They’re called Millennials: the supposedly tech-obsessed generation born from the 1980s to early 2000s who are arriving in the workforce en masse and shaking things up.
That’s because they supposedly want versatile and flexible work arrangements which provide strong work-life balance but also rapid promotion, international employment experience and healthy pay packets.
It’s enough to make the Baby-boomers and Generation Xers who have come before them view these “Millennials” as an almost alien species.
Now a whitepaper has been released by recruitment firm Robert Walters, who surveyed 1000 professionals and 400 hiring managers across Australia and New Zealand to gauge their thoughts and feelings on Millennials in local workplaces.
Attracting, Retaining and Developing Millennial Professionals found there was indeed inter-generational conflict with 53 per cent of Millennialssaying they’d experienced or witnessed it in the workplace.
An overwhelming 79 per cent of employers believe the biggest source of conflict stems from the younger ones’ expectations of rapid career progression.
But James Nicholson, managing director of Robert Walters ANZ, says this conflict could be because Millennials face challenges older worker didn’t or at least not to the same extent.
These include higher levels of student loan debt, less job security and — especially in Auckland — stratospheric property prices.
He says for younger workers, it adds up to having to look for well-paid work and being more willing to swap jobs -– or careers -– to ensure they have a wide range of skills and opportunities to stay solvent.
Danielle Duffield, 26, is a litigation solicitor at national law firm Kensington Swan.
While she says the results appear to be fairly accurate, she’s not convinced younger workers expect career progression more rapidly than previous generations.
She offers an alternative reading of the situation, saying heightened social awareness around inequalities and a deeper desire to rectify these may lead to a misconception among older workers that Millennials have a sense of entitlement.
“Younger workers often have a concern for people being treated fairly and as they deserve,” she says. “Many in my generation are sensitive to the gender inequalities that are prevalent in most New Zealand industries and push for positive change in this area.”
“I think younger workers are increasingly interested in engaging with social issues and contributing to meaningful change. For example, there is a strong interest among young workers in supporting fundraising initiatives for charities and promoting such initiatives in the workforce. But, read Attracting, Retaining and Developing Millennial Professionals more closely, and it turns out Millennials aren’t too different from their older colleagues.
It concludes they want financial security, engaging and meaningful work and to be treated with respect. Who doesn’t want that?
Both Duffield and Nicholson, 42, say the solution to encouraging older and younger workers to find that common ground is straightforward: talk!
“Like most people starting out or taking their first steps into management positions, Millennials have ambition and drive and are keen to be involved and make an impact,” says Nicholson, “but they come into the workforce in an era where they know they need to advance their careers as quickly as possible to achieve what their older colleagues may have: a home of their own, a family or the ability to pursue interests outside of work.
“It’s all about being transparent and open. Talk to them about what your expectations are, and how these square up against their own, and what you can all do to meet these.
Consider this: Millennials may move around and leave after 18 months but isn’t a year and a half of high quality output better than having someone for, say, three years who doesn’t have the same drive?”
He says a well-defined and clear-cut induction process is a significant step toward ensuring employees know what is expected of them.
Duffield agrees as a younger person in the workforce, one of the biggest challenges is navigating one’s way around processes and systems that are new and foreign.
“Fitting a new generation’s ideals into a system built by a different generation can be difficult, particularly when young workers often have their own natural learning curves to undergo in the formative years of a new career.”
“Older workers should seek to engage sincerely with the views and perspectives of young people and to approach their ideas with an open mind,” she says.
“Bias is powerful: it’s very easy to view something that has always been approached a certain way as objectively the best or only way.”
She believes younger and older workers alike could benefit from such an information exchange and points to an article written by the Queensland editor of the Australian, Share Rodgers, about giving career advice he wished he had at 25.
“He pointed out that younger people should make an effort to network with older people who will likely have valuable career experience to share.
However, he also noted, “older, successful people shouldn’t just sit in musty clubs talking about the 1970s.”
They should be proactively seeking out smart, young people who can shake them out of their comfort zone and open their eyes to new ideas.”
The whitepaper revealed a finding which surprised Nicholson.
For Millennials, the second biggest source of conflict was the older generations’ reluctance to engage with or use new technologies but, despite this, those same staff are less attached to technology than employers think.
“I thought they would have more concerns about technology at work and being able to stay up with the play of changes and developments but it didn’t come across as a major concern.
“We have to remember there’s a big difference between workplace technology and being able to use social media. In many respects, theMillennial generation has been the ‘guinea pigs’ for how social media can work and its impacts on work and the workplace.”
What Millennials do want is employers to offer international career opportunities as part of training and development programmes.
“It is alarming that most organisations aren’t offering these overseas opportunities,” says Nicholson.
Millennials aren’t fond of being tied down but it’s Baby-boomers and Generation Xers who want flexible working arrangements: 47 per cent of Baby-boomers and 46 per cent of Generation X compared to 37 per cent of Millennials.
By Dionne Christian
Source: The New Zealand Herald