Rising to the millennial challenge – Part 1

The millennial generation has voiced its disappointment in today’s world leaders. When quizzed in the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey on the positive vs negative impact made on themselves and the world by specific groups, a staggering 71 per cent of millennials thought that political leaders left a less than desirable impression.

With diminishing trust in public figures, millennials want to know that they themselves are making a positive difference in their world. And with a big chunk of their time spent at work, they want to know that their employers share these values. They are looking to their employers for reassurance and stability.

This generational shift is a major concern for all kinds of businesses. For many established businesses, usually set up by the older generation of business leaders, this is creating a gap in workplace values. But it’s a concern which is especially prevalent in the SME community, whose members largely lack the funds necessary to invest in meeting the challenges.

So as an SME in 2018, what can you do to ensure your millennial employees are focused, engaged and loyal to your business? This is the first of two articles in which I’ll show you how to do that.

Use culture and purpose to attract the best workers

The days are gone where businesses only focus on making a profit and getting out to market – if a business does not see their employees as an asset they will fail, crippled by lack of productivity and unsustainably high staff turnover. No matter how good your product or service is, it is only as good as your people and you should treat them accordingly.

The new generation of workers understand this, which is why 57 per cent of millennials say that positive workplace culture is at the top of their list when choosing a company to work for. We’ve all seen the offices in Silicon Valley in the US – casual, relaxed yet impressively productive alongside a new type of management style focused on reward and engagement. Millennials, in an ideal world, are looking for something similar.

In addition, millennials are looking for some greater purpose in the company they choose to work for. So whether it’s aligning your company core values with a progressive cause or acknowledging what’s important to your employees, consider how your company can make a positive difference. This could be achieved through a charity bike ride or bake sale, or even by getting involved in your local community.

Whatever measures you take, accept that the modern employee is not likely to commit to 20 or even 10 years of service with you. Nor will they necessarily work a 12-hour day. You therefore need measures in place to mitigate the impacts of a short tenure, while harnessing those highly ambitious and motivated younger staff who will go above and beyond when needed.

It is more difficult for SMEs to guarantee swift progression upwards, as structures within a business are often more lean. SMEs need to be creative about career progression, letting employees know where they are going and how you will help them get there, through investment in training and development or allowing involvement in projects outside of their remit.

Also, SMEs need to install processes and standards to help them attract and retain highly skilled employees, or face losing them to large corporates with significant budgets to spend on catering for their needs. That should help you understand how to attract good millennials to your company. In my next article I’ll try and teach you how to retain them, then harness their talents for the future success of your business.

Jenna Paulin, Director, The HR Dept

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