The change of guards underfoot as more and more millennials in the workplace influence how people do their jobs makes HR digital transformation more imperative than ever. Today, millennials in the workforce —people 23 to 38 years of age in 2019—are the poster children of the future of work. They will comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025, up from 35% in 2020.
As the future of work is reshaped by technology, organizations are moving into hyper-drive to prepare for the challenges this new ultra-technological world will bring. It is widely accepted that their failure to adapt to the new rules of the market could result in their extinction.
As in any technological-industrial revolution, countless unproductive sources of labor will disappear. In turn, new opportunities will emerge for those who can adapt and learn the skills needed as a result of the so-called fourth industrial revolution.
As millennials occupy more and more of the labor force, it will fall to them to adapt and acquire the skills organizations need. The good news for organizations is that the changes needed to motivate millennials in the workplace to take on these new challenges are equally effective with other generations, too.
Dealing with millennials in the workplace
Not surprisingly, millennials’ assimilated relationship to technology is influencing how we all work, when we work, and where we work. Millennials believe that because of technology, they can—and should be allowed—to work flexibly when they want, where they want, and that they should be evaluated based on what they produce, and not how, when or where they produce it. This represents a shift in the paradigm for everyone.
But just how different are (or aren’t) millennials from the rest of the workforce and from the generations that came before them? While the list of similarities is arguably shorter than the differences, two common values stand out: millennials, like the generations before them, are seeking meaningful work and recognition.
The New Workforce: Millennials
Millennials will be the main actors in the new job scenario created by digital transformation and disruptive technologies like social networking and the Internet. Also known as Generation Y, they were born between 1980 and 1997. They witnessed the increasing job insecurity faced by their parents in the 80s and 90s. And, they themselves went to work during a global recession with record youth unemployment. Despite their rocky start, millennials are optimistic about their careers. According to the Manpower millennial study, in which more than 19,000 young people from 25 countries were interviewed, two-thirds of the people surveyed were optimistic about their immediate future: 62 percent believe that if they lost their main source of income tomorrow, they could find a new job, equal or better, in less than three months.
The Stigma of an Entire Generation
British motivational speaker Simon Sinek referred to Generation Y as “narcissistic, selfish, aimless and lazy.” He blamed their parents, claiming that “[children] were told they were special and that they could get everything they wanted. Meanwhile, when they join the workforce, they are up against a wall and their self-esteem is low.” According to the study by Manpower, these claims about a whole generation are far from being a true representation.
Contrary to the label “lazy and without goals,” the numbers show a different story. The report states that millennials in the workplace are hard-workers and in some cases work even harder than other generations: seven out of 10 claim to work more than 40 hours a week; likewise, 25% of the claim to work more than 50 hours a week. In addition, 26% of the world’s total has two or more jobs.
And last but not least, another indicator to debunk the laziness myth: 60% of the millennials surveyed by Manpower assure that they will work until after they are 65 years of age.
The Perfect Triangle for Generation Y
Like Simon Sinek, there have been many others whose generalizations have given an entire generation a negative—and frankly erroneous—reputation in the labor market. Another common accusation made by older generations is that millennials have “little commitment to organizations” and “lack of corporate responsibility.”
Millennials are willing to wear the company’s shirt, as long as this is a reciprocal agreement.
Generation Y is not at the service of large corporations to be just a number on their payrolls.
Millennials expect to be part of the organization, a valued team member, recognized for their contributions to the operation and productivity. They want to be seen as human talent, not just a resource.
There are three main factors that millennials, in the workplace, consider fundamental to think about a long-term alliance: a salary according to their demands, job security that makes it possible for them to satisfy their standards of living and free time to enjoy the first two. An equilateral triangle whose balance generates the confidence necessary for this generation to feel valued and respected. These conditions, coupled with daily work factors such as a good working environment or work flexibility, will make the millennials on your payroll the best guardians of your organizational values and culture.
Working with millennials: five tips to drive motivation
1- If you want to get the most from a millennial at work, show your cards. Let them know that they are important to the organization, that you value their work and that the company can boost their careers through internal and external training. Share examples of people who have made great strides in the company.
2- Create challenging opportunities
Give them the opportunity to work on different projects within the organization, with different teams. Provide the necessary technological tools to develop collaborative workplaces and satisfy their appetite for new experiences and opportunities.
3- Plan their goals
Talk to your employees about their career plan and goals on an ongoing basis, implementing open-door policies and continuous feedback. Instead of leaving feedback on job performance until annual reviews, set achievable goals in the short and medium term, and implement plans to achieve them.
Use these short-term achievements to connect their daily work with career development opportunities within the organization.
4- Recognize their achievements
Maintain a constant relationship with employees and offer them direct employee-employer feedback. Ensure your organization also has the necessary platform to promote peer-to-peer recognition. Recognition tools increase productivity, engagement and motivation levels.
5- Prioritize balance
Absences for personal reasons go beyond the traditional. It will not only be days for the birth of a child, honeymoon or caring for a loved one. Anticipate conflicts and make your employees’ free time an important factor within the culture of the organization. Be clear with the flexibility you are willing to give to your workers.
6- Be flexible and more open to new work alternatives
Generation Y tends to prefer full-time work, but many are also open to alternatives such as part-time or freelance work. Adopt any of these options in your projects and you will be able to generate greater commitment and retention among the millennials.
As organizations emerge from their digital transformation processes, they will need to ensure that they have the systems and processes in place that ensure their millennials in the workplace feel recognized, valued, and motivated. They should have access to greater flexibility In the workplace, with access to career development opportunities. Of course, if the millennials at your company can check off all of the above when assessing you as an employer, your other employees will also give you five stars.