The oldest millennials have now been in the workplace for about 15 years and it’s clear to me as a manager for a top recruitment agency’s Interim and Contracts department, that they differ from Gen X and baby boomers with the way they work. They’re sometimes called the ‘entitled generation’ but this may not necessarily be fair. Most millennials have entered the workforce or were just at the start of their career in 2008 when we suffered the worst recession since the 1930s. Most could say this has influenced some of their general working outlook. I personally think this lack of stability will impact how millennials will view future lifestyle choices when it comes to work.
A ‘millennial’ refers to anyone born from the year 1980. The first millennials entered the workforce in the late 90s, and university-educated millennials from about 2001 onwards. World events in the last 20 years have caused unprecedented changes in the workplace. No longer are we stuck to our desks; there’s no real need to commute to work; humans are now truly globally connected in a way that doesn’t recognise borders or time zones. Loyalty to employers counts for nothing, as millennials have seen employees with decades of experience being made redundant. Not surprisingly, this has led to a mindset that work —- and the type of work chosen —- is there to support lifestyle, not just a stable rut to fall into.
When is the workforce like Snapchat?
As the millennial group of employees matures, the nature of work will change. Most millennials see themselves as job-hoppers with average tenure at most jobs for 20-somethings between 1.3 and 3.2 years. Whilst most of us from Generation X settled into careers because of family and mortgage commitments, 38% of 18 to 34 year olds still live with their parents. And mortgages are not the only things that are no longer feasible for many. As the first rung of the housing ladder gets more difficult to climb, millennials will not have the commitments that most Gen X or baby boomers have.
Add elements of flexible working arrangements and the ability to work anywhere in the world (not to mention remote working possibilities) and you have the perfect recipe for a transient workforce.
Millennials don’t see work as a validation of their existence but more of a means to an end. We have also seen the rise of the internship workforce where millennials work for short periods for minimal pay. Their attitude to work reminds me of Snapchat! A fabulous picture, right now, for no more than 10 seconds. Snap it, breathe, and it’s gone. Or they’re off, doing something else for a different company.
All of this adds up to a workforce who view work as a way of getting what they want in life, and is more amenable to interim work. The mortgages aren’t available, but transient experiences like global travel, material possessions, and interesting places to live are more likely to trend now.
The ability to work anywhere, for anyone, and for any period of time, whilst leaving room to pursue your passions, may appeal more to millennials than any other age group. With no final salary pensions, eroding benefits and work no longer being your life’s identity why would you want to pledge allegiance to just one employer?
How can employers benefit from this up-and-coming new workforce?
To reap the benefits of this transient but energetic workforce, employers will need to look at being more agile when planning a workforce. No longer is it necessary to rigidly employ just full-time permanent staff. You will miss out on a whole sector of society – the experienced veterans of the future – if you stay within this confined thinking.
Maybe you disagree and the future of work is not going to change massively as millennials age and decide that stability is the future. I would love to hear your thoughts on whether our workforce is changing and if employers are doing enough to accommodate that change. One thing is clear though, the nature of work is changing and employers need to be agile enough to adapt to these rapid changes.