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Energising the millennial workforce: How to make the most of digital natives

Millennials make up a significant part of the population, and every year more young people with a great affinity for digital technology enter the workforce.
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Millennials make up a significant part of the population, and every year more young people with a great affinity for digital technology enter the workforce. How do you utilise the millennial workforce while keeping them motivated and happy?

The millennial attitude

A millennial is someone who reached young adulthood in the early 21st century – it’s a fairly loose term, but generally refers to people who are currently around 20-35.

To those who think “age is just a number”, it is worth noting that the millennial workforce has been raised on technology, and often think differently about it than a Baby Boomer might.

For example, a millennial is more likely to expect immediate information, and often what motivates a millennial worker is unlikely to be the same thing that motivates an older generation employee.

For example, 39 per cent of millennials claim that new technology is what excites them the most about the future (Voxburner Youth Trend Report 2015) and on average they are willing to spend around 28 per cent more than Baby Boomers each month in order to ensure reliable internet connectivity.

Around 70 per cent of young people admit they are impatient, and are more likely to become frustrated with a bad internet connection than older employees.

The flip side of this is that the millennial workforce is likely to respond with more immediacy to electronic messages in the workplace, as they would with friends in the personal lives, and drive the productivity levels of their workplace. Younger people have grown up with technology and can navigate various apps and digital collaboration tools intuitively.

The upsides of millennials

A millennial workforce is more likely to prize personal development and continuous learning above cash bonuses, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers. This is good news for cash-strapped startup owners – the larger corporations might outbid you, but if you can offer more hands-on training and responsibility there’s a chance the best and brightest will flock to you regardless.

“While there are some general truths that are accepted about millennials (for instance valuing work/life balance more, this idea of ‘doing what you love’, having multiple jobs/ career changes) versus other generations, what is key is that you give people the space to shape their role and progression and put the onus on them to step up,” said Simon Douglass, founder of Curated Digital.

“Respect is key in this, for instance you might introduce certain benefits that assume trust, i.e. flexible hours/ working from home. I think these are quite modern workplace initiatives and attitudes.”

The Googles and Apples of the business world have long been popular with millennial workers, as they offer more flexible working and think outside the box. In addition, many millennials will prefer working for companies that allow them to use their own devices and that have seamless digital processes in place, including social networking and instant messaging.

If your business isn’t fully digital, you should be open to improving this, as it can drive collaboration and productivity – access to faster internet is not on a millennial’s employer wish list, it is expected.

How to earn a millennial’s loyalty

It can be difficult to retain a millennial workforce. Whilst money is not key driver for this generation, they generally don’t have the same sense of loyalty towards an employer as older workers and will happily seek work elsewhere if they feel their career needs are not being met.

“Clear career path and great internal training is critical to attract this age group. Clear milestones and good rewards associated with these need to be offered. The time horizons between milestones shouldn’t be too long. Millennials become very marketable very quickly,” said Angela Middleton, VOOM professional and judge for Virgin Media Business Pitch 2 Rich.

“Of greatest importance though is the feeling of a team effort. Millennials love to feel part of something bigger, that they are making their difference. If they feel they are just a number making little impact they won’t stay long.”

Rachel Booker, people director at Virgin Media Business, agreed: “In terms of millennials, we see a great up take in the work that we support through charities, so through our graduates and apprentices, being part of something bigger is really important to them.”

There can also be some tensions among staff as new, young people are taken on that might have a better grasp of the technology in play than senior level employees. In fact, according to a report by PwC, almost half of millennials felt that their managers did not always understand the way they use technology at work, and sometimes they feel held back by outdated working practices.

It may help to encourage employees of all ages to learn from each other, while investing in digital technology to grow your business. Ultimately, having access to faster internet is good for your business and is increasingly expected by new entrants to the workforce as it enables flexible working practices as well as tools and apps that can help increase productivity.

Building a reputation for your brand as being at the cutting edge of technology is good for business, and making the most of your millennial workforce isn’t a bad place to start.

This article is part of our Real Business Broadband campaign, which seeks to provide a mouthpiece for business leaders to vocalise the broadband issues preventing their businesses from reaching full potential. We’d love to hear your take on the debate and where you think the UK needs to make drastic changes – and feel to ask us your broadband queries. Get in touch via email (shane.schutte@realbusiness.co.uk) or join in on the action using #rbBroadband.

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About Author

Letitia Booty

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Real Business. She has a BA in english literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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