At nearly 76 million strong, according to Pew Research Center, millennials born between 1981 and 2000 are now the largest percentage of the global workforce. As the first generation to grow up alongside technology that enables connection across time and place, there are different characteristics of millennials in the workplace than other generations that enable this group to thrive in an increasingly tech-driven, flexible workplace.
Because of their remarkable strength in numbers, millennial values continue to shape the way organizations think about effective talent management and retention strategies. As the oldest millennials enter their mid-thirties, when coupled with high baby boomer retirement rates, understanding generational values is crucial.
Characteristics of Millennials in the Workplace Are Shifting
According to the ADP Research Institute® (ADP RI) report, The Evolution of Work 2.0: The Me vs. We Mindset, while millennials may still value freedom and flexibility in job hours and location more than older generations, they're most likely to leave jobs for the same reasons as members of Generation X and baby boomers — poor direct manager relationships, and a lack of opportunity for career development and advancement.
According to ADP RI, older millennials ages 27-35 are nearly as concerned as Gen Xers about the cost of company benefits packages, at 28 and 33 percent respectively. While just 16 percent of millennials 18-26 worry about health care costs, it would appear the generation that's often stereotyped as impractical has some very pragmatic concerns. Forty-seven percent of younger millennials carefully consider the work itself when thinking about staying or leaving a job, compared to just 40 percent of Gen Xers.
There's a growing generational divide in the workforce, and the most notable area of difference may not be between millennials and baby boomers or Gen Xers, as previously believed. Significant variations within the millennial demographic reveal that it's likely unrealistic to overlay blanket management strategies over the entire age group. While these generational differences may be attributed to the fact that millennials are growing up and considering the costs of health care for their young families, there's likely a more important message for HR leaders at play — in a global workforce, using analytics and relationships to understand employees as individuals is likely the best approach.
Strategic Millennial Management for a Global Workforce
When it comes to managing millennials, HR leaders shouldn't underestimate the value of personal connection. ADP RI reports that the happiest employees feel most connected to others at work. Organizational culture certainly plays a role for employees of all ages, and relationships with a direct manager matter, too. However, organizations shouldn't underestimate the value of workplace insights to understand how regional, cultural and industry-based differences can impact the pulse of their millennial workforce.
According to PwC, offering global opportunities for career development will entice 37 percent of millennials to stay engaged at work while training a future generation of leaders for cross-cultural management. Organizations like Hewlett-Packard and HubSpot are offering an increased number of work-abroad programs. PwC reports that 89 percent of employers are expanding their global mobility offerings.
Strategies for Retaining Millennial Talent
Globally, 44 percent of millennials have "one foot out the door," reports Deloitte. While millennials are likely to leave their employers for many of the same reasons as older generations, Deloitte found that many have a "fear of being overlooked." While millennials may be the most tech-driven generation to date, there's likely no substitute for human connection as a talent retention tool.
Stay up-to-date on the latest workforce trends and insights for HR leaders: subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.