The Millennial factor: driving workplace change

With more formal education than any previous generation, today’s graduates are tech savvy and ambitious

The accepted definition of Millennials is children born in the 1980s and 1990s which makes them today’s 20-something and 30-somethings of the workplace.

Also known as Generation Y, Millennials are considered the first workforce generation of ‘digital natives’. They have more formal education than any previous generation, they are tech savvy and have mastered the art of multi-tasking because of their early exposure to a wide range of media.

In the past staff tended to start on the bottom rung of the ladder in a company and climbed the ranks very slowly. Millennials, on the other hand, can leave college sometimes better qualified than long-standing staff members, and can have an expectation that they will receive fair recognition and reward for fair work.

According to a whitepaper 'Attracting and Retaining Millennial Professionals' compiled by international specialist recruitment consultants Roberts Walters, 91 per cent of Millenials say the opportunity for rapid career progression is one of the most important things about their job.


Millennial professionals (born 1980 - 1999) want more than just a job, 68 per cent cited a clear path to grow in a role as the most important factor and motivator in keeping employees engaged, reflecting the ambitions of this generation. As a result, employers need to ensure Millennial employees are engaged and satisfied at work.

"Millennial workers have much in common with their older colleagues in terms of how they are motivated and what engages them at work. However, employers risk disconnecting with their Millennial workers if they fail to acknowledge the importance Millennials place on career progression," said Sarah Owen, Director at Walters People, Dublin.

Walters People is part of the Robert Walters Group and specialises in the recruitment of temporary and permanent positions for banking and financial services, finance and business support staff

Another priority for Millennial professionals is finding an employer who embraces technology, with 53 per cent saying they would be more likely to take a job with an employer who used the same technology that they do.

With many of them feeling more at home in a digital workplace than any other generation, remaining open to adopting popular technology and investing in the latest systems and platforms into the workforce can give a powerful edge over competitors in attracting this target market, added Owen.

Millennials were also shown to value a more social workplace, with 30 per cent saying that a social outing with their colleagues was the most important part of their induction at a new job. Seventy five per cent of Millennials also considered an engaging and fun workplace an important part of their job.

However, the findings also showed that 59 per cent of professionals have experienced intergenerational conflict at work, making it clear that businesses need strategies to ensure colleagues from different generations work together effectively.

“Businesses that neglect the social aspects of their culture, risk alienating Millennial employees. For more traditional businesses this may be particularly challenging, but embracing small changes can serve to show Millennial workers that managers are receptive to new ideas,” she said.

The Robert Walters whitepaper was conducted following interviews with 302 hiring managers and 228 professionals along with recruitment industry professionals in the UK and Ireland.

Among the findings of what Millennials want in the workplace were the following statistics:

* 52 per cent would like to grow their career abroad

* 71 per cent believe their employer should provide clear guidelines for earning bonuses and promotions

* 32 per cent want recognition of their individual achievements

* Of the top three reasons Millennials change jobs - 25 per cent wanted a bigger salary, a further 25 per cent wanted a more fulfilling job and 20 per cent wanted better career development opportunities

* 53 per cent of Millennials had been disappointed by a lack of personal development or training in a new job

* 43 per cent felt shadowing experienced members of staff was the most important part of their induction

Sarah Owen points out that Millennials are more open to international transfers as part of their career development than any previous generation. “This gives employers an opportunity to equip a new generation of managers with global experience of their business.”

She also advised companies to give Millennial staff an opportunity to move around the company, this can help to retain employees who might otherwise have moved elsewhere.

International best practice suggests employers apply the following measures for Millennial staff:

1. Support their dedicated interests.

Millennials tend to be self-starters, they should be encouraged to take an idea and run with it.

2. Let them learn through failing.

The key is to create an environment that allows them to fail, but with the safety of company support, this could encourage them to do things neither the company, nor the Millennials thought they could do.

3. Encourage and welcome enthusiasm.

A go-getter attitude should be encouraged. There is a lot to be said for ambition and Millennials are not short of that.

4. Look for their potential.

Millennials are hungry to learn, look for their potential and help them develop and refine that quality.

5. Provide leadership and guidance.

Millennials want to look up to employers, to learn and receive daily feedback. They want “in” on the whole picture and to know the details about decisions.

6. Listen to the Millennial employee.

Millennial employees are used to loving parents who have scheduled their lives around the activities of their children. These young adults have ideas and opinions, and don’t take kindly to having their thoughts ignored.

7. Provide challenge and change.

Millennials seek ever-changing tasks within their work. Don’t bore them, ignore them, or trivialise their contribution.

8. Encourage multitasking.

Millennials are multitaskers on a scale never seen before, says Owen. They can talk on the phone while writing an e-mail and answering multiple instant messages.

19. Capitalise on the Millennials’ affinity for networking.

Millennial employees like to network around the world electronically this could benefit the company through leads and contacts.

10. Provide work-life balance.

Millennial employees are used to cramming their lives with multiple activities. Although they work hard, they are not into the 60-hour workweeks defined by the Baby Boomers. Balance and multiple activities are important.

Barry Winkless, Strategy and Innovation Director at CPL recruitment also advises that in an increasingly volatile and uncertain marketplace "employees will be expected to continuously learn, upskill and reskill and be open enough to really adopt a growth mind set.

“The organisations of today and indeed the near future are seeking individuals that can work and thrive in a dynamic and agile workplace. For the foreseeable future the T shaped worker is key - having a deep hard competency or skill set coupled with broad and general soft skills like emotional intelligence, communication, and team working.”

The perfect definition of a Millennial.