The millennial generation – also known as Generation Y – born between 1980 and 2000 – will make up about 50% of the global workforce by 2020, according to a study by PwC.
As employers, we need to understand what motivates Millennials, what excites them and how they approach their careers. But we also need to find ways to ensure that Baby Boomers (1940s – 1960s), Generation X (1960s – 1980s) and Millennials work together in a way that works for everyone.
Ways of working
Millennial employees do not fit neatly into the 9 to 5 mould that their parents may have worked within.
Flexible working patterns and the ability to work out of the office are not just perks for Millennials – they are things that they have come to expect.
So it is important to equip all our employees with laptops to enable them to work from home – and go a step further - encourage home working.
A recent study by U.S. software giant Citrix forecast that in 2017 half of all companies will have a mobile working policy, and that by 2020, 70% of people will work away from the office as often as they work at a desk. And when they are in the office, a congenial, flexible workspace is something that Millennial employees have also come to expect.
A survey last year by the British Council for Offices and estate agency Savills, found that 48% of the more than 1,100 British employees surveyed considered access to a collaboration space to be “imperative”. I believe our teams across India and Poland feel the same, that’s why when we were designing our workspaces we included collaboration spaces where colleagues can work, or hold meetings on every floor.
Another thing we have learned about our Millennial colleagues is that they value feedback and are very hungry to learn.
Providing an environment where new ideas are welcome is important but what you do with those ideas is critical – no one wants their ideas to fall on deaf ears, especially Millennials! So actions speak volumes. Encouraging colleagues and having a mechanism for the adoption of ideas. We know that this generation has a passion to improve things using technology. So with the philosophy of continuous improvement, our teams are exploring the use of robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence. The teams are driving and embracing this learning, recognising that automation is not about putting people out of work, but rather about improving working practices.
Millennials tend to be quick learners – in part because they have seen and managed change from such a young age – just think about the speed of technological advancement in the past decade – it’s fair to say that change comes more naturally to them than to prior generations.
In my experience the Millennial generation wants to learn through multiple channels, they want a mix of – classroom training, online learning,– and a mixture of internal and external trainers.
And a one size fits all approach doesn’t work – our approach is that each colleague has a learning path combining technical and softer skills.
Between January and June this year we conducted 104 different training sessions for our India offices and 28 in Poland, split between behavioural sessions, technical sessions, insurance inductions and new joiner inductions.
Feedback, feedback, feedback…
In my experience, millennials seek promotion much more quickly than employees in previous generations.
As part of that drive for advancement through an organisation, they also seek feedback more frequently than previous generations who might have been content to wait for their annual or six-monthly review.
They like instant feedback to know how they can do things better.
Capturing this enthusiasm is really important. One way of doing it is to hold knowledge forums across functions to enable employees to share lessons.
A career path may not be a straight line
Unlike their parents, Millennials do not expect to have a job for life, and employers need to recognise that and be adaptable.
While each function within our organisation has a career path, employees are able to rotate across jobs and take on new roles – either within the same department or across functions.
As employers, we cannot expect them to stay with us for their whole careers.
But we have noticed that we retain our best talent by enabling them to make changes in their career paths.
Millennials are not afraid to take risks. And by providing them with a safe environment in which to take those risks, we can help them move across functions or deviate from a more traditional career path.
Enabling employees to develop and grow within an organisation can, we have found, bust the myth that Millennials are not loyal to a single employer.
Work and social environment is key
A stimulating, fun workplace is also a key requirement of the millennial generation.
Social benefits such as sports clubs, fun days, tuck shops, recreation rooms are a key element of that.
A healthy workforce is a happy workforce
Encouraging employees to be healthy doesn’t just make business sense; it’s also something that Millennial employees expect.
- Healthy food options and the ability to take exercise not only keep them healthy but help them to feel valued.
- And we need to be aware of future health problems too.
- Sitting, they say, is the new smoking.
- Investing in height adjustable desks can help. When I walk through the office after lunch, most people are standing, aware of the health benefits.
There are of course challenges in having different generations working together. And employers need to explore ways to help foster communication and understanding across generations. As well as opportunities for senior staff to become mentors, it’s a great idea to put in place programs of reverse mentoring.
These, we believe, are among the ways in which we can foster communication across generations and help them to understand each other for all our benefit!