NEWSLETTTER | WOMEN MOTION
So you want to Hire Millennials?
It is said that the average Millennial will change jobs 29 times in his or her working life – that’s an average of a mere 1.5 years per job. Trend analyst and founder of Flux Trends, Dion Chang, explains how organisations can make the most of these fast-thinking, -acting, and -changing youngsters.
The generational divide has long been the subject of research, particularly in the United States of America and Europe, but there have been few, if any, local studies. Research house Flux Trends recently published the results of its study of Millennials, which has generated much interest and prompted a lively debate on the subject. Dion says he got the idea for the research into South African Millennials when, through previous corporate research, he tracked a growing conflict in the workplace between the so-called ‘Baby Boomers’ and the ‘Millennials’.
A 'Baby Boomer' is typically a person who was born during the post-World-War II baby boom and would
by Laura Franz-Kamissoko
have grown up in the period between 1946 and 1964. In North America and Europe, Baby Boomers are widely associated with privilege, as many grew up during a time of affluence. As a group, they were the healthiest and wealthiest generation to date, and amongst the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time.
‘Generation X’ is the label given to the generation born after the post-World War II baby boom ended, that is, in the 1960s through to the early 1980s. ‘Generation Y’, also known as the ‘Millennial Generation’ or ‘Millennials’, describes the demographic group following Generation X (also known as ‘Gen Xers’). Millennials are typically born anywhere from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s. This generation is also generally marked by an increased use of, and familiarity with, communications, media and digital technologies.
Dion maintains that the generational divide is becoming increasingly significant for employers the world over, and for a very specific reason – the retirement of the Baby Boomers, coinciding with the shortage of Gen Xers to fill the employment gap, which means that employers will have to rely on Millennials to step up to the plate. “The United States of America currently has 75-million Baby Boomers who are facing retirement, only about 45-million Gen Xers, and about 80-million Millennials currently entering the workforce. Where the conflict is coming in is as a result of their often-differing attitudes to work,” he explains.
Jobs for Life…
Baby Boomers, Dion continues, typically believed that jobs were for life. This was the generation which coined the terms ‘workaholic’, ‘supermom’ and ‘daycare’. In families, both parents usually worked and sacrificed family time for their jobs to the extent that divorce became commonplace. The entry of their children – the Gen Xers, who carried the baggage of their parents’ workaholism – into the workplace signalled the start of the need for a work–life balance and more of a ‘what’s in it for me’ approach to work. Gen Xers have also, understandably, invested more of their time and money in their offspring. Millennials are the most educated generation to date and claim to be closer to their parents than their parents were to theirs, but this generation is also sometimes referred to as the ‘Peter Pan Generation’ because of its members’ tendency to delay some rites of passage into adulthood, such as leaving home. In fact, the average age at which South African Millennials leave home is about 24, notes Dion.
…vs Jobs are Life
“They’re entering into the workplace in a recessionary world, are facing the highest unemployment rates in recent generations, and are inheriting a world beset with conflict and environmental disasters. It’s perfectly understandable that they are the generation that wants to make the world a better place. For them, a company’s ethics and social-investment initiatives are more than mere marketing ploys; they are key deciding factors when opting to accept a job in that company,” notes Dion.
“What you have to remember is that Millennials are trophy kids. They were raised by parents telling them how special and clever they are, and with the phrase ‘Do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life’ ringing in their ears. So, armed with their honours and masters degrees, an exaggerated sense of self-importance, little or no work experience, and these great work expectations, they can pose a challenge to employers used to dealing with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers,” says Dion. It’s no wonder that one manager I know refers to Millennials as the Cheetahs – they’re in and out of company doors in no time.
Dion takes perhaps a slightly less jaded view of Millennials, noting that he employs mostly youngsters from this generation. “The average Millennial spends seven hours a day creating and consuming media – that’s nearly as much time as their parents spend working. They are the most giving people. There is no barrier between work and life for them, which is why they have such high expectations from their employers. Random acts of kindness are common, especially when they feel great loyalty towards their employer, but they can be very protective of their freedom. They will do something for the good of a company, but don’t ask them to up the bottom line, especially for big corporates. They can be especially loyal to a mentor, even following him or her from workplace to workplace. They are like sponges, and they genuinely want to make the world a better place and find better ways of doing things. For this reason, they expect their company to accommodate them, give them time for personal and family life, and allow them to explore avenues of interest. Technology does enable this flexibility, or perhaps this flexibility is possible because of the technology,” he elaborates.
Good examples of companies meeting these expectations include the Googles and IBMs of this world, where employees work either flexitime or remotely, or, in some cases, four days a week, spending the fifth day pursuing, on company time, personal interests that are potentially profitable for their employers. “The general sense is that, in companies with these flexible work policies, productivity goes up while employee costs come down,” says Dion. Companies which use their workforces to do good on company time are particularly attractive to these youngsters.
Millennials are also not afraid to learn new skills and to multitask. “Of course, they are also referred to as Slashies, with good reason. One career for life is incomprehensible, so many of my employees are a writer/web designer/DJ,” he remarks tongue firmly in cheek. Another plus for companies hiring Millennials is the strong entrepreneurial streak of Millennials – Flux Trends’ research showed that about 70% of them have aspirations to start their own businesses.
Millennials in South Africa
As for the outlook for the Millennials entering the South African economy, things do look somewhat bleak, admits Dion. South Africa has a huge youth bulge – a third of its population is aged 25 or less. Globally, 80% of the world’s adolescents live in developing countries. “It is interesting to note that political change is most likely to occur where Millennials account for more than 40% of the population. Libya and Egypt are good examples of countries with youth bulges, and that have recently undergone radical political change. Whereas Millennials are more likely to be tolerant of other cultures, they are not inclined to tolerate poor governance and corruption. A youth bulge can be a positive thing for a country when there is an excellent education system and enough jobs for these youngsters. Sadly, South Africa has neither of these to offer its Generation Y. It is estimated that three-quarters of local schools are dysfunctional, and some 80% of the unemployed are youths who have an education that has not progressed beyond Grade 12. Politically, they are the lost generation and, economically, they may as well be Generation Disappointment. We have a young, restless society where even those with degrees have few opportunities, so the fear is that all it will take is one spark to ignite an uprising,” he continues.
His advice for companies, particularly the big corporates: change the way you recruit and retain staff. Millennials thrive on social networks, so companies need to optimise their recruitment drives for social networking. He cites recent research that found that, in 2011, 1% of all jobs were secured via social media, while Jobvite, which provides a recruiting-software platform, recently issued a report that showed that 83% of all employers based in the United States of America already use social networks to attract the right calibre of youngsters to their recruitment programmes.
“Try and meet Millennials halfway – yes, you may come across a few duds, but you will also hire some gems. You can’t keep doing things the same old way. Also remember that Millennials aren’t all so interested in planning for their future – they are more focused on maintaining a lifestyle, so appealing to them with structured packages and pensions might not be the way to go; work flexibility might be the better option. Youngsters also want scope for growth. The Walt Disney Company, which is rated a Fortune 500 company and as one of Bloomberg Businessweek’s 50 Top Performers to launch a career, does so well because it gives youngsters the opportunity for rapid advancement. Mentorship is another key to retaining younger staff. They may be the most educated generation of staff, but, when it comes to soft skills, they are the most immature, so they need guidance and encouragement. Finally, Millennials enjoy teamwork – hence their penchant for social networks, so build scope for teamwork into their roles. Essentially, make time for these youngsters and invest in them, and they will reward you with their loyalty,” concludes Dion.
What is a Millennial?
Generation Y, also known as the ‘Millennial Generation’ or ‘Millennials’, describes the demographic group following Generation X. They are typically born anywhere from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s. This generation is also generally marked by an increased use of, and familiarity with, communications, media and digital technologies.
What Millennials Want from an Employer
Ethics and a social conscience
Flexible work time
Scope for growth
A teamwork approach
A technologically advanced work environment, including a presence on social networks.