In recent decades it seems as if the world has been become a more complicated place.  With the hasty increase in technological innovation focused on everyday life, it is widely accepted that there are significant changes between more recent generations and their predecessors. This attitude adjustment can be felt very strongly within the workforce and there is a desperate push by employers and management to adapt to the demands mete out by the most recent generation of employees, dubbed the ‘Millennials’.

This generation is expected to comprise of three-quarters of the workforce around the world by 2025, and as such it is vital that any company which doesn’t want to fall behind understands and adapts to the differences presented to them by Millennial employees.

Firstly, before being able to develop any strategies to increase loyalty within Millennials, it is necessary to understand who this generation is, what influences their opinions of a workplace, and what problems do they present to employers and management alike.

Who are Millennials?

Millennials, also known as ‘Generation Y’, comprise of the section of the workforce born between the years 1980 and 2000. This generation is described as the most technologically savvy yet, being natives to mobile technology and social media platforms, with the oldest millennials coming of age during the dot-com boom. 

Despite every generation having its fair share of challenges, with many often-sharing similar obstacles, the period in which Millennials began to enter the workforce was, and has been ever since, a time of rapidly advancing technologies with global socio-economic issues becoming a prevalent concern and interest for Millennials. Due to these differing circumstances the new breed of employees has different expectations and plans, which require business leaders to change accordingly.

What do Millennials really want?

Millennials want Leaders, not Bosses:

In 2017, Deloitte found that whilst many Millennials were “pro-business”, believing that the growth of the business sector was tied to strong economic growth and many other benefits, they expected more from their leaders and corporations. Unfortunately, over the past year and a half this “pro-business” sentiment has deteriorated, with the notion that business heads are not doing enough becoming more pronounced.

There is an expectation by this generation that those within a leadership position ought to be in their role for more than just increased pay and a stronger profile. They believe that those in high positions ought to care about leaving a mark on the world and leading by example.

It is widely accepted that if a business leader is constructive, positive and skilled, then this will have a largely beneficial impact on those working within a company and the surrounding community. Regrettably most Millennials have worked under poor bosses and managers who have tainted their view of more prominent positions of power within the workplace.

Millennials have developed a harsh view of both political and religious figures, with the judgment of political leaders being especially brutal, with only 19% of Millennial workers stating they make a positive impact, against 71% being negative. In comparison, business leaders have been doing better, with 44% of Millennials stating they make a positive impact. Accordingly, now is the ideal time for business leaders to prove themselves as being driving forces for positive change within the world.

Of course, it is not to be expected that this change can occur instantaneously, however, if an employer or manager provides leadership and guidance, showing they are willing to put the work in and maintain their job performance to a high level, then the subsequent results will show within the Millennial retention rate and productivity levels.

Millennials Want Reassurance:

Despite Millennials being the most technologically adept generation to date within the working population, this knowledge seems to have come with a feeling of uneasiness about the future. This unease stems from the growth of Industry 4.0 technologies, these being the improvement of AI and robotics, which affect our ability to work, and numerous political upheavals occurring throughout the globe which have altered the way in which we work.

Deloitte, in their 2018 Millennial Survey, found that whilst this generation are technologically savvy, there is an underlying feeling that they are unprepared for the innovations making their way into the workplace.

For an employer to stand out and demonstrate a genuine understanding of this topic, it would be prudent to help employees learn relevant and functional skills which makes them more difficult to be replaced by an automated process, as such they will gain value over time. Interestingly enough, 42% of Millennials have said they value learning, development and training opportunities above other office perks.

These ‘soft skills’ include practicalities such as the ability to problem-solve, present to others and sell a product or service. Whilst these skills are often times viewed as general skills, they are often not given enough attention, and could be a difference maker for a business’ long-term performance, as well as providing more security for millennial employees.

As a leader you should ensure that you have regular meetings with Millennial workers to guide them in the correct direction and offer job training opportunities to improve their skillset.

Millennials want Diversity, not “Lip Service”:

Diversity within the workplace and having a flexible work-life balance are high priorities for the majority of Millennials. Over 60% believe that their own employers and workplace lacks these features, with the general impression being that leaders pay “lip service” to employees about increasing diversity and inclusion, with no significant action being taken to support their statements.

It is important to understand that for Millennials diversity in not about filling a specific hiring quota, but instead encompasses aspects such as tolerance, inclusiveness, openness, respect and acknowledgement, as well as presenting and cultivating different ideas and ways of thinking. Diversity does not necessarily address ethnicities, but rather focuses on individual differences and is departure from strict corporate practices which show little sympathy for individual employees.

To match these opinions a progressive leader ought to inspire loyalty by having a forward-thinking mindset, which looks to encourage and guide employees in order for them to feel more self-assured, thereby increasing productivity and overall confidence in a business.

Millennials want a Flexible, Work-Life Balance:

Working for an employer who promotes a healthy work-life balance is highly important for this generation and greatly enhances employee loyalty. Significant appreciation is shown for workplaces which do no tie people to strict hours or locations as it displays trust by employers in their workforce. It has been found that Millennials who have stayed with their current employers for over five years have noticed that there is more flexibility in where they work, compared to three years prior.

This increased flexibility also correlates to greater profitability and nurtures a healthier and more satisfactory workplace for all involved. Millennials emphasise social and familial wellbeing very highly and when their work life reflects these values, they are encouraged to work harder during their work times, feeling as if they are part of a team, rather than a mindless worker drone.

A word of warning, however, is for employers to review who exactly benefits from flexible work times, as 69% of those on senior management teams reported having flexible work lives, whereas only 36% – 40% of junior and mid-level roles report this. This disparity, where unwarranted, may cause resentment for the up and coming generation which in turn will cause retention rates to suffer. An employer should make sure that flexibility is afforded to those need and appreciate it, not as a matter of fact.

A lesson for the future:

Barry Salzberg (CEO of Deloitte) stated in 2014: “To attract and retain talent businesses needs to show Millennials they are innovative and in tune with their world-view”. Whilst the employment landscape has shifted, this quote is as relevant in 2019 as ever.

With Millennials becoming a strong majority of the workforce globally, and the even more recent ‘Generation Z’ set to graduate to the workplace next year, it is imperative for a business to conform to the preferences of the newer generations, otherwise they risk low loyalty rates and losing ideal employees.

The discrepancy between what Millennials believe employers ought to do, and what they observe first hand, is not without ramifications. The actions of any business seems to heavily influence the loyalty levels felt within a Millennial workforce. Despite many business becoming more aware of this fact, loyalty levels have declined within the past two years, indicating that whilst there is acknowledgement, there is little to no action. This is setting a worrying trend, as Generation Z is shown to have even less loyalty towards employers that do not match their values than Millennials.

With Millennials setting the tone of the workplace for the foreseeable future, action must be taken now to inspire loyalty, otherwise continuing on as they are, many businesses will fall down and fail, making way for more astute and progressive businesses to take their place.