How to get the best from your millennials

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The ‘millennial generation’ tend to get a bad rep in the media, but if you can harness this new generation of talent, they could be the jumpstart your business needs.

Millennials – born roughly between 1980 and 2000 – are redefining the workplace. They already make up 35% of the UK workforce and are expected to account for 50% of all employees by next year, according to a recent report from accountant KPMG.

Employers keen to attract and retain the best people, therefore, need to recognise what the roughly 14 million UK millennials are looking for in their careers, and how that differs from previous generations.

Faith Howe, Director of Talent at communications agency FleishmanHillard Fishburn, said: “Millennials approach work and life differently to those who have gone before. This creates opportunities, as well as challenges.”

Working flexibly

Work life balance is a hot topic across the board. For many millennials, it’s a must.

According to research from insurer Aon, more than 95% of employers agree that today’s employees expect different things, with flexible working hours and agile working moving up the agenda.

So to attract and retain high-achieving millennials, offering flexible working options is one way to enable them to find their ideal work life balance.

And the good news is that even small changes can make a big difference.

You could, for example, offer workers the chance to start and leave an hour earlier one day a week, or give them a day off each year to support a good cause.

The AAT salary survey 2019 saw 58% of all members – young and old – ranking flexitime as one of their top 5 company benefits, so it’s not just a desire for millennials. If possible for your business, flexible working can boost overall staff happiness, and has even been touted as the key to closing the gender pay gap.

Key takeaway: Flexible working conditions tend to be very important to millennial workers, so have a think about alternatives to the 9-5 regime.

Harness the power of technology

Unlike some of their older colleagues, millennials – who have been using the internet since before they hit their teens – are happy to embrace hi-tech tools.

From faster communications platforms to cutting-edge software, they have the digital skills required to take advantage of the latest technology to boost their performance at work.

And they expect to be able to use them. According to a recent survey by European business school INSEAD, 60% of millennials think their employers’ digital skills are inadequate.

The obvious solution is to invest in appropriate technology.

So why not empower your younger members of staff to do feasibility studies on tech that could save time and strengthen profits across the business?

Key takeaway: Millennials are attracted to employers that take a hi-tech approach; capitalise on this by using their digital skills to cut costs and boost productivity.

Stay human in a digital world

While technology such as apps and software can enhance working conditions, they cannot – and should not – replace face-to-face interaction.

And while millennials value technology as a workplace tool, they also appreciate employers who encourage teamwork and offer learning opportunities such as training and mentoring schemes.

Anna Rasmussen, founder of the performance tool Open Blend, said “Research shows that the younger generations in the workforce are looking to work for organisations that can demonstrate a genuinely people-centric culture.

“The need to create genuine human connections at work and build relationships is becoming increasingly important.

“So to attract and retain talent, a more human-focused approach to people management is key.”

Key takeaway: Embracing more technology does not equate to less human interaction. Build valuable relationships with your team, offering learning opportunities and mentoring to keep them engaged.

Ensure employees feel valued

Online networking and job searches make it much easier to move companies, and as a result the average millennial stays in a given role for just three years, the KPMG report suggests.

Making the office environment more attractive, for example by creating a cool workspace with relaxation areas, is one way to avoid having to replace employees on a regular basis.

Offering a wide-ranging employee benefits package is another.

“Companies should ensure that they offer a package deal where pay is only one element and doesn’t have a dominant weighting,” the KPMG report concludes.

Given millennials’ technological proficiency, using tools such as apps and online portals to allow staff to manage their own benefits can also be a good idea.

Aon’s figures suggest this is becoming increasingly common, with 45% of employers already having an online benefits portal in place, and a further 20% planning to introduce one within the next three years.

Key takeaway: Whilst salary is important, it’s not the only concern for millennial job seekers; an employee benefits package can boost retention rates, giving you an edge over other employers.

In summary

Millennial employees can bring different skills and attitudes to the table, particularly when it comes to technology.

They value the opportunity to use these skills, alongside flexible working conditions, a broad range of employee benefits, and the ability to learn from senior colleagues.

Keep these things in mind, and you could build a happier, more diverse workforce.

For more on managing employees of all ages:

Jessica Bown is an award-winning freelance journalist and editor.

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