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How to get the most from Millennial workers

January 25, 2017

Millennials – the generation born in the two decades leading up to the millennium – are a huge asset to any enterprise, and business should be tapping into the potential to make the most of their strengths. However, some fictions have grown up around the attitude and approach of Millennials. Leaders need to separate fact from fiction and make the most of this valuable resource.

What worked for previous generations may not work for this one. Millennials want the respect of leaders and they see work as a means to an end. At work they are inquisitive, structured, supportive, creative, and team players. They believe that together, with their co-workers, they really can make a difference – even in a tough situation.

Fact and fiction

One myth that has grown up around Millennials is that because they are prepared to change careers – which is true – they are more likely to job hop than their predecessors. The US Department of Labor has shown that in fact Baby Boomers did exactly the same thing when they were in their twenties. Infor’s own statistics tell a similar story with voluntary terminations across 500,000 workers. Churn rates in the first year were 61% for Millennials, 63% for Generation X, and 56% for Baby Boomers.

Employers can improve those employee turnover levels not by focusing on the age of the applicant, but by using a scientific approach to place people in the right role. Finding a job that best suits people according to their Behavioral DNA® has far more impact on retention rates. In Infor case studies using the “best fit” method, Millennial retention rates rose 24%; Generation X turnover was improved by 33%; and Baby Boomers hired with Talent Science posted a 27% lower turnover.

This all suggests that the turnover differences between generations is more to do with recruitment approaches and methodologies more than inherent differences across generations in attitudes to job hopping.

Note the differences

While job hopping may be a myth, there are inter-generational differences. Simon Sinek – an American/British author who writes on leadership – suggests that there are four factors which have influenced the Millennial approach to the workplace: parenting; technology, impatience, and the environment. While it might not be right to suggest that Millennials are all tech-savvy, unlike any previous generation they certainly have grown up in a world where technology is omnipresent in ways quite unlike previous generations. And that creates a paradox. Theirs is the generation that trusts others the least. When asked whether others can be trusted, 40% of Boomers (born 1945-1963) agreed, against just 19% of Millennials. At the same time, who shares the most? Millennials have an average 250 friends on Facebook compared with under 100 for the Boomers.

So while they trust the least, Millennials also share the most. The explanation to this apparent paradox is that having grown up in a connected world, they do not distinguish between online and physical in terms of building and maintaining relationships. However, they have learned not to overshare with those that are acquaintances rather than friends.

Millennials and the Wired World

What is the impact of having grown up in a world suffused with technology? There are at least three profound influences that the omnipresence of high tech has on our daily lives:

Always on – Trusting less and sharing more widely is just the inevitable consequence for Millennials of having grown up in a wired, always-on world. Technology is part of the fabric of their lives. For instance, US citizens check their phones on average 46 times each day, and this impacts every aspect of activity, including in the workplace.

The ‘Uberization’ of work – The always-on Wi-Fi mobile world has driven the ‘Uberization of work.’ The prevalence of the gig economy can be seen in the fact that 40% of the US workforce now works at least some of the time in ‘contingent’ jobs, up from 30% in 2005 and 6% in 1989.

The end of the job – Technology allows resource optimization where work is seen not as job but a series of tasks or projects. So embedded is this approach that US talent expert Josh Bersin has declared the end of the job as we know it.

The impact of technology

The impact of these technological trends is that:

  • There is a blurring of the division between work and the rest of life; for instance, Millennials accept that flexibility in terms of both time and location. Why work particular hours in a particular office?
  • Millennials see the gig economy as the working norm. That does not necessarily mean they earn their living freelance, but they may supplement a part- or full-time job with gig work.
  • Smart organizations are adjusting to these factors, enabling their employees to work flexibly by having the right back-end systems which optimize the available resources.

Taking Action

It is time to finally kill off any idea that Millennials are a problem for US organizations that needs to be dealt with. Now the largest single demographic in the workforce, they are the harbingers of the future with their desire to be always connected; coached not managed; their use of technology to fulfil personal and corporate potential; acceptance of the project nature of work; and willing to do everything virtually from onboarding to collaboration. Their degree of technology exposure makes them different. Tech-savvy members of previous generations tend to look like Millennials – acting flexibly, working online, and playing well in the gig economy – with enormous benefits for themselves and the organization.

For companies to succeed in this new world of work they should be adopting systems and working practices to accommodate this inspiring resource of Millennials.

Marcus Mossberger, Senior Industry & Solution Strategy Director, Infor

  • North America
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