Embrace millennial reality

Negative judgements on millennial working attitudes are inaccurate and unhelpful, says Aimee De Carcenac, consultant at Alexander Mann Solutions. Take the opportunity to change working culture for everyone and attract the brightest stars.

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As the creators and deliverers of the products and services that make an enterprise succeed or fail, people are the ultimate key to an organisation’s competitive advantage. This is exactly why ambitious and insightful organisations devote a multitude of resources to winning McKinsey’s now seemingly ubiquitous ‘war for talent’. And while this war is being fought on many battlefields globally, perhaps nowhere is this struggle fiercer and more confused than over the ‘millennial’ generation, the vital cadre of talent born between the years of 1980 and 1995.

The reason there still appears to be so much confusion around the attraction, engagement and retention of millennials, at least according to a recent report by EY, is that so few hiring managers really understand what motivates them. As EY’s global diversity and inclusiveness officer Karyn Twaronite puts it: “There’s an empathy gap in the workplace. When there’s frustration about work-life balance in the workplace, and you think your boss doesn’t get it; that very likely could be true. ”

Different ambitions

Because of the world in which they have grown up, millennials do genuinely seem to have at least some different goals and needs to their predecessors. What is key is understanding the focus on life goals rather than a truncated world view of work and non-work attainment. Millennials look for synergies, efficiencies, and less boxing out of work, money making and further self-fulfilment. These often ill-perceived differences have, in many cases, led to negative and ultimately unproductive stereotyping. For example, suggestions that they are somehow ‘spoilt’ or less committed to the workplace than their older peers.

An extensive global survey carried out by PwC, the LSE and the University of California – NextGen – suggests that this is simply not the case. Millennials take their responsibilities just as seriously, but they have greater expectations about the level and breadth of support and appreciation they will receive from an employer.

Traditional motivators such as pay, security and promotion prospects are no longer the key expectations. Instead, millennials are looking for real involvement and consultation, for a sense of authentic community and a more flexible approach to working. Critically, not just in the early stages of their careers, but throughout them. For example, NextGen found that 64% would welcome an ongoing opportunity to work from home at least occasionally and 66% would like a looser approach to working hours than the conventional ‘9 to 5’.

Assessing cultural fit

Millennials are savvy and think laterally about finding ways to assess the culture of an organisation and what this will mean for them should they forge substantial tenures there. The ability to develop as professional individuals, recognised for their individualism in a culture that leverages diversity of thought, background and experience, while contracting with the world of work in a fluid and flexible way, is central to this assessment.

Many organisations frame this as a challenge. Instead, we should see it as a fantastic opportunity to rethink the core values that are the foundation of culture, and shape our employer brands as a result. We need our branding to be engaging, compelling and highly effective in sourcing and retaining millennial talent. To do this we need to be able to articulate this specific value proposition as a core and deeply embedded culture.

Embracing the reality of millennial attitudes, rather than classifying them as either positive or negative will allow us to build new approaches to ways of working that will resonate with this key group, and work across others. Solutions such as the use of technology to support remote working, flexibility around core working hours, sabbaticals, and output-led performance measurement should not be seen as disruptive, but rather as enabling.

They’ll find you

Because of the information age in which they have come to maturity, millennials are highly adept at finding what they want. Those organisations willing to innovate will not only find an enthusiastic audience for their employer brand when it is communicated, but this audience will actively seek it out.

With so much at stake, no organisation can afford to see flexible working as a generosity to retain a ring-fenced talent cohort – i.e. those with childcare/care responsibilities. ‘Ways of working’ is so often a conversation framed around diverse talent but does not always incorporate generational diversity at the millennial end.

Flexible working that specifically enables your millennial talent to bring their best to work will allow you to attract the brightest future stars. Do not ignore the cultural shift that is needed in the new world of work, and focus attention on how to articulate ways of working as the new and true normal to win the battle for your future inclusive leaders.


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