How To Make Millennials Work
By: Michael McQueen
The need for industries and brands to stay relevant to the next generation has always been important, but today it matters more than ever.
Younger generations can either represent a breathtakingly large opportunity or one of the most significant disruptions any brand or industry is likely to face, and not just as consumers. Engaging the next generation in the workforce is just as vital, and it only takes one look at today’s job scene to see the impact Millennials are making on it.
When you consider the demographic size of the Millennial cohort, it’s easy to see why they are such a game-changing group. They are the largest generation in history making up one in three persons on the globe – 86 per cent of whom live in emerging markets. In North America, they are 79 million-strong which makes Millennials marginally larger than even the Baby Boomers. In the Asia-Pacific region, Millennials make up over 30% of the population – in China alone there are 200 million people between the ages of 22 and 34.
By 2025 they are set to make up over half of the working population in Australia and 75% of the labour force in the US. If you are not engaging the talented, innovative and entrepreneurial members of this massive cohort, your competition likely will.
Beyond their innate technology skills, this young generation offers a range of characteristics that are indispensable in an age of disruption. They are innovative, entrepreneurial and adaptable by nature. On top of all this, they are entering businesses and industries with fresh eyes, a different worldview and a bold confidence to challenge the status quo.
Deloitte has conducted arguably the most detailed research examining how disruptive the attitudes and expectations of a Millennial workforce will be in the coming years. Having surveyed 7,800 Millennials from 29 countries, it found that the paradigm of this young group of employees could best be described as:
1. Purpose-driven: 77% of this group report their company’s purpose was part of the reason they chose to work there.
2. Transient: During any given year, one in four Millennials will leave their current employer and role to join a new organisation or do something different. That figure increases to 44% when the time frame is extended to two years. When you consider that it costs an average of $24,000 to replace each Millennial employee who churns through an organisation, it’s clear that there is a financial imperative to engaging and retaining this group.
3. Ambitious: 63% of Millennials surveyed say their “leadership skills are not being fully developed.” In some markets, such as Brazil and the south-eastern Asian nations of Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, the figure exceeds 70%.
4. Socially-minded: 87% of Millennials believe that the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance and well over half of them would choose not to work for an organisation whose values don’t match their own.
5. Flexibility-focussed: 88% of Millennials expressed a strong desire to have some control over start and finish times and 75% would like to have greater scope to work from home or other locations where they feel most productive. In contrast, only 43% of organisations allow the sort of work-location flexibility Millennials are looking for.
As I reflect on my interactions with businesses and leaders across a range of industries, it is clear there’s often a mismatch between the employee values of Millennials and the culture of many organisations.
In the financial services sector, for instance, companies are having to make changes to their traditional work models in order to remain relevant to Millennials. For years, investment houses and big banks worked on the formula that young workers had to grind out years of marathon work weeks and menial tasks in order to earn the right to climb the ranks and enjoy the perks of leadership. However, Millennials are simply not willing to play this game the way previous generations were.
According to analysis conducted by LinkedIn for the Wall Street Journal, young associates in 2015 were leaving positions at a dozen investment banks after an average of 17 months – compared with an average tenure of 30 months back in 1995.
Co-head of Goldman Sach’s Investment banking division John Waldron said Goldman and fellow banks J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup were waking up to this reality and looking to change. “We’re focused on trying to understand what’s important to the folks we hire right out of school,” he said. Among other things, the banks are looking to revamp their rules, add sweeteners for young employees and tweak their traditional delayed-gratification model to better suit the expectations of the Millennial generation.
Fortune published their 2019 list of the ‘75 Best Large Workplaces for Millennials’, boasting a diverse collection of US companies. Unsurprisingly, the common denominators of these companies that qualified them as the best workplaces, according to Millennials, included characteristics of flexibility, progression opportunities, work-life balance, transparency, a purpose beyond the bottom line, and a culture of inclusion and encouragement. Companies like Hilton, Kimley-Horn and Cisco, who featured in the top 10, exemplify the kind of change that businesses must embrace if they are to engage the largest demographic of the workforce.
It is undeniable that this generation is crucial to the ongoing success of businesses and that these businesses have to change in order to engage with them. The key question: How does your business need to adapt in order to engage the passion, ambition and talent of the Millennial workforce?
 2016, ‘Millennials, Mobiles & Money’, Telstra Corporation
 Barton, C et al. 2012, ‘The Millennial Consumer – Debunking Stereotypes’, The Boston Consulting Group, April
 2016, ‘Millennials, Mobiles & Money’, Telstra Corporation
 2015, ‘2015 Millennial Survey’, Deloitte
 2015, ‘Generations in the Workplace: The Big Shift’, Lehigh University, 2 March
 Huang, D & Gellman, L. 2016, ‘Millennial Employees Confound Big Banks’, The Wall Street Journal, 8 April
 2019, ’75 Best Large Workplaces for Millennials’, Fortune
Article supplied with thanks to Michael McQueen.
About the Author: Michael is an award-winning speaker, social researcher and best-selling author.