106 Communications

6th Sense

Engaging Millennials: whose side are you on?

February 2016 | Culture, Employee Engagement

In the green corner, we’ve got Deloitte.  (And a bandwagon of thousands.)

In the blue corner, we’ve got the mighty IBM.  (And a few other sceptics.)

Deloitte and others argue that Millennials are a completely different generation.  In the way they communicate.  Their (lack of) loyalty to organisations and brands.  Their work ethic.  Their desire for purpose.  And their need for a speedy route to the top.

IBM on the other hand say there are more similarities between the generations than differences.  Similar in what they want from leaders (ethical and fair).  Similar in wanting to make a positive impact.  And even similar in wanting to work with a diverse group of people.  The biggest difference, they say, is in their digital habits – albeit all workforces want to see their organisations adopt better technologies.

So what is the truth here?

For their survey, Deloitte had a sample of 7,700 graduates from 29 countries.

IBM had a sample of 1,784 from 12 countries.  No distinction about education was made.

For me, it’s important to point out IBM surveyed three different generations today.  They didn’t compare generational attitudes at the same age.  So there’s an element that the prevailing environment, trends, pressures and technologies have an impact on and create a similar expectation for everyone.

What Deloitte’s research notes is that graduates coming into the workforce are not thinking in the same way that their predecessors did at the same age.  They don’t look at an organisation as a lifetime’s work.  (Who can afford to, today?)  They know that the world is insecure (they’ve lived through the worse recession since the 30s), so they are prepared to keep moving and developing.  They look for purpose rather than simply profit.  They want an organisation aligned to their values.  yet pay and financial reward top their list of expectations.

What IBM are highlighting is that it’s dangerous to look at Millennials as something alien to the rest of us – and that is important to remember.  It can be easy to label, even demonise, a group.  Equally, Deloitte and many others are showing that workplaces need to do more than just adapt.  They need to break down many of the traditions and structures they’ve lived with, and leaders especially have to change with it.

One final thought.  The Deloitte research puts work/life balance second in importance for Millennials (after pay and reward!).  Employers look at this as everyone wanting to work from home – but it’s really about trust and allowing people to work in different ways and sometimes from other places.  But the workplace is also important for millennials.  We’re seeing more people who can’t move out of home.  And others who stay at home when they go to university.  A workplace then takes on a bigger significance – as a social area too, a chance to talk and meet, and collaborate.

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