It's down to businesses to help millennials fulfil their potential in the workplace

Last year millennials continued to be on the receiving end of many a workplace rant. Words like ‘entitled’, ‘lazy’, ‘disloyal’ and ‘demanding’ plague those born between 1980 and 1995.

For example, a CBI and Pearson study published in July declared almost a third of businesses were dissatisfied with graduates' attitudes and behaviours of self-management and resilience, while a quarter were not happy with graduate applicants’ communication skills.

Nevertheless, by 2020, half of the workforce will be made up of millennials – so, business leaders, alienate them at your peril.

The average age of PwC’s workforce is 29, which might explain why its study, Engaging and Empowering Millennials, is a more sympathetic look at the unique motivations and needs of this age group that continues to surprise employers.

Well worth a read, PwC recommends creating a flexible working environment – in terms of time, dress code and proximity – because millennials typically crave a work-life balance over pay. It also suggests a culture of recognition and meaningful rewards because millennials need enjoyment and purpose in their work, and find this more alluring than the prospect of one day becoming a partner in the firm. Added to this, a “team-oriented” culture, seamless integration of technology that enhances efficiency and global mobility will keep millennials on side.

For some businesses, this will mean a sea change in culture and psychology but, look with an objective eye, and it’s not a big ask. A better quality of life, a more relaxed, cohesive workplace, and well-chosen, carefully-deployed technology to let people do their jobs better is what every employee should expect.

While not every small business can offer global travel opportunities, flexible working, teamwork and collaboration through technology should be a business focus for 2018. And these three areas are interconnected. Collaboration between people who are not sitting around the same table can only work with good technology.

Clearly, not every business is able to offer flexible working but – in accordance with new legislation – every business must now consider it. Once a year, employees have the right to request flexible working from their employers, who must handle these requests in a reasonable manner, considering it against any impact to your business.

Why you need to switch off to achieve more

If you cannot accommodate it, you must have sound reasons why you can’t. These can include the burden of additional costs, a detrimental impact on quality or performance or on the ability to meet customer demand.

Business owners must anticipate the demands of talent to win, and keep, the best candidates. Research suggests a refreshing consistency in what millennials look for in a career, and their demands are known to increase productivity and employee engagement, benefiting the whole business.

By hiring millennials, you’re enriching your business with digital natives and all their tech nous. This generation were probably at university – or not far behind – when Mark Zuckerberg and his roommate launched Facebook at Harvard. They were first in line for each iPhone iteration, and if they weren’t it’s because they were early adopters of challenger brands like Huawei or Xiaomi. The boomer generation can learn a lot from millennials.

It’s not only the millennial bracket businesses should concern themselves with. Post-millennial generation Z, born mid-1990s to mid-2000s, is even more technologically adept. They’re part of the first generation to learn coding at school. They’re using technology, social media and apps that most of us have never heard of. Businesses who hire workers from this generation and expect them to work with legacy software that was chosen and implemented by Barry in IT 15 years ago should think again.

The future of business is collaborative and technologically advanced. Businesses should be careful not to sit in the slow lane.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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