Millennials are generally thought to be people born between 1980 and 2000, though there are differing opinions. While age matters in classifying people into generations, it’s really the value system and philosophy that a new group adopts that defines and unites them. Millennials, like many generations before them, have a different point of view than their parents did and they have rejected some of their values. When it comes to the workplace, it’s vital that companies adapt to accommodate this growing demographic and understand what they want and demand.
They make up a third of the workforce (according to Pew Research) and by 2020 will make up a majority. Baby boomers largely retiring and generation x-ers are thinking about it. While millennials are often thought of as young, they aren’t that young anymore. Some are in their early to mid-thirties and thoroughly entrenched in careers.
Millennials bring a lot more to the table than the older generation gives them credit for. This age group are “native technologists.” They use tech like they breathe. This ability is massively valuable in an economy that is becoming increasingly technology laden. They were also raised idolizing Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and dreaming of their own innovations and inventions.
They are a highly educated generation, in fact the most educated in history. The amount of 25-29 year olds getting bachelor’s degrees went up 11% points from 1995 to 2015. And they are interested in learning beyond formal education, seeking information voraciously online.
They are now crucial to businesses seeking to grow, develop, and compete successfully. However, they are also among the most mobile of employees in the workforce, switching jobs more frequently than past generations. About 58% of millennials expect to leave their job in the next 3 years to better their opportunities.
So what do companies need to do in order to attract and retain more of these young, bright minds?
As adept with technology as millennials are, they are equally as inept with older, paper based processes. Ask a millennial to fill out a stack of paper forms and see how long he works before he gets bored and start browsing his Instagram account. Most people this age have never used a fax machine and some would even struggle with a copy machine. Streamlining and updating your processes, showing the ability to move with the technology wave, goes a long way to make a millennial feel comfortable.
Mobile is the foundational future of tech in general. Glassdoor reports that 90% of job seekers will use a mobile device to job hunt. Most will download the Glassdoor and/or LinkedIn app and use that almost exclusively. Improve your website’s “career” page, making it more visible, especially when considering mobile adaptability. Include applications with LinkedIn, present a video as part of your recruiting content, and make a digitally savvy impression on Millennials right off the bat on their phones and tablets.
As we mentioned before, the vast majority of millennials receive education beyond high school. They strive to develop a wide variety of skills in order to compete in an age of economic uncertainty. Many of them remember the recession, some even lived through it as adults, and they decided they would do what they could to avoid the hardship of that time. That means diverse skillsets, higher education, tech-based training, amongst others. As a company, you can offer seminars, conferences and other learning opportunities. Providing growth opportunities for your employees is therefore seen as an extremely valuable perk to millennials.
Philanthropy, environmental preservation, green initiatives, disaster relief, and other socially conscious activities are extremely important to millennials. Social media has a lot to do with this, as peer approval is a major motivator and posting photos of themselves doing good is very popular.
As a company you can offer perks like PTO for volunteering, paid membership fees to service and activity clubs, and specific organized volunteering opportunities for your employees. A tech company in Utah had a branch in Haiti when the big earthquake hit in 2016. The company sent a contingent of employees over to help with the recovery. This was a memorable effort that got a lot of circulation amongst millennials. Post often about your efforts with good, quality photos on your social media sites.
Money is no longer enough—employees now yearn to be a part of something bigger. Many millennials say that they would take a hit in pay if they loved the company they worked for. Millennials want to feel purpose and fulfillment in their work. Barry Salzberg, CEO of Deloitte Global, explained, “The message is clear: when looking at their career goals, today’s millennials are just as interested in how a business develops its people and how it contributes to society as they are in its products and profits. These findings should be viewed as a wake-up call to the business community.”
With a focus on authenticity, evaluate your company’s goals and mission and post it on all your platforms, i.e. your website, apps, printed material and wherever else you advertise. Let the world know that you have values and purpose that are important to your organization.
Most importantly, millennials refuse to comply with their parents’ workplace traditions and rigidity. The nine to five, boss watching everything you do, suit and tie atmosphere is unacceptable to them. Many millennials are currently choosing to freelance, largely because companies haven’t caught up completely with this idea. A work/life balance is extremely important to this generation and many companies are switching to unlimited PTO or work from home options. Project completion standards (as opposed to logging time spent) are more effective, following and making sure employees are getting their work done on time and well, is a model that seems to resonate more with millennials.
While some of these changes will certainly make the older generation uncomfortable, remember that the older generation will retire soon and you will be left with a workforce made entirely of millennials and younger. It’s unlikely that the next generation will move back to more traditional values in the workplace. Also, the older generation, while they have a lot to offer in terms of experience, don’t innovate or understand technology as well. The sooner your company adapts, the better off it will be.