The Growing Roles of Millennials in the Workforce

Guest Post by Marwa Hijazi

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) holds that Millennials – the generation born from 1981 through 1997 – will become the largest generation in the U.S. workforce by 2015. As they welcome the new wave of employees, businesses are scrambling to determine how Millennials’ ideas, values and personalities will shape the future of their organizations.

Millennials in the workforce learn differently

Never before has a single generation been the object of such close scrutiny as its members swap classrooms for cubicles on their way up America’s corporate ladders. Most Millennials’ lives have been heavily influenced by technology; these “digital natives” have been using the Internet and interacting with their peers online since grade school, a lifestyle characteristic that will affect how they work.

When debating how to train and interact with their new Millennial hires, some businesses need guidance. The incoming generation is one that thinks and learns in different ways; they have a different set of values when it comes to appointing leaders and making business decisions. Today’s organizations should take this new wave of priorities into consideration as they try to hire and retain Millennial employees that think, learn and act in a revolutionary way.

Millennials in the workforce think differently

For its fourth annual Millennial survey released in January 2015, Deloitte Global gathered the opinions of more than 7,800 full-time employees born after 1982. Three-quarters of respondents claimed that businesses are more focused on personal agendas than helping society, and 6 in 10 want to feel a “sense of purpose” in working for their chosen employer.

When it comes to building businesses and defining leadership, Millennials’ priorities are challenging traditional norms. (tweet to share) The new wave of workers claims to prioritize how organizations treat their employees and affect their communities. They believe that today’s leaders are focused on profit and personal reward.

Of those who frequently use social media, or “super-connected Millennials,” 77% claim that the purpose of their organization was the reason they chose to work there, compared with just 46% of “least connected” Millennials. The more social employees may be onto something: Businesses where Millennials claim they have a strong sense of purpose also report higher financial success, employee satisfaction and recruitment.

This isn’t the only area in which Millennials and older generations may disagree. The process of hiring and retaining employees may also be an area of conflict going forward. According to the BLS, almost 60% of Millennials anticipate they will switch jobs in three years or less. More than half of hiring managers claim it’s tough to find and retain Millennial employees.

Perhaps it’s a difference in values that’s causing tension in the workplace and encouraging Millennials to jump ship. Most don’t place great value on being led by visible, well-networked or technically skilled leaders. Instead, their ideal mentors are strategic thinkers, inspirational, personable and visionary. (tweet to share)

Millennials in the workforce want to lead differently

As more Millennials move up the ranks and adopt the leadership qualities they value most, they will look to hire like-minded individuals. In its research, Deloitte questioned where Millennials would place the greatest focus if put in charge of hiring new employees to build the long-term success of a large business. Its responses were surprising, and in some cases scary.

It seems like most Millennials would overestimate the benefits of softer skills and personal traits such as networking, flexibility and teamwork, professionalism and creative thinking. Technical skills received less attention. No more than 2 in 10 admitted to prioritizing sales and marketing skills, or knowledge of specific ideas or techniques, in the hiring process. A maximum of 22% of Millennials, the “digital natives,” would focus on procuring talent with strong technology and IT skills.

Older generations are wary. More than half of Millennials aspire to become the leader, or most senior executive, for the organization in which they currently work. As they work to achieve this goal, many will focus on developing the purpose of their business and better engaging employees. They’re just as interested in how their business contributes to society as they are in its goods, services and profit. (tweet to share)

“These findings should be viewed as a wake-up call to the business community, particularly in developed markets, that they need to change the way they engage Millennial talent or risk being left behind,” cautioned Barry Salzberg, Deloitte Global CEO, on the company’s research.

While some managers may think twice about welcoming Millennials, it’s important to keep in mind that no single stereotype, nor pool of research, can define every member of a generation.

What do you perceive as the defining qualities of Millennials, and how do you think they will influence today’s businesses?

Guest Author

Marwa Hijazi Marwa Hijazi writes about topics related to leadership training and management programs for University Alliance. Connect with her on twitter @Marwa_Hijazi and Google plus.