It’s not all hashtags and selfies when it comes to the millennial generation. Beyond their comfort and ease with new technology, those born between 1980 and the early 2000s think differently about the world of work. This is something boards need to understand as these digital natives inevitably replace older employees and, in the not too distant future, become the leaders of tomorrow.
It’s predicted this demographic will make up approximately 40-50 per cent of the workforce by 2020. Jo Whitfield, Vice President of Operations, eCommerce and Strategy for George at Asda, says: “Businesses are adapting but at a slower rate than customers and millennials expect… You’ve got to change your mindset and understand the world that millennials have grown up in is actually the world we are trading in.”
Being born into an environment of rapidly evolving consumer electronics – from laptops and MP3 players, to tablets and smartphones – means new technology has become second nature. “We have individuals who have grown up with technological advancement at a pace never seen before, with information at their fingertips,” comments Kris Webb, Senior Vice President of Pharma Europe and Emerging Markets, Asia Pacific & Japan at GlaxoSmithKline.
Payal Vasudeva, Managing Director for Accenture Strategy and UK & Ireland Talent & Organisation Lead, says: “The way they integrate with technology is more seamless and they expect to use the same devices at work as they do in their social lives, with the majority using two or three devices a day.
“They want greater flexibility, with better work/life integration… They are also less inclined to work within hierarchies and would rather form networks and communities to actively collaborate and problem solve.”
This point is echoed by Susan Pointer, Senior Director for Public Policy & Government Relations across Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa & Russia at Google: “Millennials expect straight-talking openness; interesting, meaningful and impactful work and flexible work conditions – measured by quality of output, rather than by strictly managed hours of input. There is little time for unnecessary hierarchy and the expectation is that they will be empowered to contribute to the maximum of their ability regardless of level or title.”
Digital on the inside
Businesses have been busy creating a seamless multichannel experience externally for customers, but it’s time leaders turn their focus inside the organisation. Clodagh Murphy, Managing Director of technology services provider Eclipse Internet says senior executives need to “embrace technology and think: How can I use it to make our organisation a better place to work so that I can attract and retain the best talent?”
Payal agrees: “We need to challenge our thinking on the talent lifecycle in order to foster a culture of knowledge sharing, innovation and engagement, with processes and tools that truly enable this.”
This should start at recruitment and go right through to daily operations. “A number of companies use app-based recruitment which attracts those with a ‘millennial mindset’ by putting the experience in the palm of the candidate’s hand,” adds Payal. “Workplace content sharing is on the rise, catering to how employees engage with an organisation, consume information and problem solve… Gamification of learning on-the-go appeals to the consumer in all of us and is transforming how we develop skills and capabilities.”
Mike Tye, CEO at hospitality concern Spirit Pub Company, says: “Our online training is designed to deliver bite-sized, fun, interactive learning – using the principles of gamification. This is most suitable to younger generations… but hopefully older people are used to mobile devices [as well].
“We have a closed Facebook group with around 6,000 members, which is very much run by employees for recognition, questions and support. We have also recently given all staff access to the company intranet.”
It’s about empowering staff through technology. “Engagement will not be sufficient to deliver top-class results,” adds Mike. “For that to be the case there needs to be more: a true commitment from employees to the ambition of the organisation and a belief that they can make a difference.”
Susan from Google says: “Collaboration should be as wide as possible… consciously embracing the fact that the best ideas do not always emerge from the most obvious places – and that’s OK.”
Board’s eye view
It’s imperative that the board take the issue of talent seriously in order to bring in the right mixture of skills. “One of the most important things that a company needs to drive future value is good talent,” says Iain Ferguson, Chairman of employment services company Optionis Group and information management firm EDM Group. “It is a very competitive market, and so it’s an important board level requirement to make sure that we’re competitive and attracting the best talent, no matter what age they are…
“I’m interested in who they are, what they bring to the company and how we can help them perform better.”
Susan comments: “Businesses should focus on attracting the best talent for their current and future needs, regardless of age. Build a great organisation and people will want to come – the best talent will always be attracted to exciting and impactful organisations.”
The point is that executive and non-executive directors must have a clear line of sight when it comes to the different needs and expectations of a diverse, multigenerational workforce. Payal says: “Boards needs to ensure they are building inclusive environments that all of their employees… thrive in by creating a more customised value proposition.”
Jo says: “A diverse workforce is important. We do business in a diverse world and you need to reflect the diversity of your customer base.
“Leaders need to understand… the differences that exist between generations, and use that to create value. It’s finding the knit between your current culture for all employees.”
I hope to see you soon.