Five ways brands can better manage millennials in the workplace

Millennials will account for 50% of the global workforce within the next four years so brands need to understand how to manage them more effectively. That means creating a collaborative environment where people are continually challenged so they don’t get bored and allowing them to take ownership of their development, says Helen Tupper, careers consultant and head of marketing at Virgin Red.

Helen Tupper

Millennials have become a somewhat maligned generation, characterised by their individualistic nature (me, me, me), the value they place on material things and their lack of desire to work for them (see research). They are a generation that has been covered extensively in the press, however their buzz-worthiness now appears to be in decline, as we shift our minds to the new opportunities presented by Gen Z.

Before we move on too quickly, though, we need to think about the effect millennials will have on the workplace. By 2020 they will represent 50% of the global workforce and organisations need to evolve to create environments where this generation can thrive. Organisations that don’t take on this challenge will feel the cost of higher levels of employee attrition and lower levels of productivity. The sooner we understand and respond to what this generation needs from their job and their employer, the better.

Amazing If, a business specialising in career development, conducted a research study to understand what millennials need in order to love their jobs and identified five key actions for employers:

1. Give them your trust

Millennials seek constant variety and challenge at work. If they don’t find it, they are happy to seek it elsewhere. This leads to many people bouncing from job to job in search of career happiness. Employers can mitigate by offering ‘stretch’ opportunities and creating structures supportive of secondments, job swaps and project-based roles.

2. Be open

Millennials love feedback. They want lots of it and they want it regularly. Many performance management processes are set up to give feedback on an annual basis. It is seen as a restrictive process, often at the bottom of the to-do list. As such, its meaning and effect is limited. This feedback process and organisational competence needs to evolve to meet millennials’ development needs. Creating a culture where open feedback is welcomed is an important focus. Read tips on how here.

3. Develop coaching skills

Millennials seek relationships with their managers that can help them to explore opportunities rather than a more traditional model of command and control. Employers should equip managers with coaching skills to help individuals take ownership of their development and identify areas of strength. Managers who put these into practice should be recognised and rewarded to embed this behaviour within the organisational ways of working.

4. Co-create rewards

Millennials’ motivation is dependent on more than pay. They want to feel that they are making a difference at work and seek freedom in how they go about this. This is at odds with a one size-fits-all approach to rewards. Employers should give millennials choice and control over their reward framework. Some companies are even going as far as to make salary and benefits choices transparent across the organisation.

5. Install purpose-driven leadership

Millennials care more about who they work with than who they work for. In this context, hierarchical structures are out of place. Millennials want authentic leaders, who help them to make a difference and provide a clear sense of purpose for them at work. Employers need to ensure their leaders are purpose-driven and have the necessary skills to create the collaborative, adaptive and high energy environments millennials seek.

One note of caution though: millennials may act as a prompt for what the organisation of the future needs to look like, but there are many more people who share in the millennial mindset and need to be considered. These people may not match the demographic profile of a millennial, but they are still core to organisational success and they will also benefit from these changes.

Millennials may be the trigger for change, but they should not be looked at in isolation. To do so would only further stigmatise a generation that represents an opportunity for us all.

Click to download the infographic summary or full findings of the research. 

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