values into the workforce. Properly managed, they can help companies thrive.
Jul 04, 2017

The millennial generation has come of age in the digital era, and is now entering the workforce in force. This is complicating the job of human resource managers, many of whom are generation X or baby boomers, but is creating opportunities too. An FT| IE Corporate Learning Alliance panel of experts*, and leading Spanish companies discussed the implications for HR managers. Their conclusions included the following:

Millennials are idealistic. They want to be able to identify with an organisation’s project and its goals, and they respect companies that do what they say. Like previous generations in their youth, today’s millennials are idealistic, associating ‘doing well with doing good’. Indeed, surveys shows that some two thirds of millennial workers see ‘giving back’ and civic engagement as their highest priorities.

They value freedom and flexibility… Millennials want time to pursue their own projects, and value flexible working and time off to travel. In short, ‘work is an activity, not a place.’ Idealism partly explains why around 60 percent of young staff are expected to leave their current employer within three years, raising concerns about loss of knowledge, reduced productivity, higher recruitment and training costs, and succession gaps. But job-hopping also happens because millennials seek new skills and experiences rather than just the highest financial reward.

…and want a voice. Millennials want to be seen and heard. They define ‘a good leader or boss as somebody who listens to them and involves them in activities.’ Unsurprisingly, they prefer horizontal structures, allowing for direct communication with managers and directors, and value regular feedback.

Many have a sense of entitlement. Millennials are often highly qualified academically—sometimes more so than their bosses. While this can bring fresh ideas into an organisation, it can come with a sense of entitlement irrespective of their inexperience. Companies should not be afraid to assert their own needs and insist that ‘millennials must deliver—this is a two-way street,’ Companies will be better positioned to retain their best millennial staff by devising new challenges every couple of years.

Women are highly represented. Millennial women are more prevalent in the workplace than those from any other generation, so recruiters will have to pay attention to their particular outlook if companies are to attract top female talent. ‘In many organizations there is a big expectation gap between management and incoming millennial women.’

They are changing working culture… Not only do today’s teams span a wide age range, but millennials are now moving into management roles, on a par with Generation Xers and baby boomers. As the latter retire and tech-savvy millennials take over, differences in values, communication styles and work habits become increasingly pronounced. Millennials typically prefer to work in teams, use technology to access information, and solve problems creatively. Human resources managers will therefore have to develop new ways to define and spread the company culture, as well as address different communication styles.

…requiring new approaches to training. Adapting to the demands of a new generation means taking responsibility for training them in traditional management skills. But it also means developing new training opportunities such as inverse mentoring, whereby millennials share tech knowledge and new approaches with older colleagues.

*Panelists included: Miles Johnson, Financial Times’ Global Investment editor; Laura Maguire, Adjunct Professor of Human Resources and Organizational Behaviour at IE Business School; Mar Gallardo, Partner, responsible for diversity and inclusion, PwC Spain; and David González Prieto, Manager for Client Strategy, Deloitte Digital.


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