As the upcoming generation of the workforce, millennial workers are key to our economy prospering over the coming years. Therefore understanding their culture and motivations is essential to capitalising on their talents and unlocking their value.
Millennials have grown up immersed in a connected, high-tech world, an experience that has formed their perspective on a number of things. It’s also down to quantity. This is the year that Millennials (born 1980-1996) become the largest single cohort in the workforce.
Making up such a large part of the workforce, Millennials represent opportunity as well as risk. Adapting systems to attract, engage and retain them will provide a great business edge. Ignoring their different view of the world will be a rapid route to oblivion.
In its 17th annual “Global CEO Survey”, PwC reported 93 per cent of CEOs as saying their talent management systems needed to change to work better for Millennials. The good news is that many organisations are already doing just this. In my travels across the world I’ve noticed a mixture of ways successful companies are altering talent management to accommodate and make the most of this new wave of employees.
Here are three ways I’ve seen successful companies adapt to Millennials.
(1) Moving to transparency
Millennials are keen on organisations with bosses that understand who they are and what they want. (Perhaps we all are, but Millennials drive a hard bargain and won’t settle for anything less) In practice, this translates into a need for transparent management with two-way communication between employees and managers at all levels.
Organisations doing this well focus on clear communication practices and ensuring managerial availability. This can be uncomfortable for managers overly reliant on hierarchies, but the value for both managers and employees of transparency make it a policy worth pursuing. Put it this way: It’s better to hear bad news from an employee when they’re still in post, not during an exit interview. On the upside, managers adopting this approach often find surprising insight in these conversations.
(2) Provide personal development
The newer generation ally themselves to institutions far less than their older peers – and that includes their employer. It used to be considered wise for your résumé to stay in a position for a minimum number of years. Now employees will move as soon as a suitable new position becomes available, with 90 per cent of staying less than five years with any given employer. When they move, they’re looking for positions providing personal development and the chance of career exploration.
Smart organisations now explicitly appeal to this approach, providing explicit personal development opportunities that go beyond rigid training and career pathways. Instead, they are using formal and informal learning, along with talent management systems, to point employees to their next great opportunity within the company.
(3) Get social
Being connected is part of life now, and especially so for a generation that has grown up knowing nothing else. Again, organisations are bending to this, ensuring internal systems are not just mobile-compatible, but are designed from the start with mobile in mind.
As for social media, companies have no choice today but to adopt multichannel communications. Some 56 per cent of Millennials won’t accept a job offer from organisations with a ban on social media at work.
Making the change
To manage this new generation, and make the most of it, both systems and managerial practices need to change.
This shift won’t happen overnight – but that’s not because adopting new technology will cause delays. With today’s cloud-based systems, deploying technology is more straightforward than ever.
The change will take time because leadership, management and even employees must adapt. A workplace that is more social and more transparent, and where jobs are held for a shorter average time, represents significant change for many employees at all levels.
It is, however, a change worth making, and not only to accommodate Millennials. Yes, they are an increasingly significant part of the workforce, but what works for them typically also works well for everyone else, once the cultural change has been made. The 3 steps I’ve mentioned here have enabled organisations to become more agile, move information through their organisations faster, and reduce staff turn-over. They’re not just about adjusting to a new generation, they’re about optimising an organisation for the 21st century.
Jason Taylor is group vice president of development and chief at HCM Scientist.
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