Millennials, the first generation to be recognised as ‘digitally native’, are set to make up a staggering 50 percent of the global workforce by 2020 according to PwC’s ‘Millennials at work’ research. As the eldest members of this age cohort start taking on management roles and their younger counterparts, ‘generation Z’, begin to enter the workplace, employees’ expectations from companies are beginning to shift significantly.
These young professionals, who are often characterised by their affinity with technology, are continuously challenging traditional ideas about the nature of work. They are drawn to companies who recognise the importance of collaborative workplaces, strive to create open company cultures and provide them with the tools they need to work effectively and productively. So how can SMEs recognise and respond to these new expectations in order to attract, and more importantly retain, industry-leading talent?
Adopt flat structures
Younger professionals are becoming adverse to rigid corporate structures and fixed hierarchies. They are confident, eager to progress, and accustomed to having a great deal of information at their fingertips. Millennials often feel constrained by what they see as outdated traditional working practices, and cultures founded on closed doors and fixed structures are likely to deter young professionals. In fact, according to PwC, 65% of millennials said they felt that rigid hierarchies and outdated management styles failed to get the most out of younger employees.
There is little other than tradition in the way of companies offering smarter working initiatives.
With this is in mind, it’s crucial that companies strive to create open collaborative environments where there are constant streams of communication between younger employees and more senior professionals. Talented professionals are drawn to organisations that offer an engaging, comfortable, and stimulating atmosphere where they feel their work is contributing to the success of the business. While some companies may be reluctant to invest time into creating such an ‘employee-focused’ environment, it’s clear that young professionals are becoming ever more attracted to workplaces which cater to their own personal needs. It can also be incredibly beneficial in terms of both productivity and retention.
Use technology to create collaborative workplaces
This new emphasis that young employees are placing on a personalised workplace means that many talented professionals will naturally gravitate towards companies which show an understanding of their own individual needs and goals.
It goes without saying that technology has become an integral part of young professionals’ lives, and for most fast, reliable, and innovative technology is a prerequisite of almost any modern workplace. For many, access to technology which allows them to work collaboratively will be at the top of their personal list of ‘needs’. Part of creating a co-operative environment that attracts talented individuals is understanding that employees don’t necessarily need or want to work within traditional office hours in one centralised location.
In fact, candidates will likely gravitate towards businesses which show a real understanding of the benefits of smarter working and recognise that young professionals want to be assessed on output rather than hours spent in the office. The technology needed to facilitate agile working is readily available, so in reality, there is little other than tradition in the way of companies offering smarter working initiatives. By using technology to create flexible, collaborative working environments progressive companies looking to attract top talent can ensure employees are able to work in a place, and at a time, that allows them to be most productive.
Showcase open cultures
According to a study conducted by global HR specialist Randstad, ‘Gen Z and Millennials collide at work’, the majority of business leaders strongly agree that collaboration is an important driver of employee effectiveness (68%), efficiency (67%), creativity and innovation (67%) and operational performance (67%).
The businesses most likely to succeed respond and adapt to young professionals’ expectations.
However, if companies want to attract leading talent, they need to ensure that they create, and more importantly showcase, collaborative environments which cater to the needs of young employees. Small businesses, which tend to be able to adapt to employee’s needs more freely, should strive to promote their open cultures and collaborative values right from the start of the hiring process.
As young professionals continue to put a greater emphasis on the value of cultural fit, it’s key that employers are able to demonstrate their commitment to creating an environment that allows their employees to work productively and collaboratively.
The businesses most likely to succeed in attracting industry-leading talent are the ones who not only recognise millennial values but also respond and adapt to young professionals’ expectations. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes young professionals in the workplace, however SMEs, which are innovative to their core, certainly have the ability to adapt and evolve in order to keep up with ever-shifting expectations.
Regardless of their long-term goals, small businesses that leverage innovative technology to create open collaborative working environments and provide young professionals with the tools they need to work productively, creatively and flexibly
About Jason Downes
Jason Downes is Managing Director of Powwownow, Europe’s leading conference call service providers. Jason joined Powwownow in May 2013 from Staples Advantage, where he was UK Managing Director. He has more than 18 years’ experience managing large teams across the UK, including big brands such as Office Depot and Rentokil.
Powwownow are huge advocates of flexible working, making sure the UK’s workforce establish a healthy work/life balance and making UK businesses lives’ easier by offering simple and effective communication and collaboration tools.