Managing Millennials: Engagement, HR Policy And Evaluation

Millennials will make up over 50% of the UK workforce by 2020


According to Goldman Sachs, Millennials are those born between 1980 and 2000. Already making up the majority of the workforce in the US, Millennials are set to make up 75% of the UK workforce by 2020. So what are Millennials and what do these numbers mean?

Millennials grew up during relative national prosperity, with parents absorbed in the aspirational ideologies of Covey, Thatcherism, Blairism; 'free-thinkers' who raised their children to believe in free-expression and fulfillment; to reach for meaningful contribution; to dare to dream. Millennials were raised in hope to the backdrop of the American sitcom and the incredible digital revolution.

'63% of Millennials prioritized self-confidence as the number one tool needed to achieve anything'.

With nearly double the number of graduates than the generations before them, Millennials have driven innovation, streamlined industry, accelerated automation whilst saturating the market with over-qualification. Actually larger in population than the 'Baby-Boomers' before them, Millennials live in their work; connected to it 24 hours a day. They compete having graduated during mass recession; redundancy has become commonplace for those unable to meet the pace of modern life. Anxieties are high. Access to the housing ladder limited, whilst 'baby boomers' make good on property investment and publicly subsidized rental markets or remortgage houses in order to retire.

'51% of Millennials are planning to leave their jobs within two years'

'75% of semi-retired Baby-Boomers said gig-economies were helping them towards retirement'

Millennials have tried to embrace freelance anxieties by advocating nomadicism, flat-sharing for adults, temporal international work placement:

'In Paris, everybody has always rented and that works? Right?' (Having visited once; clawing for justification).

Real-time wages have gone down, the Christmas bonus has been forgotten, the Swedes have calculated that more than double the average Millennial salary is needed for a balanced healthy life. Anxieties are high for a generation aware that their pension contributions are being spent, and that they may never own their own home.

Mental health is the ticking time-bomb of the Millennials with record-breaking levels of employees unable to work because of mental health-related illness; struggling with accelerated connectivity and unregulated working hours.

30% of companies lost 15% or more of their millennial employees in the past year

The current assumption from the CIPD is that Millennials regularly leave their positions through disloyalty, boredom, increased pay, lack of fulfillment, (all legitimate reasons). However, employees leaving work as a biophysical response to the unnatural strains of the digitalized, object-oriented workplace is not really discussed. The human resource has been leveled against technological automation; Millennials have struggled to compete with automated processing and talent has naturally gravitated towards entrepreneurialism and freelance working culture.

Some industry leaders have recognized well-being as a key area of investment; gym memberships, health insurance, reduced working hours, work-place pop-up Micro Experiences have been invested in. These leading industries have recognized the value of well-being; for attracting the best Millennials, and in creating working cultures that are sustainably innovative and productive.

’82% of Millennials say they are loyal to their employers (but only 1% of HR professionals describe Millennials as loyal to their employers)’

However, many other companies remain fearful of their own over-qualified Millennial workforce, companies have overlooked living wage suggestions whilst real-time wage has depreciated. Baby-Boomers have held off partnerships and board memberships and all progressive ships, staggering their own retirement, distrustful of the Millennials in waiting. The relationship between the Baby-Boomer and the Millennial is complex; Hollywood vs. Donald Trump is a dramatically effective microcosm of this. The Millennials and the Baby-Boomers are both struggling with modern societal stresses that are damaging families, communities, and sanities. There is a lot of anger and a lot of distrust amongst Millennials and Baby-Boomers; a product of austerity and much else besides.

What do the Millennials want?

This was the question asked by those at Goldman Sachs. As Millennials approach majority numbers in the UK workforce, having already surpassed majority in the US, the will of the Millennial is becoming a financial encumbrance in the area of staff retention; well at least for Goldman Sachs that is. 43% of Millennials intend to switch jobs within the year, whilst the cost of losing a staff member in the banking industry is typically three times the annual salary of the employee being replaced.

Many industries should be incentivized to find ways to retain Millennials. Staff investment, engagement, and wellbeing is financially astute.

Millennials want what most Baby-Boomers want: time for personal growth and development, time for love, time for passion, time for travel, time for inquiry. Time for recovery. Rewarding, challenging work that contributes positively to the future of our species and our planet; sustainable work that can provide for a family and a home. Work that might enable Millennials to sustain the needs of their children and their retiring Baby-Boomer parents also.

What does this mean for an employer?

HR professionals, CEOs, executives, must recognize the value of wellbeing in the workplace. The successful modern day workplace thrives on instinct, balance, intuition, innovation, and creativity; these are the qualities that drive effective, sustainable automation.

Bold political solutions will have to be considered, as Millennial workforces are set to face redundancy on a scale not seen since the Industrial Revolution. Universal Income, localized sustainable farming methods, alternative housing methods; these and more must be considered to avoid political backlash not seen since the early 20th century.

These are the considerations of the Millennial. For employers, these considerations are relevant too. If employers cannot offer sustainable employment they will not receive sustainable engagement. Shamefully, many companies in the UK do not seem to want or need sustainable engagement from their staff; quite the opposite. These companies will be the first lining up for AI with name badges I’m sure, but until then policymakers must surely intervene to avoid another devastating recession.

But for those employers able to value sustainable staff engagement, staff investment must be prioritized. Some employers are aware they are creating AI in their own image: technology companies see an incredible relationship between the minds of their creators and the developing minds of their users. These companies know the real market value of well-being, and the enormous responsibility they have towards their staff and their users. May these companies continue to prioritize employee wellbeing and let their success be a signpost for others.

For those companies not currently able to offer sustainable, rewarding work: embrace automation but don’t ask your workforce to compete with it. Retrain internally to equip your workforce for inevitable change and demonstrate tangible investment in your staff and their wellbeing. To not do so will likely internally emblazon negative, impoverished thinking into your organizations, and your business will lose momentum and quickly fall in the shadow of more progressive competition.

In some cases, radical change is required. In others, cultural shifts must be embraced. Furthering the exploration of the relationship between well-being and productivity in your business will bring positive results faster than you can develop metrics to measure them.

Just as did generation X before them, The Millennials will have to lead the world through some difficult changes; listen to their needs, invest in their development and they will listen to yours and invest in your business. Reciprocity in the mold of Alvin Ward Gouldner from the ‘GI Joe generation’; though hopefully learned through less destructive means.



See my twitter feed for wider context: @M_E_W_S - Micro Experiences for Working Spaces

The work of Luke Kennard plus incalculable sociological reference.

Smart manufacturing small

Read next:

The Business Case For Smart Manufacturing