x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Millennials driving new working practices

No longer the leaders of tomorrow, this generation has plenty to say about how things should change in our workplaces. Suggested improvements include more flexibility, better work-life balance and more chances to progress.

Millennials who feel like their leadership stills are being adequately developed are more likely to stay at their jobs. David Ryan / The Boston Globe
Millennials who feel like their leadership stills are being adequately developed are more likely to stay at their jobs. David Ryan / The Boston Globe

Close of business, or Feierabend in German, has lately acquired a different meaning for workers in Germany.

Feierabend, which translates to “party night” or “celebration evening” in German, has become a buzzword after the country’s chancellor Angela Merkel said “No” to late-night work emails.

Her government’s ban came into effect as part of an “anti-stress” regulation initiated by the German ministry of labour, and followed a series of enhancements to work arrangements that the German government has been implementing for 50 years.

While emails being sent after working hours are now verboten in Deutschland, labour market innovation is also taking place elsewhere in Europe, with Sweden creating more incentives to encourage new fathers to take months off work – after being the first country in the world to replace “maternity leave” with “parental leave” in 1974.

The bottom line is, it seems that there is a worldwide trend towards reforming work policies in favour of the employee, and much of the impetus for it, is coming from the rising im­por­tance of millennials in the workplace. 

This trend is by no means limited to governments. It reaches to the core of corporate business practices today. As a professional whose job is not only to search for talent but also, and more importantly, retain talent, my focus has shifted from finding prospective employees who tick all the boxes, to transforming my business to impress the talented people who are present in the workforce.

Today, millennials represent an increasing share of the workforce, and a growing number now occupy senior positions. They are no longer leaders of tomorrow, but increasingly, leaders of today and, as such, their views on how business does and should conduct itself are of more than academic interest.

In this new workforce, millennials’ expectations for their prospective careers are clear. If salary and other forms of financial benefits are removed from the equation, flexibility, work/life balance and opportunities to progress and take on leadership positions stand out.

In Deloitte’s 2016 millennial survey entitled Winning Over the Next Generation Leaders, 44 per cent of millennials stated that, if given the choice, they expected to leave their current employers in the next two years. The number increased to 66 per cent when the time frame was extended to 2020. Hence, businesses must adjust how they nurture loyalty among millennials or risk losing a large percentage of their workforce.

This “loyalty challenge” is driven by a variety of factors mil­lennials feel underutilised and believe they are not being developed as leaders. They feel that most businesses have no ambition beyond profit, and there are distinct differences in what they believe the purpose of business should be and what they perceive it as currently being. They also put their personal values ahead of organisational goals, and several would avoid assignments (and potential employers) that conflict with their beliefs.

So here’s the reality – almost two thirds (63 per cent) of millennials feel their leadership skills are not being fully developed, and 71 per cent of those expecting to leave their employer in the next two years are unhappy with how those skills are being developed – a full 17 points higher than among those intending to stay beyond 2020. Moreover, 40 per cent of millennials reporting high job satisfaction, and 40 per cent who plan to remain in their jobs with their current employer beyond 2020, say their employers have a strong sense of purpose beyond financial success. Millennials intending to stay with their organisation for at least five years are far more likely than others to report a positive culture and focus on the needs of the individual.

And when it comes to career planning, more than three quarters (77 per cent) of millennials feel their career paths are in their own hands and not influenced by others or outside events.

While correlation is obviously not the same as causation, it is likely no coincidence that where millennials are most satisfied with their learning opportunities and professional development programmes they are also likely to stay longer. Consequently, those organisations that “do the right thing” may be less likely to lose their millennial employees. Therefore, the question that needs to be addressed is: how to put a stop to this “brain drain”.

While millennials wish to see greater emphasis on the needs of the individual – whether it be employees themselves or the end users of their companies’ products and services – they sim­ultaneously demonstrate an appreciation for business fundamentals. This generation is acutely aware of the impact of the Great Recession – which began towards the end of the first decade of this century – and is closely attuned to changing economic conditions. They therefore recognise the importance of ensuring the long-term success of a business and its ability to support and create jobs.

The case for loyalty among millennials represents a serious challenge to any business, espe­cially those in markets where millennials now represent the largest segment of the workforce.

Businesses today need to align with millennials’ values, satisfy their demands, and support their ambitions and professional development. They need to build their success on a foundation of long-term sustainability rather than pursuing short-term profit maximisation and to bridge the gap to ensure a new generation of business leaders is ready and willing to take on the reins.

Rana Ghandour Salhab, regional talent and communications partner at Deloitte Middle East.

business@thenational.ae

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