January 10, 2016
Managing the millennials
By: Dawn Murden

Organisations are having to adapt in order to meet the expectations of a younger generation of digital natives. Dawn Murden reports.

Having grown up with broadband, social media and smartphones, millennials expect instant results and are often turned off by rigid corporate structures and siloes. As the proportion of millennials in the workforce grows, leaders are having to rethink traditional organisational design and management styles.

“Millennials expect a far more open, networked and flatter organisation. They are looking to collaborate across different areas and crowdsource ideas irrespective of hierarchy,” says Payal Vasudeva, Managing Director, Talent & Organisation Lead and Strategy People Lead for the UK&I at Accenture. “In return they want investment in their capabilities, proactive learning and development opportunities that build their skills. They have longer term aspirations and it’s a life of jobs, not a job for life.”

Mark Nichols, Director of Customer Support at Skype, which is owned by Microsoft, recognises that career progression is no longer viewed in a linear manner and notes there is now an inclination towards "serial learning."

“At Skype and Microsoft, while there is a very robust hierarchy, people do move around a lot more and spend time in other divisions. It may not look like there is progression to the next level but there will be accrued learning,” he says. “I don’t think the formal model of ‘complete modules one, two, three and then you’re competent’ stacks up.”

As a result, the weighting in job interviews has changed with candidates expecting to be sold to just as much as they pitch themselves. And according to Mark, millennials want to see “under the covers” of an organisation before they commit.

They want a job where they can add real value. Erica Smart, Vice President of Developments for Brazil at BG Group, says: “They want to be doing something useful and see the value in the role they’re playing. The best outcomes are when they have work that is intimately tied to the main objectives of the group.”

This point is echoed by Alison Mills, Relationship Manager at Criticaleye: “It’s important to provide meaningful roles from day one of employment, rather than to expect that a promise of success and status at a later date will provide sufficient motivation.”

The Millennial Mindset

With an affinity for digital technology, millennials are the first generation to grasp a key business tool more so than some senior workers. “We have certain leadership teams within our organisation that actually have millennials in them—really high-performing individuals,” Payal says. “It’s about making it truly collaborative.”

Mark recognises that a younger workforce can offer insight into your future customers, including what they expect from your products and services and how they might use them. He gives his experience of how interns at Skype are providing considerable value: “Some millennials use Skype but only to communicate with their parents; it’s the only user case they have. That’s starting to give us a different perspective on some of the core basics. “We have certain leadership teams within our organisation that actually have millennials in them.”

“Having a handful of people in their late 30s and 40s who have served their time in customer service doesn’t really pay off when we’re trying to understand the global position on what live chat and in-app support really means.”

It’s true that a fresh perspective can open up possibilities in any industry. Laura Haynes, Chairman at brand and design consultancy Appetite, comments: “The needs of businesses are changing, there are new markets, new channels and there’s a call for innovation. We are doing things today we didn’t even know existed five or 10 years ago, so new thinking is essential.

“Companies need to be more agile, they should be creative. While experience is still valuable, there is a requirement to bring diversity of thought into the way we work and approach things. That’s creating new business models and changing thoughts about business structure.”

Whichever way organisations look to engage and integrate the younger workforce, there is much to be learned from these future leaders that could benefit the entire workforce.

“Some of the things millennials are demanding are actually things that all of us would like,” says Payal “It’s all about creating the millennial mindset.”

These comments were taken from a recent Criticaleye Global Conference Call, Millennials: Reshaping the Workplace, held in association with Accenture Strategy.

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