Millennials in the Workplace: New Habits, Expectations and Threats

workplaceAttracting talented people to work for you, and retaining them, is a challenge any business will recognise and have experienced on more than one occasion. From startup to seasoned multinational giants, finding and hiring the right people takes time, effort and money. While pay and perks are obvious essentials, how you enable your employees to work can affect how long they choose to stay with you. The key word here is enable… not allow, not permit, and certainly not dictate. All the more reason to make sure you have a good understanding of what you're offering and what your candidates want, especially if you want to attract the best millennials.

On the move and moving on

They're the always-on generation, and now they make up about half of the global workforce. Millennials - the generation born between the late 1970s and late 1990s - tend to want a different relationship with employers than their predecessors. Or even if they want the same things as those who came before them, technology and the culture of how it's used, is perhaps helping them get more of what they want.

So what are they after?

They want flexible working hours. They want to be coached rather than managed. They want a sense of purpose and to be judged by what work they produce rather than how long it takes. And if they don't get it, they don't hesitate to move on. They want smart tech… and because they are always connected, one in three of them even think that if their phone pings during a job interview, they should check it out and reply. This is the generation that bring their own devices (BYOD) to the office - first mobiles, then tablets, then fitness trackers and now smart watches.

Now they're bringing their own apps (BYOA) - using consumer applications to help get work done. For example, one in three millennials use Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp instant messaging services. They're chatting to friends and family - but also clients and colleagues. Why? Turn the clock back to 2007 and early studies of messaging apps in the workplace suggested they offered a better route to brainstorming problems or collaborating with colleagues compared to already overloaded email, and it's real time.

But the desire for convenience and flexibility brings new dangers

While businesses may be keen to attract the best candidates - from whatever generation-with the offer of flexible working and using their own tech, they shouldn't rush into it without considering the implications.

From a security perspective, Tony Anscombe, Senior Security Evangelist of AVG Business, a global provider of security solutions, explains, "Anyone bringing their own mobile device and connecting it to the company's WiFi or using a consumer app in the workplace may be sidestepping the systems designed to protect the business. The same security protocols and monitoring systems that companies need to ensure the data they manage remains confidential and that keeps hackers and malware at bay. Using technology such as firewalls, anti-malware, strong passwords and the latest software patches installed are essential, as the very minimum. Having a robust BYOD and BYOA policy in place will help manage devices, data security and employee expectations."

From a recruitment perspective, having conversations upfront with candidates about how you work, and how they would like to work, is crucial to building understanding before any invitation or offer is made. The question of flexible working and using their own devices may not even come up, not because they didn't think of it, but because they may naturally expect to work flexibly and use their own tech. Why wouldn't they? This is the Digital, not Dark, Age.

Come their first day, if things aren't as they expected, rightly or wrongly, they may suddenly realise there is a huge difference in how they want to work and how the business expects them to work: something that before the widespread ownership of mobile devices and pervasive internet wouldn't have occurred perhaps.

In markets where the talent pool is small but vacancies plentiful, this can be a critical recruitment issue. Talented people may be inclined to switch teams more frequently if a competitor enables them to work in a way which better complements their lifestyle. Where vacancies are limited but talent plentiful, they may find themselves having to sit tight but they may do so reluctantly, but keeping a close eye out for something else. The days of companies offering life-time employment may be long gone, but - for millennials perhaps-so too are the days of wanting or expecting it.

Working to live or living to work?

The dynamics of supply and demand may be no different from earlier times and generations of recruits: has anyone ever really wanted to work for forty years with poor pay, inflexible conditions and little opportunity for growth? The desire to work in ways which are a better match for our lifestyles is surely a natural calling for us all, regardless of when we were born.

One last thing…

If you are planning on inviting millennials to interview, you might want to drop the term millennial. This generation may be digital natives when it comes to tech but there are a whole host of stereotypes and myths to avoid.

If you have any questions, please ask below!