Millennials, these active young people companies are so passionate about – are they disrupting the labour market, or are they simply part of its logical evolution? We wanted to know more about this generation of workers that still fascinates and captivates managers, so we asked Séverin Naudet, Mantu Chief Digital Officer and former digital adviser to the French First Minister.
(originally published in French on Gymlib, October 2018)
How do Millennials see work today?
The generation we call ‘Millennials’ is the product of the most significant technological upheaval since the industrial revolution: the digital revolution. They embody these values of transparency, sharing, dialogue and flat organizational structures. While they are very business-oriented, they also look for meaning and commitment in what they do. They expect a lot of the companies they work for and their managers, counting on them to advance social progress and generally have a positive impact on society. Millennials also believe their company should enable them to have a concrete impact on the world on a more individual level. They want management to increase their commitment to corporate social responsibility, and will favour businesses with a strong ethical track-record.
Trust and integrity are key values for millennials, and they believe that a company’s success is measured first and foremost by its active engagement in society and its willingness to change the world. That’s why their professional loyalty depends largely on a company’s ability to demonstrate their commitment to progressive leadership and corporate social responsibility. Many say they would work longer for a company that is committed to making a positive change in society.
Are Millennials shifting the power balance within companies?
This is a ‘project-based’ generation that does not fit in with vertical company models, too rigid and hierarchical; they prefer flexible, adaptable ‘assignments’ instead. This generation does not belong in an organigram, nor in the traditional social structures within a company. They don’t want the status quo, they don’t respect job titles (whether they are deserved or not) – they respect entrepreneurship, passion, commitment, and vision. They admire those who succeed, and those who try and fail. Three years from now, they’ll represent 50% of the world’s active population, and 75% in 7 years: this is likely to be one of the largest generational turnovers in modern history – millennials’ habits and values will be the norm.
Are generation Y and Z often misunderstood?
Every generation is criticized by the previous one who believes that “things were better before”. Fear of change, of the future, of getting old can make you say a lot of silly things. Suffice it to say that Socrates and Hesiod were already complaining about the younger generations, claiming young people would lead humanity to perdition… Millennials are far from the individualists everyone makes them out to be. On the contrary, they care deeply about their environment and feel responsible for the world around them. A vast majority of them are actively and directly engaged in a “good cause”, 59% of which related to environmental protection. They’re not disloyal, they’re simply not aligned with the values the baby-boomers imprinted on the world, and who can blame them? We are “heirs without an inheritance” – the baby-boomers destroyed the planet, concentrated wealth in the hands of a small minority, and enshrined a society model built on unheard-of levels of selfishness. Each generation has its faults but really, baby boomers should keep a low profile!
How are Millennials different from past and future generations?
For this generation, a life of sacrifices and working purely out of a sense of duty is not acceptable. They know there’s another way, and they don’t just have to fall into the 9-5 daily grind trap. Millennials’ idea of work is very different from the previous generation’s – finding the right work/life balance is essential for them. They want to be fulfilled on a personal level first, and then find their career passion. Professionally speaking, they value being listened to and recognised for their work over authority and loyalty.
How can we explain the fact that they are so focused on the ‘human’ dimension?
Again, they’re looking for meaning. They can see that the previous model has failed, and so generations Y and Z want to create their own model of society. They don’t see themselves reflected in the previous generation’s values such as capitalism and excessive consumerism, which did not seem to make their parents happy. Digital technologies, contrary to popular belief, gave them a sense of belonging to a ‘community’ where the human dimension is recognized and valued. They want to have a positive impact on the world through their work, as part of a company, of a collective endeavour.
Is it harder to win their loyalty because they value independence so much?
Yes, they are more demanding. Companies will see their workforce turnover increase if they don’t evolve their internal structures and adjust to this generation’s expectations (and the next!). This is extremely positive for companies and for society in general – business models need to evolve, fast.
How should businesses evolve to attract millennials? And can they?
I don’t really like talking about ‘attracting’ millennials because that’s a tactic that belongs in the past. Today’s labour market is based more on a long-term relationship built on trust, a balanced relationship where everyone can grow, be happy, and create value together. Companies must share and embody these values, which is something that ‘new economy’ companies had understood very well from the start. Businesses should consider talent their most prized asset and place it at the heart of their organization. There isn’t a single company that can serve as a good example of this, but there are different interesting experiences we can learn from.
How will millennials cope with AI?
AI has always been part of their daily life – algorithms govern everything they interact with almost from birth. So millennials will continue to live and evolve with AI, and they will establish its limits together. This is likely to become a key debate in society for a very long time – do we value our privacy over the quality and speed of services? What’s the role of robotics and automation within the labour market, where do we set the limits?
What is the Millennial generation’s approach to exercise and wellbeing?
Over 80% of millennials consider personal fulfilment a priority, and believe it is directly linked to the quality of their work environment. They’re after a different type of workspace, less impersonal and more in tune with their lifestyle.
Freelancers, digital nomads, remote working, co-working spaces: are these trends the product of an autonomous, independent generation? Will millennials choose these new work models over traditional employment models?
Yes, millennials are pushing for new work models. Contrary to popular opinion, 61% prefer full-time employment, but a vast majority (56%) opts for ‘flexible’ companies. This is a ‘project-based’ generation that does not fit in with vertical company models, too rigid and hierarchical; they prefer flexible, adaptable ‘assignments’ instead. This generation does not belong in an organigram, nor in the traditional social structures within a company. It’s not a matter of choosing between steady employment and independence (freelance work) – millennials want the best of both worlds.
What will the next generation be like, and will millennials accept them?
From the initial studies conducted, it appears generation Z is amplifying the trends set by generation Y rather than bucking them. This generation is challenging the whole system with questions that may not always be legitimate, but still definitely interesting: “If the 15 jobs that I, on average, will end up doing throughout my life don’t exist yet, what am I going to school for?”. This is a very healthy way of probing and challenging the global system. So what companies are we talking about? The companies they’ll be working for, or those created by some guy in some ancient world?