Evolving talent strategy to match the Millennial workforce reality

| June 10, 2013

There are a lot of stereotypes about the work ethic and demands of so-called Millennials, those employees that are under 33 years old. Les Pickett shares the data from a survey that both confirms and dispels common labels.

The earth beneath the feet of the workplace as we know it is shifting. As they have done throughout every stage of their lives Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are impacting the world around them.

They are refusing to adapt to age-old models and assumptions and are insisting – either directly or by virtue of their non-conformity – that the status quo change to meet their needs.

A survey conducted by PWC, the University of Southern California and the London Business School both confirms and dispels stereotypes about Millennials  (those born between 1980 and 1995 and currently under 33 years of age). It provides compelling advice and guidance on how employers need to modify their companies to accommodate the demands of both Millennial and non-Millennial employees.

Here are some highlights of the survey:

Many Millennial employees are not convinced that excessive work demands are worth the sacrifices to their personal life. They want more flexibility, for example the opportunity to change hours. They do not believe that productivity should be measured by the number of hours worked at the office but by the output of the work performed.

Millennials tend not to place as much emphasis on pay and development opportunities as do non-Millennials. They are more likely to leave if their needs for support, appreciation and flexibility are not met. Non-Millennials are more likely to leave if they feel that are not being paid competitively or due to a perceived lack of development opportunities.

Many are prepared to give up pay and delay promotions in order to have a more flexible work schedule. Fifteen per cent of male employees and 23 per cent of female employees said that they would give up some of their pay and slow the pace of promotion in exchange for fewer working hours.

Millennials place a high priority on workplace culture and desire a workplace that emphasises teamwork and a sense of community.

Although they have a natural aptitude for electronic forms of communication, email and social media platforms are not always their communication vehicles of choice especially when it comes to discussions with their managers about their careers.

They value transparency especially as it relates to decisions about their careers, compensation and rewards.

They want to have input into their work assignments and need the ongoing support of their supervisors. Millennials expect that technology will be integrated into the workplace to provide greater flexibility and increased efficiency.

They expect to have access to the best tools for collaboration and execution.

While there is a common perception that Millennials are not as committed or as hard working as their more senior colleagues, the study effectively busted this myth by revealing that Millennials are as equally committed to their work.

What can organisations learn from the NextGen study?

It is important to address the overwhelming desire for enhanced work/life balance understanding that productive employees are not exclusively those who work long hours. This also means creating a flexible work culture giving employees options for work schedules and locations.

Balancing the integration of technology into the workplace enables workers to harness technology in ways that give them greater flexibility and increase efficiency.

There is a need for greater transparency on decisions related to career development. This takes the mystery out of career decisions.

Companies should strive to build a sense of community emphasising teamwork, appreciation and support from supervisors. If employers understand the generational differences that are in play, they can better manage employees on a personal level so that their own individual needs are met.

It is critically important that organisations invest both time and money in both listening to their people and conducting research and analysis into what drives and motivates them. Learning and development professionals have an important role to play in optimising the potential contribution of the Millennial generation.


Les Pickett is an adjunct of Victoria University, member of the Australian Government Consultative Committee on Knowledge Capital, member of the International Board of Advisors International Public Management Association for Human Resources, former Deputy Director United Nations System Staff College, Past National President Australian Institute of Training and Development, Past Chairman Executive Board International Federation of Training and Development Organisations and International President Institute of Business Administration.