Skip to Content, Skip to Navigation

Employment Today, HR Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Employment Today, HR Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Employment Today Magazine

Bucking the trend

What does the future workforce really want, and how do we harness their potential? To attract Millennials, says Katy Anquetil, it’s important to know just what they are seeking from work and what their priorities are.

There is much talk in the business world about Millennials and their imminent takeover of the job market. So who are these Millennials? What does this future workforce really want from their work and their employers? And how do we harness the potential of this trend-bucking bunch?

According to Howe and Strauss, Millennials are individuals born between 1982 and 2004. ManpowerGroup recently released a white paper that provides insight and perspective of this generation from both employers and employees, Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision. The quantitative research covered 25 countries surveying 19,000 Millennials and more than 1500 hiring managers.

By 2020, Millennials will make up over a third of the global workforce, so if you haven’t incorporated them into your recruitment and sourcing strategy, I suggest you get moving — and fast!

There are a number of factors to consider when looking at Millennials as a future talent pool. We always encourage organisations to seek first to understand when we talk about groups of individuals or talent pool targets, in this case a generation. By this we mean that in order to attract and retain a group of individuals you must first understand what motivates and inspires them.

When you look at Millennials compared to other generations, one of the stark contrasts is how they view their careers. In short, Millennials are very upbeat about their careers. They have a genuine belief in themselves and their ongoing employability—62 percent are confident that if they lost their main income source tomorrow, they could find equally good or better work within three months. It is this confidence that drives key motivators for this group who are much more likely to “job hop” than previous generations.

When asked what the “right” amount of time is to stay in a single role before being promoted or moving to another, about two thirds said less than two years and a quarter said less than 12 months. This highlights their appetite for new challenges and, to some degree, for change. Imagine a workforce that is ready, willing and excited by change! Rather than one long job for life, Millennials understand the need for continuous skill development to remain employable.


To attract Millennials, it is important to know what they are looking for when seeking new employment opportunities. Millennials prioritise three things when choosing where they work: money, security and time off. They also value working with great people, and the opportunity to work flexibly and develop new skills as priorities.

Money as a top priority isn’t anything new—this is the case with previous generations too. However, the second priority of security has been redefined by Millennials who want the security of full-time work with the expectation of moving on and up within their organisation. When asked “What does job security mean to you?” 27 percent of Millennials opted for secure job for the long term and 27 percent opted for having skills that match market need. This shows that this generation places a high importance on remaining relevant to their market for job security, hence the desire to continually develop skills. A huge 93 percent see ongoing skills development as an important part of their future careers.

So how do you, as an organisation, create a message of opportunity and growth to attract this talent?

Demonstrating that joining your organisation will develop their skills and lead to career opportunities within your organisation is imperative. Bearing in mind Millennials want new opportunities with this employer not the next, 63 percent intend to stay with their current employer for the next few years or longer. This can be done through effective case studies and well-thought-out progression and development programmes that are easy to comprehend. Profiling employees in your organisation who have had long tenures, and have grown and developed within your company, creates a great resource to exemplify what Millennials can expect.

Provide new opportunities by creating challenging job assignments. Enabling employees to work on cross-functional projects can broaden organisational exposure, increase visibility, and build skills. If your organisation doesn’t support this type of learning, go DIY. Enable and empower your employee to initiate an idea or project and drive it to execution.

Through continuous learning, employees will feel more engaged with the organisation as they develop an in-depth knowledge of the business and build relationships in multiple areas.


We’ve briefly explored the motivating factors that ultimately drive the Millennial mind-set, but once you’ve attracted them, how does your organisation retain this talent? Consider these questions:

CFO: What happens if we train them and they leave?

CEO: What happens if we don’t and they stay?

This sentiment is important when considering Millennial retention strategies as this generation is set to have more jobs than any generation before. Considering two-thirds of Millennials believe that two years is the right amount of time to stay with an organisation, it can be difficult to see immediate value in training and developing employees who are likely to take their acquired knowledge elsewhere if they are not adequately nurtured.

The need for continuous learning has sparked a need for continuous development, we have noted this in the attraction of Millennials. Following up on promises is critical to retaining this generation. Training, development and promotion strategies must be in place to keep Millennials in your organisation. Give this generation an employment experience that continues to grow and develop them and you may just find they want to stay.

On the softer side, Millennials have identified a need for recognition and affirmation more so than their predecessors. Half of Millennials would consider leaving their current job due to a lack of appreciation. Once they start to look elsewhere, other issues like pay, benefits and lack of opportunities also become significant. Employers can nullify this by offering more frequent, face-to-face feedback. Maintaining a high-touch approach and finding new channels that encourage recognition and sharing from managers and peers is a low-cost, effective way to engage people in their roles.

Further, the nine-to-five working day is increasingly falling out of touch. Millennials are working as hard, if not harder, than other generations. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) report working more than 40 hours a week, and nearly a quarter work over 50 hours. This generation is clearly not averse to non-traditional hours; however, it is important to note that Millennials prioritised flexibility when looking for work.

Flexibility in the workforce can take many forms. If you haven’t considered flexible working arrangements in your talent strategy, then I’m sorry to tell you that you are behind the times. Providing employees with the option to work from home is a great place to start, as it often requires ensuring technological requirements of the role can be met outside of the workplace.

We know that Millennials also prioritise time off. Flexible working and time off can work hand-in-hand to satisfy the needs of this group. An example of a flexible working arrangement that satisfies both needs is a nine-day working fortnight, where an employee can optionally work nine-hour working days as opposed to eight to have a day off every second week. Flexible arrangements have proved to have a great impact on staff turnover productivity and engagement.

Listening to the needs and expectations of your employees and acting on them leads to higher engagement levels and increased quality of life. Creating a positive environment that nurtures employees by providing the necessary tools to create a great work-life balance while meeting aspirational needs of progression and development will quickly earn your organisation gold status in the job seeker community. As your biggest advocates, your employees are central to your employee brand which can only be enhanced by utilising win-win-win retention strategies.

As technological innovation changes the way work gets done, career success is increasingly determined by a person’s learnability—the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt their skill set to remain employable throughout their working life. Employers need to recognise and reward learnability. They need to nurture it to avoid losing out or lacking critical skills in their workforce.

To master the attraction and retention methods tailored to the Millennial cohort will be no mean feat. First you must recognise the need to develop talent strategies that are effective in the world of work. Secondly, you must understand the underlying motives of this generation to ensuring that your talent strategy meets their high and low level needs.

Demonstrate that staying with the company can lead to career enhancement. Share examples of people who’ve progressed through training and on the-job learning in your organisation. Appeal to the Millennial aspiration to be more employable over the long term.

Create opportunities for Millennials to work on different projects with different teams to build experience and networks across the organisation. Satisfy their appetite for new opportunities without them having to go elsewhere. And highlight the value of progression and not just promotion to build a portfolio of skills and experiences.

Check in with Millennials regularly about their career path and development. Rather than annual reviews, focus on near-term objectives and implement plans to achieve them. Use these conversations to connect how their work today will enhance their career prospects and longer-term employability. The future of your business depends on it.

KATY ANQUETIL is the director of ManpowerGroup Solutions & Right Management.

comments powered by Disqus

From Employment Today Magazine

Table of Contents