HEC Paris: why managers must meet Millennials’ workplace demands

Employees are expecting more from their bosses and are increasingly vocal about how they want to be managed. As such, managers must learn the skills to efficiently oversee the workforces of tomorrow

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From an employer’s perspective, fierce global competition is putting increasing pressure on companies to find the right talent

By 2020, Millennials (those born between the 1980s and mid-1990s) and Generation Z (those born from 1995 onwards) will comprise more than half of the workforce. They are digital natives, collaborative, adept at multitasking and their attitudes and expectations will have a major impact on workplace culture as they strive for greater autonomy and flexibility. They expect a genuinely agile work environment where they can work from basically anywhere: home, a client’s office, co-working spaces, even a holiday resort.

This drive for flexibility will contribute to the growing number of workers turning to freelancing; it is expected that 40 percent of workers in the US will be freelancers by 2020. The movement towards freelancing is also linked with a strong desire to balance professional and private life; according to a PwC survey, 95 percent of Millennials value this balance.

The aspiration for personal development is strong in these generations. Surveys show that many young employees are motivated to leave their companies because they feel they aren’t being given the opportunities to develop their skills. But it is not only training that Millennials want. They expect exciting, personalised career plans that allow them to explore new fields on a regular basis. Interestingly, 60 percent of Millennials surveyed by Deloitte think that seven months of working in the same place means they are loyal.

Young employees are motivated to leave their companies because they feel they aren’t being given the opportunities to develop their expertise and soft skills

In addition to annual progress reviews, Millennials and Generation Z expect feedback as often as weekly and 80 percent of those surveyed even said they want to give performance appraisals to their managers. Also, as social-media-savvy digital natives, they strive to work collaboratively. The same study found 80 percent of Millennials said their teammates are the most important people at work. This team-focused approach will have a direct impact on hierarchy; young, dynamic and agile start-up companies already have horizontal structures in place, and this is likely to be emphasised in the future.

Employee satisfaction
With a growing trend towards flatter organisations, flexibility and autonomy, entrepreneurship has emerged as a career path that Millennials and Generation Z are striving for. This is a huge trend in both the developed and developing world. In a Universum survey of 16,000 Millennials from 42 countries, 70 percent of respondents viewed themselves as entrepreneurs. A study published in February 2017 by OpinionWay stated that 60 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds surveyed in France are ready to start their own company. As a result, training, mentorship and other safety nets will be necessary to give them the tools for success.

There is also a clear shift towards more meaningful work. Employees want to feel that they are doing something useful, that their work serves a clear purpose and that what they do produces measurable results. To maintain employee satisfaction, companies will have to work on greater transparency, increased communication and a clear vision. Such change will demand improved leadership.

Finally, a strong employer brand is becoming more important. Social media already influences peoples’ decisions to apply for a job and so workplace reviews are likely to hold greater authority. Glassdoor, a job and recruitment site through which users can review their employers, is a great example of the power shift that is taking place in the digital landscape. This database of anonymously posted information reveals employer ratings, management practices, salaries and job interviews.

Highly rated companies offer a great salary, benefits, mentorship, opportunities for promotion, good work-life balance and a culture that promotes employee engagement. LinkedIn has also recently tackled salary transparency by showing how salaries for a given role vary by company, education level and geographical location.

Global talent pools
Global comparisons will naturally lead to global talent pools. Talented people will become ‘global nomads’; they are likely to change location with remarkable ease. Already, 71 percent of Millennials say they expect an overseas assignment during their career. From the employer’s perspective, fierce global competition puts pressure on companies to find the right talent.

Tomorrow’s managers will need to operate in a world with multiple stakeholders, different values, diverse attitudes and an increasingly volatile economy

Another emerging trend, however, is that more companies are deciding not to hire permanent employees. Businesses are increasingly using online crowd sourcing and freelance platforms to bring in skilled workers on demand. This ‘just-in-time labour’ will help them remain competitive. However, it also contributes to a more volatile workforce that executives will have to manage.

The pressure from younger generations is forcing companies to adapt. As digitalisation increases, the workplace will become even more agile. It will be common to manage virtual teams, connecting to work anytime, anywhere and on any device. This will create new challenges for managers who will have to oversee and motivate a widely distributed workforce. Organisational culture will be harder to maintain and HR processes, compensation and training models will need to be modified.

The skills of tomorrow
Different theories exist about which trends will prevail, but it is likely that companies will either become fragmented or branded. Half of global businesses will be small and agile, relying on suppliers and temporary labour and a culture of collaboration. The other half will operate in the corporate world, where big companies with strong brands invest in talent management, training and employee satisfaction to counterbalance the pressure of work.

In both cases, tomorrow’s managers will need to operate in a world with multiple stakeholders, different values and diverse attitudes, all in an increasingly volatile economy. In addition, they will have to be comfortable with data and analytics, harness new technology, drive innovation and manage change. These modern managers will need to be able to nurture their employees, providing the right skills to adapt in the ever-changing work environment. As such, there is a significant need for managers to reinforce their skill set.

There are a number of hard and soft skills needed for tomorrow’s leaders to succeed. Hard skills include: financial analysis, risk management, negotiation, customer service and business development. On the softer side, conflict management, problem solving, communication, delegation and public speaking are equally important. Managers can learn such skills by undertaking an Executive MBA such as the one offered by HEC Paris.

HEC Paris’ motto is ‘the more you know, the more you dare’. Our Executive MBA programme is providing talented professionals with the knowledge, skills and an outstanding understanding of the current business world to prepare them for career opportunities in complex international environments.