Described by a recent Deloitte survey as "generation disrupted", millennials are a pivotal talking point in every sphere. Continuous change and instability has created a lack of trust towards employers and business leaders in the younger generations, and has bred cynicism and dissatisfaction towards their financial situations and jobs.
Unsurprisingly, this cynicism is breeding a new set of workplace standards that is forcing businesses to reevaluate the way they address engagement to attract and retain millennial talent. They’re already shaping and influencing business and workforce landscapes, and in the years to come millennials and Generation Y will make up the bulk of the workforce – so there’s an increasing need to build their trust and inspire loyalty.
But what do these insights mean for organisations and the way they engage with this particular workforce?
We’re in the midst of a transition into a new working world also known as ‘Industry 4.0’, with artificial intelligence taking on more roles in the workplace and widening industries providing the ability to define new jobs, shifts and subsequent challenges are rocking the employment world.
But a significant proportion of millennials and Generation Z feel they aren’t fully equipped with these skills they need to thrive in this new world, and expect they’ll have to evolve their own capabilities to increase their value to employers.
There is a significant disconnect between employers and young employees on who should take responsibility for preparing them for future skills requirements. Millennials put the onus on employers while, according to a separate 2019 Deloitte survey, business leaders were more likely to say the responsibility fell on government and schools.
It’s in the company’s best interests to support and invest in their employees, otherwise they’re just adding minimal value or actively working against the organisation.
The temptation to go alone
Deloitte also found that nearly half of millennials would, given the choice, quit their current jobs in the next two years. Their reasons for this revolve around pay and a lack of both opportunities to advance and learning development. Retention is an issue: not only is recruitment expensive and time consuming, a high employee turnover rate doesn’t exactly enhance morale and makes it much harder for other remaining employees to maintain productivity.
We also can’t ignore the fact it’s an employee’s job market. If your workplace culture doesn’t meet millennials' needs, it shouldn’t come as any surprise if they leave - even if they don’t have a job lined up. The rise of the gig economy is a big contributing factor to this – although it brings uncertainty, there are clear advantages such as the opportunity to earn more money, work the hours they want and achieve a better work/life balance.
We’re already beginning to see how some of these millennial attitudes are impacting and shaping the workplace. The number of companies offering flexible working arrangements and other ‘gig-like’ features such as sabbatical programmes is a clear sign of these impacts. Giving employees a break every five years can give them something additional to work towards. It’s a reward that offers invaluable opportunities such as travelling, studying or spending time with family.
These programmes vary from employer to employer. Nando’s offers a paid four-week sabbatical for every five years of continual service. Similarly, EY in Australia has introduced a number of new flexible work initiatives, including the option for employees to take up to 12 weeks of ‘life leave’.
Offering flexible working, autonomy, opportunities to make an impact and sabbatical programmes demonstrate trust in employees and shows that you respect their professional and personal lives as well as their general wellbeing. This is a huge differentiator when it comes to marketing yourself as a good employer. Free lunches, beanbags and gym memberships are all well and good, but nothing can compete with time for personal growth or time spent with family.
What should organisations do differently?
To inspire trust and loyalty, businesses need to demonstrate how they’re supporting their younger workforce and do so in a way that’s meaningful and authentic.
For millennials to have such an appetite and expectations for organisations to be enhancing lives, it’s no surprise they’re distrusting and cynical when they don’t see enough businesses taking responsibility for investing in their people. When this generation are going to make up the bulk of the workforce and become the main influencers of your organisation, they’ll be the first to call out when you stray from your purpose and values.
The world of work is changing, and companies can no longer turn a blind eye to how much they rely on the energy, loyalty and engagement of all of their employees to survive.
Lucy Sloan is an engagement consultant at Brandpie