Millennials in Your Workplace - The Generational Gap

23 November 2015

millennials

By 2020, millennials will make up more than 50% of the global workforce, and is already the largest generation in the US workforce as of 2015. However, businesses seem to have a difficult time employing and retaining millennials, regularly citing a sense of entitlement and a lack of worth ethic as reasons for the disjointed workforce.

In Australia, the youth unemployment rate for 15-24 year olds has been increasing steadily since the global financial crisis, reaching a new high of 13.9% in February 2015. This is the highest youth unemployment rate since 1998. (source) 

We’ve all heard from employers about what they think the problem is; recently labelled “the unprepared generation”, employers complain young workers lack important work skills and knowledge, including an inability to ‘show up on time’ or take direction, plus an unrealistic expectation of wages. But what do millennials think the problem is?

A recent global survey of those born between 1980 and 2000 into work attitudes cited opportunities for personal learning and development to be their number one choice of employee benefits, followed closely by flexible working hours. Both of these conditions came in at above financial reward. While its true millennials have a reduced sense of loyalty towards their employers when compared to previous generations, millennials link this to economic downturn. Over 72% of millennials felt they had made compromises in accepting their current position; once economic conditions improve, voluntary turnover is expected to increase.

Millennials are also concerned with generational tensions, stating that while they are comfortable working with older generations and value mentorship, 38% felt older senior management do not relate to younger workers. Almost half of those surveyed felt their managers did not understand the way they use technology at work. Indeed, millennials feel that the use of personal technology at work makes them more effective at work.

It’s very easy for older generations to engage in generational bashing, blaming young workers for not having the same values as their own. However this is unhelpful in the long run; being bought up in a technological age has caused a shift in values and Australian businesses need to shift as well in order to meet millennials halfway. Millennials have ambition and a desire to keep learning, and move quickly up through an organisation; they are also unconcerned about moving on from a workplace if their expectations are not being met. Millennials want a flexible approach to work, but regular feedback and encouragement.

Increasingly, the balance of power between employers and employees is shifting in favour of the employee. Workers are expecting better pay, better (and safer!) working conditions, better work/life balance and better career progression opportunities.

Of concern is that 28% of millennials felt the work/life balance of their job was worse than they had expected before joining, and over half said that while companies talk about diversity, they did not practice what they preached. A rapidly ageing workforce means that older generations will very soon become dependent on millennials – and steps need to be taken and compromises made to ensure they’re still around and appropriately trained.

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