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Why are millennials in the news?

Millennials are always listed on key trends shaping the future of work – with good reason. Millennials will begin to dominate the workplace in the next ten years. The change they will bring with them is going to completely transform the world of work as we know it. Culture, brand, technology at work, and talent management will all undergo a shift.

Soon, millennials will be integral to the future of business.

Who are they and what do they want?

The Millennial generation, or Generation Y, is the name given to the generation born between 1980 and 2000. 75% of the workforce in 2025 will be millennials. Their dominance will change the future of work – workplace culture, how we work, and work as we know it.

What makes this generation different is their behaviour. They are more independent and focused on personal needs. Millennials are uncomfortable with rigid corporate structures. They are not interested in linear career paths. They craft their own path. They feel that corporate loyalty is overrated.

They prefer to work from project to project instead of focusing on a long-term career path. They want a varied career. Millennials want to throw themselves into a number of things, so that they can keep learning and open new opportunities. Taking on projects also allows them to follow meaningful work.

How will this affect companies in the future?

Values are going to play an increasingly important role in future business. Millennials see the world from a values perspective. They are attracted to employer brands that they admire as customers.

Ultimately, they want their work to mean something. It may be about following your passion but it’s also about following purpose. Millennials know that this is the key to happiness in their career. This is why they have a reputation for job hopping. 58% of millennials expect to stay in their job for less than three years. Keep them engaged, adapt your culture to provide staff with meaning and retention, and overall engagement will increase. This will become an important part of a company’s long-term aims and ambitions. However, “millennial churn” may be inevitable, so you need to incorporate this reality into your retention strategy.

How can you improve the workplace to suit?

Stand for something: Millennials are increasingly concerned with deriving a sense of purpose from their work. Therefore, organisations that are driven by purpose and with strong corporate social responsibility will have the competitive advantage. This will attract millennials, help retain your staff, and turn your millennial staff into brand advocates. In the digital age, people have more social power; employees are going to start playing a more important role in company marketing tactics. Millennials are very connected to their values and conscious of them.

Corporate culture: In a PWC survey of over 4000 graduates, what they valued most was career development, with work-life balance a close second. They do not like ineffective means of measuring productivity. For them, long hours does not necessarily mean high rates of productivity. Alternative corporate cultures have become more commonplace in recent years. At Treehouse, a company that provides online education, they have institutionalised a four-day working week. Working weekends is discouraged, as a healthy work-life balance is highly valued. Staff decide the projects that they want to work on, and initiate them based on their interests.

Further, transparency and accountability, buzzwords of late, are key qualities to millennials. Organisations must find ways to increase organisational trust and transparency, in a way in which mistakes are applauded and difficult conversations rewarded.

Collaborative workplace: Collaboration in the workplace is also important to millennials. Marissa Mayer did receive some negative attention for banning remote working1, but her logic behind it was to encourage more on-site collaboration. At Valve, a video games developer, workstations are fitted with wheels so dispersing into teams is efficient and quick. Employees also take an expenses-paid week-long trip together. This all ensures a collaborative and family atmosphere. For example, Infosys design all of their company locations based on university campuses to encourage collaboration and a community atmosphere.2

Technology at work: 75% of millennials believe that access to technology makes them more effective at work. They believe that it is empowering and can drive innovation and that outdated working styles can hold people back. Companies are responding by adapting their IT policy so that millennials are more comfortable and engaged. For example, encouraging business-focused use of social media at work, instant messaging, and video chats etc. Millennials, and the generation that follows, will expect a workplace ecosystem that includes means of socialising that are familiar and easy to them.

Multi-generational issues: It is important that companies prepare for the multi-generational workplace. A company must ensure that older senior management can relate to their younger workers. Former CEO of Tesco, Philip Clarke, engaged in reverse-mentoring with Paul Wilkinson, who worked in the company’s technology R&D division; Wilkinson kept Clarke up-to-date on technological developments. Management must make a point to engage with each generation of their workforce and understand their differences and issues, and support them in resolving them. Ultimately, managing a multigenerational workforce will entail focusing on the individual.

Recruiting millennials: Make jobs easier to find. Mobile-optimised websites are essential. 25% of job-seeking millennials expect this. Nearly half of jobseekers use a mobile device to look for jobs. To demonstrate the importance of mobile optimisation, Google has now changed its algorithm to favour websites that are favourable to mobile devices.

In ten years, they will make up 75% of the workforce. Are you prepared for the millennials?

Peter is a Director with CPL and founder of the Future of Work Institute in Ireland. He is a regular contributor to the national media on areas of talent and the future of work. Peter is Chairman of Junior Achievement Ireland an organisation targeted at keeping students in schools and ex-President of the National Recruitment Federation.