ITL #221 All the young dudes: what millennials want from work

3 years, 2 months ago


Employers expect a return on the investments made in developing their people. Not easy, given the mindset of many younger workers. By Danny Cox.

I have to text my son to tell him I have emailed him. He is 24. And he still doesn’t reply. Whether this is indicative of interactions between millennials and their parents generally or our relationship is not for me to decide, but it’s a good example of two of the key challenges employer’s face with younger employees – communication and engagement.


A recent afternoon networking event put together experienced communications employers and a group of Journalism and PR students from the University of West England, so each could look at the other’s perspective. It is over 30 years since I was in their shoes and my failing memory told me there were some common issues then and now. But there were also some big differences.


The sample size was modest and had no control group but the comments were pretty indicative of various more in depth studies done in recent years.


Life/work balance

No, that’s not a typo. Millennials don’t think about work/ life balance, it’s the other way around. Flexibility of their working life was key. Many talked about working when and where they wanted to. Not just having the flexibility to work from home, but being able to base themselves in a coffee shop with a laptop as and when they wanted to do so.


If you have never known life without a mobile phone, broadband, Amazon etc. you are used to immediate gratification and the omnipresence connectivity provides. So why should that mean being in one office, all of the time?


The concept of building trust with an employer and earning trust and spurs before being offered working flexibility did not feature on the radar.


The length of the working day was also a challenge for some, not just asking whether they would be expected to work past 5.00 o’clock on a 9.00 am – 5.00 pm day but also saying they had too much on in their lives to work even those hours.


Loyalty and job security

The economic climate for much of the first 10 years of my working life was in stark contrast to those stepping onto the treadmill now. Today is almost a mirror image of the high unemployment, high interest rates and house price crash of the late 80s into the recession of the early nineties. If you managed to get a job then, you clung to it for dear life. Flexibility and progression were distant cousins.


Today, loyalty is a choice and no longer a “keep the head above water paying the mortgage” necessity. Millennials can and do ask the question “how long should they work for an employer before moving on”. Measured in months. “Was nine enough?”


Commit to two years was one employer’s response with eloquent and rational reasoning. Why would an employer dedicate training and resource to develop a newbie only for them to vacate when the mood suited them just months later?


Employers want to know their investment in people will be rewarded. What goes around should come around. Millennials expect rapid development, rapid career progression and rapid advancement as a given as well as having a varied and interesting career.


Unrealistic, yes. But that still won’t stop them seeing the perfect lives of people on social media telling them that the greener grass is over the road and vacating just as development plans start to reap benefits.


The danger is that the skills shortage is being fuelled by a generation who have ants in their employment pants.


So where from here?


The current economics of full employment make life harder as does greater employment mobility. It’s a job hunter’s rather than employer’s market.


The challenges of attracting and retaining young, talented people to become the mature workforce of the future are not new. Nor is finding the hot spots, areas of interest and extracurricular activities which add team building, bonding and enjoyment beyond the day job. They are just much, much more important for the millennial.


Communications teams will already be moving with the times and embracing new technologies and new media. This is where employment opportunities can attract the millennial.


Purpose is more important to the millennial, so get them involved (even running) the firm’s CSR, Foundation or charity of the year initiatives. Tap into what is important to them.


And the solution is all about fact-finding. One of the corporate videos of a baby food manufacturer asked what was the best moment working for the company, to which one answer was “playing Frisbee after work”.

It’s all about the people, always has been. They are just changing.

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The Author

Danny Cox

Danny Cox is Head of Communications and Chartered Financial Planner at Hargreaves Lansdown, an ‘investment supermarket’ for private investors. Danny has over 25 years' experience in personal finance and has been at Hargreaves Lansdown since 2001. Amongst his awards are the coveted Money Management Financial Planner of the Year and Financial Adviser SIPP Adviser of the Year awards.

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