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15 May 2017

The Challenge of leading and engaging millennials

Ask senior managers about millennials in the workplace and many would detail a generation of individuals more interested in their smartphones than workloads. 

In fact, a recent survey by Bank of America found that nearly four in 10 millennials say they interact more with their phones than with significant others, parents, friends, children or co-workers.

Yet if the question was posed the other way round, with millennials asked about their bosses, the complaint could easily be reversed and instead focus on old-fashioned, inflexible employers who are increasingly out of step with modern life.

A challenge – but for whom?

If a single word can ever typify a working generation, then for millennials it could well be ‘challenge’.

The word appears, significantly, in Deloitte’s recent Millennial Study where it talks about a ‘loyalty challenge’ – with millennials expressing little allegiance to current employers – and it appears again in EY’s Global Generations report, where it highlights the ‘work-life challenges’ felt by millennials.

The word appears, significantly, in Deloitte’s recent Millennial Study where it talks about a ‘loyalty challenge’ – with millennials expressing little allegiance to current employers – and it appears again in EY’s Global Generations report, where it highlights the ‘work-life challenges’ felt by millennials.

“Their [millennial] work hours have increased over the last five years, they are twice as likely to travel overnight for business as other generations, and they are more likely to be part of a dual-career family than their boomer counterparts,’ the EY report said.

“They want to work flexibly without stigmas and are willing to make tough choices and sacrifices to better manage work and home.”

Millennials now represent the largest segment of the US workforce, the EY study says, and by 2025 will also number three-quarters of the global workforce. The work-life challenges millennials feel aren’t the feckless demands of a spoilt generation, but a real and desperate desire for greater flexibility from employers who have yet to move with the times and recognise the changing way people live their lives.

While the EY study suggests companies need to keep pace with millennials or risk losing talent, the Deloitte report talks about a ‘conflict of values’ with a perceived lack of leadership development amongst millennials adding to issues around creating a decent work/life balance.

Either way, it’s a bit of a mess. Tellingly, Deloitte says that accommodating employers, who offer the flexibility needed by millennials, are likely to encourage more of this generation to join their firms.

Added flexibility…

Membership organisations overly-focused on day-to-day management may try to brush off this ‘challenge’ as an intergenerational squabble, something that’s likely to subside – that might be a mistake.

If organisations think millennials are disruptive, then what are they going to think about Generation Z – a younger cohort of school leavers and tweens that have only ever known the constant and widespread usage of social media – when it arrives in the workplace?

Organisations with a keen interest in shaping the future of trades and industries, however, might instead choose to view these reports, and the attitudes of younger workers, as evidence of an irreversible tide – a new approach towards the workplace that can’t be dealt with through half-hearted measures.

Flexible working should mean more than just loosening rigid business hours and an expectation that work will be fulfilled in an office – it could be a productivity revolution.

For membership organisations looking to engage millennials, it might mean the adoption of a whole new attitude.

It might mean encouraging new structures and the adoption of new skills – both within their own organisations and through their messaging to members.

It might also mean the adoption of new technology, new ways to empower employees by providing access to documents and software, and new ways that help people work collaboratively from any place, at any time, and on any device.

Now, how ready does your organisation feel?

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The Redactive Team