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As a society we are now living and working for longer than ever before, which means that for the first time, there can be up to five different generations in the workplace at any one time. This presents benefits and challenges for employers in terms of differences in behaviours and attitudes of employees based on their perceived generational characteristics.

Traditionalists (born 1928 – 1944)
The children of the great depression. They have grown up in tough economic times and value hard work. They believe in jobs for life.

Baby boomers (born 1945 – 1964)
This generation was born post World War II and grew up during a time of economic growth and prosperity. They are highly driven and focus on building strong careers.

Generation X (born 1965 – 1979)
The first generation who have had true exposure to technology in the workplace.

Millennials (born 1980 – 1995)
Millennials have been impacted by the technology revolution. They are resilient and want to work in an environment where differences are valued.

Generation Z (born 1996 onwards)
The first true digital natives having grown up with the influences of technology and social media.

According to a recent KPMG report1, millennials are expected to represent 50% of the UK workforce by 2020. They are looking for ‘experiences’ in the workplace, as opposed to previous generations who have a more traditional approach to work. They want to work for businesses that offer flexible hours that support their own interests and a work life balance.

How do you attract, engage and retain millennials in the workplace?

Millennials prioritise culture and are the first generation who expect to enjoy their working experience. They want to be trusted to control their own working hours and location, and generally do not believe in the 9 to 5 mentality. Incentives such as agile working hours, compressed hours, home working, the ability to take time out in a day to attend hobbies or gym classes are all likely to be attractive. In offering such benefits employers need systems in place for managing the risks to the business in terms of data security, confidentiality, health and safety, working time and productivity. Contractual documentation and risk assessments remain fundamental.

A high percentage of millennials place importance on a fun and engaging work place which offers perks such as away days, social events and free food available throughout working hours. They prefer a more relaxed working environment where technology is integrated into all working practices.

Millennials are much more confident about challenging the status quo. Employers should not mistake a positive disruptor for a disruptive employee. Consider providing a ‘safe’ forum where employees can make challenges in a constructive way. Equally do not shy away from dealing with disruptive behaviour through the disciplinary procedure. Refusing a reasonable management instruction remains a disciplinary offence.

Retaining talent is fundamental to business success

Regular feedback and praise is essential to keep millennials engaged. Replace the antiquated annual appraisal with forward looking agile goal setting and regular catch-ups with your direct reports. However, make sure that your managers document these practices because otherwise this can present issues if you have to address performance or misconduct issues or even dismiss. Records remain key to achieving fair and non-discriminatory dismissals, but managers should embrace technology and use their smart phones and apps to record these catch-ups.

Effective policies remain important. Whilst some commentators may encourage employers to rip up the handbook, tribunals will still look to employers to have effectively set out the standards of behaviour expected. Deal with complaints and grievances promptly and thoroughly. Consider involving independent third parties to ensure against any allegation of impartiality.

Effective management, communication and culture are the key to achieving an engaged workforce and a successful intergenerational ecosystem. If HR is struggling to engage the board on these issues then evidence of the direct link to profit margins usually does the trick. Engaged employees are productive employees. Reduced attrition means less spend and management time on recruitment. Increased productivity and efficiency ultimately improves the bottom line.

This article was published in Travel Trade Gazette on 13 September 2018.

1 KPMG: Meet the Millenials - June 2017 (PDF)

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