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Generation Next: What It Means for HR Departments

Business and human resource managers should not underestimate the size of the millennial workforce and the influence they will have on the modern work environment in the years to come. In fact, millennials currently make up 35% of the workforce, according to the Pew Research Center.

Baby boomers are quickly aging out of the workforce and Generation X makes up a much smaller group in comparison (only representing one-third of today’s workforce), meaning that millennials will be called on sooner than later to take on leadership roles. The HR departments across various industries have been called on to help recruit, train, and retain new, younger talent for optimal business success.

The Demands of the Millennial Workforce

Research shows that millennials have different expectations and motivators in a job setting than their predecessors. It is important for managers to recognize these differences to maximize productivity and creative output as well as enhance the work environment for this new generation of workers.

Millennials are more concerned about their work having meaning than a big paycheck, according to “Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders: The Expanding Roles of Millennials in the Workplace” by Lauren Stiller Rikleen. Millennials surveyed for a Gallup report agreed. Meanwhile, managers are more likely to be motivated by money and responsibility. Thirty percent of responding millennials identified that meaningful work was an important factor of their job compared to just 12% of managers.

Rikleen’s report goes on to identify a large discrepancy in the importance of high pay between millennials and their managers. While 50% of managers valued high pay, only 28% of millennials ranked it as an important job factor. Similarly, responsibility was ranked as important by 12% of managers compared to just five percent of millennials, while 25% of millennials valued a sense of accomplishment with their job compared to just 12% of managers.

Consider the following workplace expectations as outlined by Rikleen’s report:

  • Baby boomers prefer individually focused work, while millennials favor a collaborative team environment to generate results
  • Structure in the workplace is important to baby boomers, whereas millennials value flexibility
  • Baby boomers respond better to the command and control management style, while millennials prefer active, involved leadership in the workplace
  • Baby boomers equate work to their income, while work is also a factor for personal enrichment with millennials
  • Job security is a major concern for baby boomers, while employability (such as job training, skills, education) is a top concern for millennials
  • Baby boomers garner perceived influence through their position within the organization they are employed, whereas millennials gain influence through their networks

Inside the Workplace

Millennials are shaking up the labor force with the demand for a new type of work environment, leadership, and management.

The Gallup report outlined key points for what millennials seek in the workplace.

  • Millennials seek a coach rather than a manager. Only 23% of millennials say that their managers provide meaningful feedback.
  • Millennials want constant feedback on their job performance instead of annual reviews that focus on past incidents. In fact, only 14% of millennial employees say that reviews inspire them to improve their performance.
  • The ability to work on improving strengths is more motivating and can help millennials perform better in the workplace. They would rather not try to fix their weaknesses. Gallup research found that strength-based development can result in an increase in profits by up to 29%.
  • Building on their strengths, millennials are seeking ways to develop themselves professionally instead of focusing on job satisfaction. A lack of career growth opportunity can lead to employee turnover, which is costly for a company.

Human Resource’s Role in Shaping the Millennial Workforce

Human resource departments play an integral role in bridging the gap between the millennial and baby boomer workforce. They are in charge of cultivating a millennial workforce that is engaged and motivated while helping them to adapt to current company processes and policies.

Recruitment is the first step to building a productive and successful millennial workforce. HR personnel must provide potential millennial employees with a broad picture of the organization’s culture that highlights any positive benefits, such as an open communication policy, a flexible work schedule, training and professional development opportunities, and more. Robust compensation packages that include health and wellness benefits, investment opportunities, and financial support for continued education can also attract a millennial to your team.

Training and professional development can make millennials more valuable to your workforce while providing them with an enhanced feeling of employability. Encourage members of leadership to facilitate team building exercises and lead business-related seminars. Provide on-the-job mentors for millennials to utilize as a resource for career support and establish other methods of connecting millennials to members of leadership. In addition, human resource departments should work to build training programs for management-level employees in order to help managers effectively lead a diverse workforce.

Once a company builds a solid millennial workforce, HR departments must establish retention policies. Creating a work environment that meets the needs and demands of millennials aid in retention efforts. Offer flexible schedules, casual work environments, and professional development opportunities. Encourage company leaders to communicate with millennial team members and support a collaborative work environment.

Keep Up with Workforce Demands

Millennials are quickly outpacing and out-staffing previous generations in today’s workforce, creating a drastic change in the modern work environment. Understanding their needs within the work environment can help a business harness their creative power for maximum benefit.

Concordia University, St. Paul’s online HR degree responds to the realities of the marketplace both now and in the future. This program — along with the HR master’s online — use relevant curriculum to position you for real-world opportunities and success. In addition, they are offered in a flexible online format that allows you to complete your studies at a time and place that is most convenient for you.