Millennials are defined as the generation born between 1980 and 2000. They have entered the workforce and are climbing the ranks into management and leadership positions.

This generation grew up in a different era to the Baby Boomers or Generation X and Y. They have an unprecedented affinity with digital technology, instant access to information, and social media. Their hopes and dreams of career progression are faster and more dynamic than previous generations. They look to employers whose values, benefits and remuneration packages align with their personal and professional aspirations.

This represents a real shift in the profile of young talented individuals, and doesn’t relate well to outdated management styles or company values. If employers are to attract and retain millennials, they must offer a new world of career and employment options, tailored to their specific preferences.

Nurture or lose your talent

A recent PwC survey* highlighted the worrying statistic that an incredible 38% of millennials are actively looking for a new role. Until now, they’ve been willing to compromise, take lesser roles and remain longer in one place during the global economic downturn. However, as the world recovers from the financial crisis, they are poised and more confident to move on to better employment, seeking jobs that align more closely with their personal values.

It needn’t mean that you’re about to lose your young talent. If you are aware of the needs and expectations of your millennials, and take an active role in meeting those requirements, promoting engagement and offering the rewards that they seek, this is an opportunity to prepare your organisation for the future.

What do millennials want?

The PwC survey highlighted a number of key factors:

  • The biggest draw for millennials to an employer is the opportunities for career progression.
  • Their most valued opportunity for progression is the chance to work with strong coaches and mentors
  • The highest ranking benefit they want is sustained access to training and development (this ranks higher than financial reward)
  • Millennials dislike outdated working practices, rigid hierarchies, fixed hours and the same, uninspiring place of work

The question is, how well equipped are managers and leaders in understanding these requirements and providing for them?

Millennials and mentors – the perfect match

Millennials do want to work with and learn from their senior colleagues. The difference is, this generation wants to be mentored and learn from doing, rather than being told what to do. Traditional command and control leadership is no longer welcome. Leaders need to understand and adapt their management style and skill sets to be able to communicate with millennials and nurture them in a way that they respond to in a positive way.

The expectations of what good leadership looks like is developing and increasing faster than leaders in general are developing their skills, resulting in a leadership gap. There is a real challenge for employers to step-up the game or lose out as their most talented people move on to better things.

Investment in coaching and mentoring training for leaders will give employers a distinct advantage when adapting to the management styles that millennials warm to. It can have a positive and startling impact on talent retention.

Inter-generational gaps

Millennials at ease with the latest technology can easily become frustrated in a workplace with outdated practices and a regressive approach to innovation. They often find themselves in a position of greater ability in certain aspects of their work than their older colleagues, leading to a clash with senior management slow to adopt new technology.**

The PwC report revealed:

  • 38% of millennials say that older senior management do not relate to younger workers
  • 34% say that their personal drive was intimidating to other generations
  • almost half felt that their managers did not always understand the way they use technology at work.

Conversely, it has been suggested that senior managers may look upon millennials as an impatient, needy workforce, requiring constant feedback and praise. They possess a silent, unconscious bias that clouds their judgment, preventing them from seeing the positive results they are capable of.

Mentoring programmes can be particularly effective in relieving tensions between these generations, breaking down barriers and opening up avenues where each can learn from the other. This is equally important in organisations where millennials are managing older teams, as it is for senior leaders managing millennials.

Retaining talent

In the PwC 14th Annual Global CEO survey, CEOs stated that attracting and keeping younger workers is one of their biggest talent challenges. In such a challenging environment, it makes perfect sense to meet the needs of this workforce head on, starting with a more cohesive, mentoring approach to management style. It is, after all, the workforce of the future and we must do all we can to engage and integrate this generation into the workforce of today.

** Read our blog Leading the way in the Digital era for more on how CEOs and senior management must adapt to cope with an influx of ‘digital immigrants’. 

*PwC report: Millennials at work: Reshaping the workplace


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