IWD2017: Millennials and the future of work

In today’s blog, we’re looking to the future of work and what it means to be a ‘millennial’.  There’s a lot of research and opinion, so let’s just put it out there that to group everyone born between 1980 to 2004 obviously doesn’t really work. A 17-year old student and a 37-year old mum of two have very little in common. It’s also worth pointing out that there’s always been generational misunderstanding of the ‘youth of today’ and all that.

There are lots of judgements thrown at this generation; needier, choosier, entitled, demanding and overconfident. What’s most important is that these are our leaders of the future – your company’s pipeline of talent – and it’s vital to understand what’s important to them, what they value and what kind of workplace they will thrive in.

Cisco have a more positive outlook, based on their research. They found that this generation is more collaborative, innovative, connected and resourceful. Surely these are qualities that any organisation would value in their employees. But are organisations set up in a way that allows these qualities to shine, and are they being measured?

Let’s consider what motivates millennials (again with the reticence of bundling this group together). We’ve read a lot of research, here some key findings from Manpower, PWC, INSEAD and Deloitte:-


They are purpose driven, they want to make a positive contribution as well as making money. They care about an organisation’s impact on society and want opportunities to make a difference. Only 5% of those surveyed in the Manpower research said they wanted to get to the top of the organisation vs 11% who aspire to own their own company. The economic climate has had a significant impact; the Deloitte Millennial survey showed the UK has suffered a 40% drop in economic optimism (the worst globally). This looks to have impacted the number of Millennials who were looking to leave their job soon; a decline from 32% in 2016 to 12% in 2017.

Personal Development

Development and training is paramount for Millennials and some of them would be willing to pay for it themselves. They see it as the most important factor in progressing to the next level, they value individual skills higher than “managerial” skills. Interestingly, they rank their own feedback and listening skills as better than their managers.

The INSEAD study shows the second highest priority in life for this group as “growing and learning new things”. They want a clear career path and are likely to leave if they can’t see clear career progression or do not feel appreciated. They want frequent honest feedback and regular career conversations.

Gender Diversity

Gender Diversity is key for them. UK millennials as reported by INSEAD rank a company’s view on diversity and equality as the second most important factor in a company’s culture (behind friendliness of the people) Millennial men aspire to lead more than women (7% in the UK). The Manpower research shows that 61% of women think they’ll take a  career break to have children (vs 32% of men) which obviously affects a company’s female talent pipeline significantly.

The Deloitte research split their millennial women; it shows the decline in women feeling they’re able to rise to the top levels of their organisation. Similarly, it references the older age group, who see fewer senior female role-models than the entry level group.

So maybe there’s some information there that you knew or maybe your experience is different (we’re about to do our own research). But what we’ve talked about here certainly resonates with conversations we’ve had over the past couple of years and indeed our own experience of managing millennials.

Here are some questions for you:

  • Is your organisation set up to get the best from your millennials? (or middle leaders as we prefer to call them)
  • Does your culture attract them?
  • Do you empower them?
  • Are you committed to training and development and can they access it?
  • Are there opportunities for new projects to grow their skills?
  • What’s your gender diversity commitment?
  • What’s your maternity and return to work policy?
  • Do you have strong female role models?
What about the Millennials?

We think there’s some interesting work to be done with these young leaders. Our hunch is there’s often a disconnect between these seemingly uber confident young people that can hide some underlying fears, furthermore, we believe that working with this group on improving their self-awareness can provide a massive benefit to them as individuals and to their contribution to a team. Want to know more? You know what to do.