Millennials: Are they the mutant offspring of the blob, a Hollywood inspired fiction, or the future of your workforce?

By - CTL
January 17, 2017

By Marcus Honesta.

Adnews recently reported on a high velocity twitter war, “Mark Ritson and Adam Ferrier Square Off In Millennial Showdown”. If you are of a generation that has only a scant notion of what a millennial actually is, you will, no doubt, be at risk of underestimating the importance of this slugfest.

In search of enlightenment we discovered the following:

Millennials (also known as Generation Y, Generation Me, Echo Boomers, Peter Pan Generation) are the demographic successors to Generation X. There are no precise dates defining Millennials their reign. Demographers and researcher types however typically quote the early 1980s as the beginning of their birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as the end.

Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe are widely blamed with naming the Millennials. They coined the term in 1987, around the time children born in 1982 were entering preschool, and the media were first identifying their prospective link to the new millennium as the high school graduating class of 2000. They wrote about them in their books Generations: The History of America’s Future,1584 to 2069 (1991) and Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (2000).

Earth shattering and weighty stuff.

Adnews gushed: The age-old battle over the relevance of Millennials has kicked off between two industry heavy weights – outspoken lecturer Mark Ritson and Cummins & Partners Chief Strategy Officer, Adam Ferrier.

In what could be called the grudge match of the advertising ages, the pair entered a discussion on Twitter today when Publicis Media chief strategy officer in China, Shann Biglione, questioned a recent TED Talk about “Millennials In The Workforce”.

The TED Talk featured author Simon Sinek speaking about the different expectations of the Millennial Generation in the workplace, from free food to bean bag chill out areas – a common feature in most advertising and technology companies today.

Sinek also spoke about how levels of anxiety and low self-esteem are on the rise for the age group, as they were raised in the reality of filters and Facebook.

My God, riveting stuff I hear you say. “However Ritson, who has previously questioned why marketers are obsessed with Millennials, pulled out statistics from the IBM Institute of Business Value that showed Millennials have the same career goals as Baby Boomers and Gen X “.

“Ferrier fired back with a study of his own that found Millennials are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety due to the pervasive power of media and increased screen time”.

Unfortunately for Ferrier, this is a rant Ritson isn’t prepared to take lying down. He questioned the validity of the study, with the researcher stating, “There were no clear causal factors between the findings and Millennials “.

This highly intellectual dissertation concluded with: “If 2016 was anything to go by, 2017 will not be the year that the Millennial battle is put to bed”.

Who cares you might think, clearly these chaps have a little too much time on their hands. Let’s take the emotion out of it and try and get to the bottom of the Millennials, and how they might; if indeed will, affect your business as a whole.

Forbes Magazine published an insightful piece titled:

Millennials In The Workplace: They Don’t Need Trophies But They Want Reinforcement.

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Millennials will be the largest generation in the workforce by then end of 2015 (which is rapidly approaching). This should not be shocking considering Millennials are quickly becoming the most influential population in our market today as they are graduating from college and reaching their peak employment years.

These Millennials are entering the workforce and they are bringing  with them a new perception of what office life should be like and how relationships between employers and employees should be structured. In order to create the most Millennial friendly workplace, there are a few things you should know about the generation that will represent nearly 75 percent of the work force by 2030”.

  1. They want to grow, even if that means growing out of your company.

Can you guess the average tenure of Millennial employees? Two years. In the span of a professional career, two years seems to hardly make dent. In comparison, the average tenure for Gen X employees is five years and seven years for Baby Boomers. One of the primary reasons Millennials are more likely to change jobs is because they are not willing to stick around if they do not believe they are receiving any personal benefit or growth.

Millennials embrace a strong entrepreneurial mindset and they are often on the lookout for opportunities that can continue to move them up the ladder, even if that means up and out of their current position. As digital natives, Millennials have grown up in an era where the number of resources they have is almost infinite making them more efficient problem solvers and critical thinkers.

  1. They want a coach, not a boss.

Piggy backing off of the previous insight, Millennial employees expect greater accessibility to the leadership in their offices and are looking for more mentorship rather than just direction. Research shows that the number one reason Millennials are likely to leave their current job is because of their boss. Creating an environment where Millennial employees feel supported and valued by the leadership team will lead to increased productivity and valuable relationships.

That means that employee/employer relationships must extend beyond just the formal annual work review. According to a recent survey conducted by TriNet, a company dedicated to providing HR solutions, 69 percent of Millennials see their company’s review process as flawed. A major reason for this is because of the lack of feedback throughout the year. The survey also found that three out four Millennials feel in dark about their performance and nearly 90 percent would feel more confident if they had ongoing check-ins with their bosses.

“The more frequent the check-ins are, the better,” said Rob Hernandez, Perform Product Manager at Trinet. “The biggest issue with the annual review process is the formality. There is often more emphasis on reflection rather than opportunities for improvement in the future.”

  1. They don’t want to waste time on the little things.

According to another survey from TriNet, business expense reporting procedures by some companies have caused negative impact on Millennials. This includes their personal finances and ability to take advantage of professional opportunities – leading some Millennials to look for other jobs. Three out of five respondents to the survey reported that they have had problems paying a personal bill because they were waiting for an expense reimbursement from their employer and Millennials are 21 percent more likely than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers to have difficulty paying a personal bill because they were waiting to be reimbursed for business expenses.

More than half of employees who responded to the survey also said they have given up the opportunity to attend a conference, training or other professional opportunities because their employer’s reimbursement policy made it too difficult. We already know that professional development is vital to Millennial employment satisfaction. While many employers are willing to invest in expensive growth opportunities, their outdated reimbursement processes could be turning this important benefit from tempting to tedious.

It is surprising that any employer should lose Millennial employees due to archaic expense reporting policies when there are inexpensive, reliable and efficient expense reporting tools readily available. The most successful brands with high Millennial retention adopt a cloud-based app, with a mobile component, that allows them to fully automate the expense-reporting process…from anywhere. Expense-reporting technology cuts down tremendously on administrative time, reimbursement time, human errors and potentially the loss of valuable Millennial employees.

  1. They want balance and democracy.

It is no secret that Millennials have inspired a new wave of consumer democracy in our market today. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at some of the fastest growing brands. Uber, GoPro, Airbnb, and more have all built their companies on the idea of consumer equality in regards to accessibility and shared consciousness. For Millennials, there is no reason why these same principles cannot be transitioned into the workplace.

Millennials have very much re-imagined the 40-hour work week with many employers working to provide more benefits and waste less time commuting – a win for both the enlightened company, as well as the employee. An estimated three million Americans work from home and that number is expected to increase 63 percent over the next five years. According to Pew Research Center, “If they were able to make their current job more flexible, 64 percent of Millennials want to occasionally work from home and 66 percent would like to shift their hours.”

All in all, they seem like a royal pain in the arse.

On the face of it, selfish, self opinionated and hardly likely to be true team players. Or is this being unfair? Perhaps it’s just a matter of getting used to the future, I’m sure that 50 years ago my father’s generation despaired at the way the world was going. However we have managed to survive even prosper (at least some of us). I do note however, the culture and generations that encouraged development from the factory floor, to middle management, and eventually into senior levels of management have built successful brands that have lasted the test of time. I note P&G, Unilever, and Kimberly-Clark to mention a few.

There is no question that education is a key to the future. The greatest problem as I see it is that we are not training the present generation at the grass roots level to take over the corporations of the future, step by step.


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