Millennials are compelling HR in companies to rethink traditional strategies

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As one generation gives way to the next, there are always some adjustments in perspective. And the workplace is one vital area this is observed. Thought leader for millennial and multigenerational workplaces, Crystal Kadakia, says, ““It’s not an exaggeration to say that different generations may see the same behaviors or dynamics in the workplace and perceive completely different things, whether positive or negative.”

However, history has never seen such revolutionary change in a way of life, like with the Millennials. This is significantly so, because the Millennials are the first generation to grow up with digital technology. They have known social media since childhood, and have grown up with their smartphones. This has had a tremendous impact on the way they view life.

The Pew Research Center finds that Millennials at about 83 million of the US population, are set to overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest living adult generation by 2028. By 2025, they will be 75% of the global workforce. At that time, many leadership and managerial positions will be filled by Millennials.

Even now, Millennials are shaking up workplaces through the way they view life and work. The late CEO of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs, once said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” Thus, it is with reason that Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, a Washington-Dc-based research-oriented management consulting company, said that Human Resources (HR) will have to make significant changes to accommodate the millennial generation.

Clifton sees the urgency of a major shift in HR policy because Millennials value what they do for work above everything else. A recent Gallup poll finds that the millennials at 28.9%, are the least engaged group in workplaces, with 20% of them being actively disengaged. Clifton says, this group is “not just miserable” on their own, but will also take others down that road with them. Although there is “enormous variation” from one company to the next, he says, “There’s no reason that 30 percent engaged can’t be 70 percent, and that the actively disengaged can’t be in single digits.”

The reason for such major differences is the definition of success. In the Baby Boomer generation, success and the American Dream included a good marriage, raising a family, owning a home and taking a two-week vacation. For the Millennials, these things are not priority. As Clifton puts it succinctly, “Millennials get married later in life, or not at all. They have fewer kids, or none at all. Their job is their life. If the job doesn’t have meaning, their life doesn’t have meaning.” The Deloitte Millennial Survey of 2017 found that Millennials feel most influential and accountable in the workplace. And Millennials, when their interest in engaged, can bring many powerful ideas and suggestions to the table, because their horizons are more expansive than any preceding generation, through knowledge at their fingertips by pressing buttons on a smartphone.

Millennials are, therefore, not going to hang around an organization that does not provide the right environment for them to thrive. They will always be scouting around for opportunities that align better with their way of life. The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016 found that 25% of millennials said they would wish to leave their current job within the next year, while 44% said they already planned to resign in two years.

Companies have found that pay is not the priority in choosing and sticking to a job in the Millennial world. As HR finds, time and again, Millennials are unwilling to sacrifice their lifestyle for jobs. And HR policies with regard to traditional compensation and benefit packages are seen as needing a realignment with Millennials perspective. For instance, with strong millennial partiality to work/life balance, HR may need to include additional time off or extend support for a hobby or particular millennial passion. With the millennial need to be part of the conversation, HR also needs to give thought to the traditional practice of making employees “fit in” to the set up. As CEO of Excel Management Systems, Dale Richards sees it, Millennials want “a boatload of flexibility” and freedom, but they are driven by goals and by accomplishments. The flexibility is seen to even embrace training and mentoring. In fact, many workplaces are converting their training from the traditional instructor-led, classroom type training to digitally enabled systems like nano-learning, to accommodate the Millennial need for “developmental learning on the go.” Co-founder and CTO of HubSpot, Dharmesh Shah, says, “Today power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it.” Thus, employees need year round engagement to feel empowered, even with time tracking software, not just annual performance reviews. As Jeff Martin, CEO and Founder of Tribal Brands Inc., said, “Young people need to be asked what matters, not be told what matters.”

One major change in perspective HR struggles with, is the disdain Millennials have for seniority. Having grown up seeing the success that speed, innovation and raw talent bring, Millennials do not appreciate the notion of seniority. As Japanese multinational imaging and electronics company, Ricoh’s VP for strategic marketing, Terrie Campbell sees it, “The traditional path is slow and steady, and the new one is possibly the fastest track in history. Millennial workers wielding exciting new skills are dropping into companies at mid-level and, in some cases, leapfrogging veteran colleagues to seniority.”

The changes into a millennial environment seems of revolutionary proportion, and is a challenge for HR. However, as American academic, Carolyn A. Martin says, “Organizations that can’t- or won’t- customize training, career paths, incentives and work responsibilities, need a wake-up call.”

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