Global investment banking firm Goldman Sachs has just released an infographic about Millennials coming of age in 2016 and what to look for or to expect in future from this generation. According to Goldman Sachs, Millennials (anyone born between 1980 and 2000) are one of the largest generations in history. It might also surprise you to know that Millennials now make up the majority of the workforce (since 2013). This generation is poised to move into their prime spending years and will be a major force in our businesses.
Work has changed more rapidly in the last decade than in the previous thousand, as technology and globalisation are placing round-the-clock demands on all of us. Today we are ‘always-on’ in this 24/7 mobile world. However, both the Millennials and Gen Z (born after 1995) are seeking more meaning and purpose to life in both work and play. Increasingly, they want to explore internal motivations and develop higher purpose so that they can achieve greater fulfilment and enjoyment at work. They are not prepared to work in the way that previous generations have and the accumulation of wealth and power is rarely found to be truly motivating for Millennials or Gen Z. Rather, finding alignment between personal, business and global motivations is what they typically strive for. As employers, we need to take this into consideration when looking to hire or motivate this workforce.
Thinking about this, I actually just about qualify as a Millennial. However, I still have a more traditional work ethic, which brings me on to another challenge for employers - how do you manage the mix of the younger workforce with other generations in the work environment?
According to research published by analyst Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, by 2020 there will be five generations in the workplace. People are living longer, delaying retirement and re-entering the workforce after time away. This means that a large employer might have the Traditional Generation (those born prior to 1945), Baby-Boomers (born between mid-1940s and mid 1960s), Generation X (born between mid-1960s and early 1980s), Millennials (born between 1980 to 2000) and now also Generation Z or the Linkster Facebook Generation (born after 1995). How do you motivate all of these different generations and get them seamlessly working together in order to gain a commercial advantage?
Certainly, Millennials and Gen Z want to get involved in more CSR initiatives and sabbaticals, and demand time off to purse such opportunities. Gen Z in particular are striving towards working a shorter day and believe that flexi-time, working from home or in a relaxed working environment that offers touchdown and leisure facilities, but not a permanent desk is the norm. This youngest group in the workforce are extremely tech-savvy and bring a host of new experiences into the workplace, such as instant messaging, which is their preferred mode of communication, believing email to be outdated.
This hugely contrasts with the Traditional Generation, who have an inbred respect for conventional rules, having come from a generation where frugality and austerity were virtues. While Baby-Boomers, the post-war generation, carry the reputation of workaholics who seek personal gratification and ultimately money. Though technology has been more accessible to this generation, a calculator and a paper diary is more likely to be found on their desk. Meanwhile, Gen X have a reputation of self-reliance and are deemed to be the more entrepreneurial generation. Millennials have been branded as socially conscious, competitive and confident; and if you like, they bridge the gap between previous generations and Gen Z.
This begs the question of how you should relate to employees in different age groups. Dan Schawbel suggests that when a Millennial is using a smartphone in a meeting, he or she may be multitasking rather than disengaged or rude. I would therefore advise that you need to throw out your stereotype assumptions. Everyone is an individual and just because someone is in a certain age bracket, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to behave in a particular way.
It is also important to remember age ranges. You wouldn’t, for example, treat a seasoned manager of 35 in the same way that you would treat a 21 year-old. Equally however, don’t assume that a 15 year age gap indicates any less of a different required approach in older workers. A worker of 55 will have different goals and needs than a worker of 70, and each group presents different management challenges. There is also an assumption that an older worker knows what you expect of them, while younger workers need more support. Older workers need equal amounts of support and training. That said, your older workers have been around and they’ve seen a lot, so recognise the value of this experience and encourage younger members to learn from it. And finally, older workers will have different motivational ‘hot buttons’ than their younger counterparts. For example, benefits such as medical cover, vision care and financial planning might be more of an incentive to them than time off to run a CSR project.
With Millennials and Gen Z now the biggest group in the workforce organisations will need to create a culture that they will feel motivated to work in. However, organisations must at the same time ensure that they are catering for the needs of all the generations that I have described, because ultimately the younger workers will become older and so the cycle will evolve.
Moving forward, organisations need to put themselves in the best position to retain their current workforce, while attracting the next generation into the workplace. The businesses that will ultimately succeed will be the ones that understand what the different generations want from their careers. If you are interested in reading more about ‘Five Generations in the Workplace, why not download my whitepaper by clicking here.
By Gareth Mann, Partner, Barrington Hibbert Associates