Millennials & the great change
The next generation are joining the company — and they have completely new ideas of doing things!
Andreas Rogger was born in Brixen in 1973. After studying economics in Venice, he began working for the personnel management department of the British GKN group in 1999. There he has held various regional and global personnel and organizational roles in Europe, Asia and America, and most recently serving as Group Director for Leadership, Talent, Recruitment and Organization for 60,000 employees.
By 2020 some 50% of employees will belong to the Generation Y, rising to 75% by 2025 — never has one single generation’s labour market share been greater. Generational change has commanded great attention since time immemorial, in the economy just as in politics and sociology. Human resources departments and executives are however focusing especially on Generation Y. But why is that? Generation Y — those born between 1980 and 1995 — are particularly well-educated and representing the first generation to grow up in a digital world. This goes together with a new notion and a different value of work. “If you know all about the background to this new point of view and about Generation Y, you are well placed to find solutions both for your staff’s needs and your own corporate strategy”, says Andreas Rogger. We asked him just how important work is for millennials, another designation for those belonging to Generation Y.
What distinguishes the Generation Y from preceding generations?
Andreas Rogger: For the Generation Y, self-realisation and development opportunities play a much larger role than it was previously the case. They are not just seeking a career, and they do not measure success simply by the size of their salary.
If millennials have a clear idea of what is involved, they are totally committed to the job and both willing and capable of extraordinary things.
Unlike previous generations, the point is not “to make as much money as possible and thus ensure financial security”. Generation Y has recognised that there are much more important issues: self-determination, for example, self-realisation, and individuality. The days of slavishly following orders are gone, which often produces misunderstanding or even open refusal: so, Generation Y are branded as spoiled and sometimes even lazy. Yet this different way of thinking contains plenty of new potentials!
Where does this questioning of previous working patterns come from?
The fact is that work is changing all the time. It hardly matters whether this is through innovation, technological and social change, or through competition: it is much more important to understand how an enterprise can best handle these changes.
So, no more hands-on types, but rather people who will question everything? What else distinguishes millennials?
A great deal! They are flexible and do not shy away from professional challenges. Despite the claims of older generations, they are not particularly spoiled or especially self-centred, but actually very idealistic: they want their actions to be meaningful in both their professional and private lives. The effects of one‘s own actions are viewed critically, also from a global perspective. Alongside their own microcosms, the larger context plays an important role, not least because members of Generation Y are — more than any other before — networked with each other, irrespective of national borders.
Millennials are open to new ideas, they want to learn more and evolve — not at any price, but after a thorough exploration of the question: “What is there in it for me?”
They no longer accept the status quo as a given, but challenge it instead. A steady job for life? Absolutely unthinkable for Generation Y. They are instead adventurous, mercurial and willing to experiment. Here today, gone tomorrow, and perhaps somewhere else completely different the day after — this is the motto that reflects both their private and professional lives.
That sounds like a huge task, especially for managerial staff.
The manager’s role has in fact undergone significant change. We no longer have bosses whose orders are blindly obeyed, but rather coaches who help to develop staff potentials in the best possible way. If these requirements are met, millennials will demonstrate a very high level of commitment. The main influencing factor on performance and motivation is the employer and his transparency.
Members of Generation Y have no desire to be blindly hitched to any old cart: they want to know what their employer’s objectives are and the background to the decisions made.
They want to understand the processes that are supposed to help achieve the objectives set and if possible, assist in shaping them.
Enterprises that want to benefit from the advantages of Generation Y must in many cases rethink their approach and offer new incentives. In addition to all such considerations as flexible working arrangements and alternative career paths, for me, the greatest benefit is the “outstanding manager”. Some 93% of millennials state that their line manager was the reason for their last change of job.
Millennials are demanding a new type of management, which is also the biggest challenge companies are facing.
Moreover, the fact that many of this generation are “digital natives” is very important — they have grown up with the internet and use it as a matter of course, which manifests itself in many positive ways, for instance in their creative and innovative dealing with social media and online communication in general.
What initial steps can employers take towards optimisation or adaptation?
Simple as it may sound, it is vitally important to ensure that employees know what is expected of them at work so that they can fit it into a meaningful whole. Regular and timely feedback is more important than ever. With their diverse interests, millennials can find it difficult to set priorities and they also tend to overestimate their abilities. Annual appraisals turn into a constant exchange. The role of employers is also changing insofar as they must properly assess the strengths of their employees, identify potentials and deploy people where they can best develop these. The employer has to assign employees to the right tasks. Generation Y does not work so much on its weaknesses, but rather focuses on fully developing its skills. The American historians Neil Howe and William Strauss, who coined the term “millennials”, have come to the conclusion that those born between 1980 and 1995 might actually improve the world. Confident optimists are in the process of taking over enterprises and they are setting conditions. And let’s face it: haven’t they got a right to?