Managing Millennials

Deloitte predicts that millennials will account for 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025. On a constant look-out for success and opportunities to climb their way up the career ladder (often to the detriment of their current employers), Generation-Y presents a growing challenge for businesses.

But with the Millennial Generation set to play a progressively more significant role in the workplace, businesses must develop an in-depth understanding of this talent pool to future-proof their own existence. In response, smart businesses are increasingly adapting to the tech-savvy new kids on the block and are striving to meet their demands of immediacy and mobile technology.

Aspiration, recognition, and flexibility have emerged as the top trends when it comes to satisfying the elusive millennial

Millennials and technology

Smart businesses are adapting to the tech-savvy new kids on the block

As the 24 hour culture gains momentum, businesses will be forced to compete by thinking more broadly about what to offer this talent pool. Whilst we can’t read minds just yet, we are able to pinpoint what drives Gen-Y through a series of insightful surveys and first-hand experience from business leaders. Aspiration, recognition, and flexibility have emerged as the top trends when it comes to satisfying the elusive millennial. A breakdown of each of these core competencies sheds light on how businesses should understand and approach this new talent market.


It would be wrong to label Gen-Y as egoistic but we cannot deny that achieving success early on in their career lies at the heart of the hard-to-pin-down millennial. In fact, Deloitte discovered that 53 per cent of millennials aspire to become chief executive whilst only 28 per cent feel that their current organisation is making full use of their potential. Jason Dorsey, millennial expert and author of Y-Size Your Business clarifies, “We just need to feel like you’re setting us up for success. Tell us the three challenges that we’ll have to overcome in the first year. That gets us much more excited.”


A recent CEB survey found that 45 per cent of employees would change jobs, even if they were happy in their current employment. With the rise of apps such as Uber and Tinder making it easier than ever to manage their lives online and on the go, is it a fear of commitment that sees Gen-Y moving on quickly or is this limited to their personal lives? And how do employers keep a highly driven millennial engaged?

53 per cent of millennials aspire to become chief executive

Head of student recruitment at PwC, Richard Irwin, lets us into the secret to his firm’s success, which, for the 11th year running, has been voted number one in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers list. It’s about treating people as individuals, he says, and “putting opportunity at the heart of everything we do.” Mr Irwin explains that recruitment is “an opportunity to properly engage with us, understand the opportunities we can offer, and make an informed decision about whether that’s right for them and their aspirations”. So what exactly are millennials seeking in an employer? 

Millennials want a two-way relationship with their employer, creating an unspoken psychological contract where transparency allows for that clear career-progression path. Honesty really is the best policy as this very vocal generation expects an ongoing discussion about progress and success. When asked what they value most in their manager, 66 per cent of millennials agreed that someone who helps advance their career is important to them.

What millennials value most in their manager

Mentorship, which provides a happy medium between hand-holding and complete freedom, also enables ‘aspirations’ to flourish. And yet 57 per cent of Gen Ys plan to leave their job in two years (18 per cent are even job-searching in the loo). Does this mean they’re at companies who don’t offer mentorship? Or simply that they have a new, agile approach to career success that is a combination of personal drive and goldfish-like attention spans? If the premise is now “what can I get?” rather than “what can I give”, why would businesses want to invest in this group of talent? Precisely because they’re talented. Managed in the right way, Millennials have much to offer. But with the exponential growth of platforms from LinkedIn to Glassdoor which enable the sharing of information, the future sees Gen-Y employees holding the cards as they use these sites to shop around and make well-informed judgements as to which businesses to trust with their time.


68% of millennials surveyed appreciated feedback from their manager. But be aware that feedback amongst the new generation must be mutual. Gen-Y has an innate desire to be included and able to converse on all levels from day-to-day meetings to high level boardroom meetings with senior staff. The newest generation to join the workforce are opinionated, tech-savvy and political but above all they want their opinions to be heard and valued.

Ten seconds a month” of feedback instead of an annual review enables the hurtling millennial to constantly challenge themselves

Managers – and indeed business leaders as high up as the C-Suite - must be prepared to listen to the younger generation’s views, digest them and come up with a feasible means to change the way things work for the better. Ultimately, it’s the best way to capitalise on a generation that’s plugged in, clued-up, savvy and empowered, but self-prioritising. Channelling their energy and mentoring them or including them actively is the best recipe for success.

7 global sterotypes of gen y

This two-way street of communication also means that business leaders must provide honest feedback on a regular basis. “Ten seconds a month” of feedback instead of an annual review enables the hurtling millennial to constantly challenge themselves. What’s more, a collaborative, collegiate atmosphere will inevitably lead to increased empowerment and focus on the communal business goal. 

Social entrepreneurship and transparency also rate highly in Gen-Y’s esteem and according to LinkedIn’s Richard George, “Millennials want to work somewhere they will feel proud to call their employer.” This enlightened generation can work wonders for employer brand - if that employer is taking the right steps to listen in and then foster that pride.


Millennials at work

70% of tomorrow’s leaders may prefer to work independently and flexibly

Today’s generation is more aware than ever of work-life balance. According to Jason Dorsey, those born between the 80’s and 00’s evaluate themselves by what they do after 5pm. Chris Kozup, senior director of marketing at mobile infrastructure company Aruba, describes them as a demographic who utilise mobile technology to link their personal and professional lives but also to “drive greater productivity and be more responsive”. In fact, a KPMG study showed that 59 per cent of graduates predict that within the next decade, the organisation they work for will have at least 20 per cent of staff on a virtual network.

That being the case, the days of 9-to-5 are rapidly becoming an outdated phenomenon. Aruba Statistics revealed that 72 per cent of “Generation Mobile” felt more productive when working at home and over half said that they would rather work at home two or three days a week than receive a 10 per cent bump in their salary. The recent Deloitte Millennial Survey carried out in 29 countries discovered that 70 per cent of tomorrow’s leaders may prefer to work independently, moving away from traditional business set-ups and towards working flexibility, whether as freelancers or entrepreneurs or in some other format. Major serviced-office corporation Regus found that 65 per cent of respondents thought flexible working led to faster and better quality decision-making.  

In order to secure young talent who may prefer to go it alone, businesses have developed a new approach to liven up the daily grind that works alongside Gen-Y’s creative flow. Google has introduced “20 per cent time” when staff are free to fine-tune their own ideas, and offices now feature free meals, Ping-Pong tables and group working spaces. Gen-Y is also synonymous with visual mediums such as YouTube, so video needs to become an everyday feature in businesses. The banking sector in particular is focusing on the needs of the iPhone wielding Gen-Y. But whilst banking is leading the way, other sectors can easily follow suit if they’re willing to let go of tradition and embrace new ways of working. A compromise in format, after all, doesn’t have to mean a compromise in execution. In fact, the opposite is what this group of high achievers aims for. And with the right, clued-up leadership, enterprises can make it happen.