Described as a ‘generation disrupted’, millennials are a pivotal talking point in every sphere.
Deloitte’s most recent millennial survey uncovers the impact continuous change and instability has had on younger generations. Their lack of trust towards employers and business leaders has bred cynicism and dissatisfaction towards their financial situations and jobs.
The rapidly changing world of business, where an increasing number of organisations are determined to grow quickly and become more profitable with fewer resources, could be a contributing factor to this view. It’s unsurprising that millennial cynicism is breeding a new set of workplace standards that’s forcing businesses to revaluate the way they address engagement to attract and retain millennial talent.
But why is engaging this particular generation so important? In years to come millennials and Gen Ys will make up the bulk of the workforce and whilst they won’t completely rule the roost, they’re already shaping and influencing business and workforce landscapes. There’s an increasing need to build their trust and inspire loyalty.
So, what do these insights mean for organisations and the way they engage with this particular workforce?
Alongside millennials, technology and digitisation are rapidly shaping the business landscape. 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.
The impact on workers is clear and although this new industry 4.0 is a work in progress, there will be a change in demand of skills required. A significant proportion of millennials and Gen Zs feel they aren’t fully equipped with these skills, and expect they’ll have to evolve their own capabilities to increase their value to employers.
The debate over how these skills will be acquired and who’s primarily responsible for preparing workers for the future is interesting. Millennials put the onus on employers. However, a separate 2019 Deloitte global survey focussing on Industry 4.0, found that leaders were more likely to say the responsibility fell on government and schools rather than businesses.
This shows a significant disconnect between employers and young employees on who should take responsibility for preparing them for future skills requirements that will result from Industry 4.0. It’s within 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
The report 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 lack of both opportunities to advance and learning development. Although it’s easier to pretend that retention isn’t an issue, it is. 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. This mainly refers to freelance or contract work and 84 percent of millennials said they would consider joining it. 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’. Although these initiatives can just be seen as another retention tool, they do come with their benefits. In a talent market where a lot of employers are saying the same thing, the only way to truly differentiate yourself is to create policies that support your claims.
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?
Millennials and Gen Zs who responded to this report want all of the talk organisations gives to their purpose, culture, and values to become meaningful action, and to serve as agents for positive change. 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.
All of this means that investing in and showing genuine support towards your employees shouldn’t be limited generationally. 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.