A millennial’s perspective on the future of enterprise success

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How often do you hear that millennials are disrupting the workforce? Sometimes it’s said in a positive and uplifting way — that we’re breaking down barriers and leading innovation — but more often it’s not. Lazy, hungry for instant gratification, unable to accept constructive criticism, unrealistic demands for flexibility — sound familiar? It’s this type of language and stereotyping that makes me want to shudder when I just type the word “millennial” in a sentence.

Earlier this year, Chris Nerney wrote a blog about how some of these perceived negative work habits  can actually fuel enterprise success. Now let’s take that further and look at some of the questions organisations need to start asking if they are to take the millennial attitude on board and let it shape the workplace culture and processes of the future.

Why all the fuss?

It’s estimated that by the year 2020, millennials will make up nearly half of our workforce. However, not enough of them are making it into technology. In Australia for example, only about 10 per cent of our population hold post-secondary qualifications in STEM subjects. And between 2006 and 2011, the number of those qualifications grew by only 15 per cent compared to non-STEM subjects, which grew by 26 per cent. You can read more about the study here. To attract and retain young talent, therefore, tech companies have to become very creative to stay competitive.

There is also a misconception about hiring recent graduates: that companies are doing them a favour by hiring them and providing opportunities. This mentality needs to stop. We need to start viewing millennials as the sought after, valuable resources they can be. Studies show that nearly 70% of hiring managers claim that millennials have skills that previous generations lack. Meanwhile, 67% of employers rate the millennials in their workforce as either above average or exceptional. According to the research, their biggest contributions to the workforce include the ability to question the way things are done, having an entrepreneurial spirit, being driven to make a difference, and possessing market knowledge and technological skills.

The result? About 85 per cent of companies have changed at least some of their policies to appeal to this generation.

How do we attract millennial talent?

Now, I’m not suggesting that earlier generations haven’t found purpose in their work. But the research does seem to show that younger generations are much more influenced by their purpose when it comes to looking for and retaining work. In fact, it’s been suggested that more than 53 per cent of millennials [pdf link] list “having their passions and talent used to the fullest” as one of the biggest influences on whether or not they stay with their employer. Another major factor is “believing in the company’s mission and purpose”, which 20 per cent listed as influential.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a not-for-profit organisation to appeal to this talent pool. But it does mean that you might have to put a bit more effort into showcasing your vision and mission statements, and how your organisation contributes to employees’ personal goals.

Take Google for example. Traditionally, they were renowned for the 20 per cent time model, in which they let employees have one day per week dedicated to their own personal projects. Even though this has recently been replaced with the very hush-hush Area 120, some of Google’s biggest revenue earners were born during the 20 per cent time (such as Gmail and AdSense). It’s amazing what creativity and innovation can be inspired when employees are given the opportunity to explore their passions and utilise their talents.

However, it won’t be enough to just let people have some extra time for creative thinking. Millennials are also driven by a need to do well, to understand, to master and to be fulfilled. As much as 87 per cent of the millennial workforce say development is important to their job, with over one-third listing “opportunities for career growth and development” as a top factor they consider when accepting a job offer. There is a consistent drive for growth, and a high value is being placed on upward career mobility.

Therefore, we need to ensure that we are not only enabling continuous learning at an individual level, but creating a learning culture in our organisations. This is especially important in the IT industry, when the latest technology, skills and best practises are constantly evolving. If we provide learning opportunities to those who are willing to keep up to date with what’s new, we’ll find they can then feed that information to their teams and the wider organisation.

Are we giving anything back?

Lastly, now more than ever, the future workforce is looking closely at social responsibility. Findings suggest that almost two-thirds of millennials claim that “it’s a priority for them to make the world a better place.” Organisations need to not only promote the charitable efforts of its employees, but enable them to do so. At DXC Technology, you’ll find countless stories across social media, under the hash tag #DXCCares, that highlight the efforts of our employees in supporting and taking part in charity and community events. Elsewhere, companies have introduced “give-back” programs, offering one full day of paid leave for their employees to participate in volunteer activities.

So what do you think — is your organisation “millennial ready”? Should we even be worrying about this in the first place? Personally, I think these are the leaders of the future, and of course we should be looking for alternative ways to attract and retain this type of talent in the workplace. Whether it’s enhancing our corporate social responsibility activities or implementing a new development program, these initiatives have the potential to benefit all employees across the organisation.

Let me know your thoughts below.

RELATED LINKS

How millennial work habits fuel enterprise success (really!)

The power of purpose in the war for talent

Digital disruption: New ways to tackle talent

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