Retaining and understanding millennials before it's too late

Millennials are not known for getting a positive report card in the workplace. While they are portrayed as being confident, innovative, adaptive and technological savvy, Millennials are also apparently “tough to manage”.

However, those born between early 1980s to late 1990s will comprise 50% of the global workforce by 2020, and 75% by 2025. They will soon outnumber their Generation X (born 1965-1980) predecessors in the workplace and are no longer considered the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today.

Chantelle Solomon, MPhil in Management Coaching graduate at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), says that popular perceptions and genuine generational differences can result in a misalignment in the expectations between Millennials and their organisations, negatively affecting their levels of engagement, performance and tenure.

A PWC CEO’s report found that one of the biggest challenges for organisations is engaging and retaining Millennials. Technology has exacerbated their sense of impatience, feeding the instant gratification tendencies of these young people who are used to getting what they want as soon as they want it.

Chantelle says Millennials currently make up 45% of the South African workforce, as compared with 29% Gen X and 21% Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) yet less than 30% of Millennials are engaged (emotionally and psychologically attached to their work and workplace), 55% are not engaged and 16% Millennials are actively disengaged.

“With just over 70% of SA Millennials anticipated to move to a different organisation within five years, it is high time organisations find a way to retain these talented professionals by being more intentional in managing their own and the expectations of Millennials.”

Chantelle says that Millennials are often described as entitled, lazy, and inappropriately demanding. In addition, they are impatient, wanting to be promoted quickly.

“Older generations like to believe that the work ethic of the younger generation has deteriorated while research suggests that there are no differences in work ethic, rather Millennials have a different approach to how they work by being more collaborative and using technology and online resources more readily.”

“Millennials have low tolerance for entry-level tasks while older generations believe that starting at the bottom and doing the ‘donkey work’ is part and parcel of getting to grips with the job.

“However, Millennials’ keenness to progress is tied into their need to grow and develop both personally and professionally and to be engaged meaningfully in their job. They are driven more intrinsically through personal motivation, rather than by extrinsic motivators such as status and financial reward as is the case with older generations.”

Chantelle says gone are the days of sticking to one job for the rest of one’s life.