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Millennials will make up 50pc of the global workforce by 2020. Roughly defined as someone born in 1984 onwards, this age group is often misunderstood and seen as difficult to manage in the workplace. This simply isn’t always the case; millennials just work differently. They’ve had to adapt to the fast-paced changes of the digital world in which they’ve grown up.
“There are many positives in employing millennials, such as their passion for values and intricate knowledge of new technologies, but there are also drawbacks,” says Andy Bate, co-founder of e-commerce web design company, Ecomnova.
Millennials, however, are inclined to use social media instead of face-to-face communication, which can lead to errors and prolong tasks, and use technology as an excuse to hide behind issues that are inhibiting work.
“Addressing how the company works with young people and graduates is important,” says Mr Bate. “To improve business operations, we aim to understand any issues that they may have, their behaviours and approach to work.”
So what do millennials look for in a job? How can big businesses attract and retain digitally-skilled young workers? Here, three millennials at different stages of their career share their experiences of the corporate environment and reveal what they would like to see change.
Purpose over pay cheque
Sally Williams works for a global financial technology (fintech) company, starting as a graduate in 2011. She initially joined because the salary was quite high for someone of her age. There was also an opportunity to work across departments and spend a couple of months overseas.
“My skills have been tested to their maximum. I’ve been moving across the way, and not upwards, and it feels like my progress within the company is stagnating,” she says.
Ms Williams’s approach is supported by 74pc of millennials, who in LinkedIn’s Purpose at Work study said that, while a good salary was important, they preferred to work somewhere where their input mattered. Though Ms Williams has been looking to move on from her current position, she’s also worried about job security and whether the grass will be greener.
“It would also be nice if my work made a difference in some way. I don’t think I can get this from my current employer, but if it could offer me something, I would probably stay,” she adds.
Employee ownership, where workers have a stake in the business as part of a wider engagement programme, could be one option. The model isn’t for every company, but it has been proven to boost productivity. A recent survey of West Midlands graduates by law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, found that millennials would much rather work for an employer that involves and rewards its employees.
Positive workplace culture
A positive workplace culture is another way of making workers feel they have a purpose within an organisation. Alex Blakoe graduated with an MSc in 2016. He had placements in wealth management, and considered pursuing it as a career, but felt that the corporate structure wasn’t quite right for him and that the challenges would be limited.
Mr Blakoe realised that working for a start-up would come with a greater sense of responsibility. He now works at Newcastle-based med-tech start-up, JimJam. This contrasts with conventional graduate schemes, he says, because at a start-up you’re shaping the company.
Though he doesn’t plan to leave his job anytime soon, Mr Blakoe could be persuaded to rejoin the corporate world if an employer was able to replicate the close-knit culture of a start-up, where colleagues want to help one another and are able to discuss and execute ideas effectively without miscommunication.
This could be done by recruiting candidates who are compatible with team members and more likely to bond. Software such as Saberr uses predictive analytics to help identify the right hires.
“If a big company could achieve this, and I could keep learning from a broad range of people with a varied set of experiences, then I’m sure I would enjoy my time there and feel more motivated,” Mr Blakoe explains.
Creating a welcoming workplace environment that attracts young people not only requires positivity, but also an understanding of diversity.
Azadeh Akbari started her career a decade ago, working for multinational companies in Australia. She’s now the founder of London-based Lync Media Group. Ms Akbari has worked for organisations of all sizes and has recruited and managed millennials.
“Businesses can be truly committed to changing the world for good, and embracing technology, but fostering diversity wins when it comes to attracting and retaining young recruits in the long run,” she says.
Though your website may be full of pages explaining how committed your company is to corporate social responsibility initiatives, if the pictures of the board and management show primarily middle-aged white men, you’re going to lose a good majority of millennial interest in your company, explains Ms Akbari.
One way of engaging young workers from the outset is to have inspirational role models in leadership teams that they can aspire to emulate. When senior leadership demonstrates diversity, it sets the tone for the rest of the organisation.