As Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers prepare to retire, companies worldwide have been gearing up to accommodate more millennials in the workplace. With three generations having different values and attitude towards work sharing one office, culture shock and clashes are bound to happen.
Millennials, a demographic term coined in 1987 by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe, are individuals born in the early 1980s until the mid-1990s into a wide usage of technology, information, and media. This 2019, millennials are the employees aged roughly 25 to 37 years old. They are not your fresh graduates, who belong to Generation Z. Rather, they are most likely today’s supervisors and managers.
The challenge is that this generation is marked by restlessness to move between companies at high speed. Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey, which includes Filipino participants, showed that 6 out of 10 millennials foresee leaving their current jobs within four years. This, coupled with a global market for young professionals, makes them less tolerant when they are not motivated or fully-utilized at work.
So how do you attract, train, and retain such an elusive generation?
As a millennial, I believe the answer lies in the fact that we simply grew up differently. Technology allowed us to play, communicate, socialize, and learn in new platforms as children. Information allowed us to gain diverse perspectives from authorities all over the world, more than from our parents and teachers. Multi-sectoral crises such as global terrorism, corporate scandals, government corruption, and environmental issues made us crave for greater participation and contribution. In short, we grew up wanting different outcomes from the work we do.
To encourage millennials like me to stay, companies must have the following characteristics/values:
Authenticity. At the rise of fake news and sensationalized media, millennials have grown to be both opinionated in and skeptical of media. With a click of a button, this tech-savvy generation can verify and fact-check the catchiest company claims and are even vigilant of how their companies will react on various political or industry issues. As such, to retain their millennial employees, companies should display authenticity by matching their internal practices with their external messaging. Millennials will eventually find out misleading information and may drive them to be Internet “whistleblowers” of poor company practices.
Visibility. With the desire for authenticity comes the desire for accessibility. If companies in the 21st century aim to hire more young professionals, it is a must to have an updated website and social media platforms that display not just company information but also company values. Because millennials tend to look for companies that align with their personal values, digital platforms can be used not just for recruitment but also for corporate branding. Companies should be more open to post about their employee engagement activities, corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices, training opportunities, and other perks if they wish to attract more millennials to apply.
Flexibility. Millennials are keen on finding solutions to get things done faster using less resources. With work-life integration as one of their main values, millennials measure their productivity based on outputs rather than the number of hours worked at the office (PwC, 2013). They most likely prefer working remotely using various software to substitute tedious tasks and ultimately accomplish more work, rather than commuting to go on hour-long meetings. Some of the flexibility options millennials seek are telecommuting, freelance work, and part-time, flexible, or alternative schedules (Forbes, 2017). Companies offering space and time flexibility are definitely more attractive than those only with traditional office-based, nine-hour shifts.
Inclusivity. While other generations achieve results by hitting measurable targets, millennial employees are found to achieve results via collaboration — by gaining more ideas, insights, and perspectives from others (Deloitte, 2016). There must be a perceived safety to be vulnerable around team members, such as when sharing opinions or admitting a mistake without retaliation or judgment. This is called psychological safety, and it is one of the primary elements to make more effective teams (Google Project Aristotle, 2012). Companies will do well to provide a safe environment to get frequent feedback via evaluation forms, forums, and one-on-one sessions to make employees feel heard and valued when the management makes decisions.
Social responsibility. Despite being called entitled and narcissistic, the 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR study showed that millennials are actually willing to take pay cuts to work for responsible companies. Millennials want their work to impact other teams and the entire organization (Google, 2012). The so-called “woke” generation also want their companies to work on larger societal problems. However, companies do not need to simply dump funds on non-profits or participate in one-time volunteerism events. Being socially responsible can take the form of improving internal policies, such as on minimum wages, contractualization, carbon footprint, workplace diversity, and more.
By 2020, at least half of the global workforce are seen to be composed of millennials (PwC, 2011). They are occupying more and more positions to make decisions on targets, budgets, resources, and overall company directions. If a company hopes to survive another generation, it is not only wise but also essential to understand millennial employees.
Samantha Isabel V. Coronado, a millennial, is a corporate social responsibility practitioner and an MBA student at the De La Salle University.