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Why millennials will make dinosaurs extinct all over again

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Helen shares her top tips on how to engage – and keep up with – your millennial workforce.

As I approach the end of my third decade as a member of the British workforce, I’ll admit that sometimes I can be a bit of a workplace dinosaur.

CVs regularly land on my desk showing dates of birth when I remember rushing off to 'Our Price' to buy the latest Wham single, or worrying about whether my rah-rah skirt matched my lace gloves.

If you’ve had to explain to anyone recently who Bowie or Prince were, you will understand…

The workplace has moved on too. I have become used to addressing managers by their first names, am glad to be rid of telex tape and typewriter ribbons. I love the pace and responsiveness of email, smart phones and social media, but find increasingly that organisations managed, and led, by those of a certain age are struggling to engage and get the best out of the younger end of the workforce.

Cue: The millennials.  

So, who are they? Those who have read their management theory books will be familiar with the Baby Boomers (the post WW2 babies, many of whom are now retiring). The Generation Xers (born between the early 1960s to the early 1980s) still make up a good bulk of the workforce, but fast closing on their heels are the millennials or Generation Ys (born between the early 1980s to around 2000). 

Millennials are taking a valuable place in the modern workforce, forcing change more strongly than previous generations ever managed to. They no longer expect jobs for life and so their perspective towards work is not about ensuring security and stability.

Millennial characteristics

This new workforce are freer thinkers, and are showing some traits which employers should ignore at their peril:

  • Millennials view the work & life balance very differently to Generation X. Understanding the harsh realities of life and knowing their rights, they are “working to live rather than living to work”.
  • They are less accepting of the status quo than previous generations, expecting fast progression and rewards at work. If you want to get the best out of them, you will need to invest and develop them as individuals and make sure they see you doing it!
  • Also dubbed “screenagers”. Millennials have grown up in the online world and are generally very technologically savvy, social media worshippers. They understand the power of public pressure on the internet, and have seen organisations live and die by their presence and reputation there. Make sure you keep your public image positive and dynamic.
  • Learning fast and thinking creatively are survival tools in the modern world. Ideas can change rapidly and trends can take off and build overnight on a global scale. If you don’t keep up, you will fall quickly behind and become invisible.
  • Millennials bore easily, and doing repetitive work for days, months and years on end does not suit them. Because they are less organisationally loyal and likely to change jobs every couple of years. If you do not make their roles challenging or developing enough to keep them interested, someone else will.

Tips to engage your millennial workforce

At Connor we help organisations to adapt and change their working methods and practises to get the best from a changing workforce.

These are just a few of the ways that we have worked with and watched seen them engage more successfully with millennials by embracing change:

  • 'Breakfast Mondays' – free breakfast to get the week started with an appreciative smile.
  • Truly accepting quality output and delivery as performance measures rather than “presentism” and volume of work.
  • Realistic appraisal and development planning, including promotional/exit strategies.
  • Embracing more flexible working hours and flexi-time schemes.
  • Allowing the use of social media during working hours.
  • Having the MTV channel on big screen TVs around open plan offices.
  • 'Cocktail Fridays' – providing the bar and bottles for end of week social wind-downs.
  • Providing creative and flexible benefits schemes – letting people have what they actually want.
  • Increasing online recruitment to find young talent.
  • Using digital internal communication, including Facebook and Twitter, to talk to employees.
  • Using Apps instead of traditional intranets and manuals to access policies and procedures.
  • Making sure your public digital footprint inspires and attracts millennials to want to be part of your brand and workforce.
  • Make world travel possible for top young talent through intercompany transfers and secondments, supporting visa applications and living costs.
  • Cut the rule book down to an absolute minimum, and keep policies short.
  • Allowing paid charity/voluntary time off.

This is clearly not a one size fits all exercise, and different organisations have found that some changes in culture and working methods suit them better than others.

Feel free to visit the Connor website to find out more about what we do, and how to make the wind of change blow positively through your business!

Helen Arnold

By Helen Arnold

Helen is a senior HR manager at Connor. She has 20 years’ experience of HR and management work, primarily focused in the hi-tech world. She has held management roles in the UK and US, and spent 3 years as an HR director for an international telecoms company.

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