A lot is being said about Millennials, some good and some not so good.

Millennials are accused of being lazy, demanding and impatient. Lying around, they expect things to happen in a very different way to previous generation-types. And dramatically so!

In the not too distant future it is expected that 50% of the entire workforce will be Millennials. Also referred to as Generation X, Millennials were weaned on the digital experience. They comprise those individuals that were born between 1985 to 2000. Or the ages of 20 to 35. And they are The Top 35 Under 35 that the Accountancy SA identifies each year in teir annual search for the best CA’s.

Generally, they are more ‘tech savvy and culturally liberal’ and are the first generation that have grown up entirely with the instant-access digital environment which has left their previous generations in the dust. This is, an age of mobile gadgets, broadband, social media, internet of things (IoT), and other forms of media and digital technologies; a world like never before imagined coupled with increasingly liberal approaches to economics, politics and culture.

For marketers, this information is profound. Never before has any generation been so predictable, not so much in its behaviour as in its construct. The information gleaned from these studies have enabled researchers to predict what the demands, expectations and leadership styles that this generation will expect in the workplace.

There is one thing for sure – it is very different to anything that has come before.

Gerard Hofstede is a Dutch social psychologist, former IBM employee, and Professor Emeritus of Organisational Anthropology and International Management at Maastricht University in the Netherlands developed a cultural dimensions framework and identified the characteristics of the Millennial generation:

The esteemed Professor claimed that Millennials had a shorter authority gap. This means that they are less inclined to accept verbose hierarchies in management structuring. Their preference lies in a flatter structure where all are much closer to the leadership. The idea of a collection of managers with power over them is decidedly unappealing. Because of their ability to quickly access social media and, via Google, Twitter and Instagram, they are able to have personal contact with great leaders and other celebrities of choice. Accordingly, they have little loyalty to any boss or acceptance of traditional management styles and organisational silos. And they are readily willing to bypass protocols, gain direct access to higher levels and question authority.

This is the thing: Millennials expect you to have the expertise required to deliver on your leadership responsibility and accountability. Failure to do so could see them job-hopping to a more authentic environment. And they are quick to bolt from slow career development, to escape to an environment that promises more exciting prospects. They abhor boring or ‘not cool’ routine work lower down the hierarchy, the real building blocks of a strong future career!

Hofstede also measured the idea of individuality versus collectivity and discovered that the Millennials have a greater propensity to focus on ‘self’. The idea on the WE’s is less appealing than the I’s. The view of everything for the greater good of all (Ubuntu) is not absent but is far less an objective than previously thought. Their expressions are more about ‘selfies, self-esteem and self-love’.

But here comes the paradox: There is some contradictory research that indicates that they also have a preference to work for or buy from organisations that operate from paradigm of ‘purpose around humanity’ rather than ‘profit’. This includes a stronger commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

Some other revealing attributes of this emerging perplexing generation is their creativity, assertiveness and apparent arrogance. But, again, here is the rub: It seems that, even though they are faster at perceiving and pursuing opportunity to achieve higher in their career, they are less persistent, less willing, and less-skilled at problem solving. It seems that they are reluctant to do the hard work required to achieve their goals. Together with reduced employment opportunities arising from the lingering effects of the 2008 crash, Hofstede claims that Millennials favour short term gratification and are reluctant to do the hard work required to build a lasting long-term career. This may be partly due to the fact that they have grown up in a world impregnated with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) even though they have more and quicker access to news feeds and information than the proceeding generations. The bottom line here is that employers are going to need to attend to these issues in order to attract talent. This, under the current hierarchical/power-based corporate structures, is going to be a challenge.

Other issues that needed to be considered is the Millennial’s ideas around happiness and contentment. This brings to mind the psychologists popular reference manual on human responsibility “The Road Less Travelled” by Scott Peck. Written some 30 years ago, Peck maintained that the gateway to happiness was through acceptance of the fact that life is hard. Delayed gratification and focused connection to personal responsibility were the magic ingredients to a happier life. This dimension is actually more closely aligned to traditional values that the hippie generation so willingly trashed. The Millennials, however, thrive on the shorter term immediate gratification paradigm. Born into a world of far more choices and significantly less restrictions, they have substantially more indulgences to enjoy. This has allowed them to be far more free-spirited. This, says Hofstede, will result in them putting their short-term goals ahead of those of the organisation and the failure to attend to these singularities might find corporations devoid of the talent they need going forward.

In conclusion corporations have a real challenge ahead. Attracting talent will be far more complex – the HR function will need to be far more alive to the current spate of Millennials entering and progressing through the corporate system.

It is a certainty that more will need to be done. Management will need to consider ideas that will appear abhorrent and costly. They will need to introduce a more team-orientated ethos. Coaching, mentoring and training will be deciding attributes when employers are assessed. The management style of my-way-or-the-highway will not survive. There will need to be a big shift towards foregoing the bottom line growth to investing in and developing human capital in a very different and challenging way. Add to this expectations around social responsibility, corporations are going to need to do more to satisfy prospective employees that they are authentically participating in this regard.

It is not co-incidental that the emerging Integrated Thinking construct follows similar objectives with its overriding purpose being long-term sustainability.

And here is the concluding statement: Expect Millennials to become more militant in their demands and expect social media to be flooded with your reluctance to co-operate. If corporations think they do not need to respond to this dynamically changing paradigm, they might just find that nobody will buy their product!

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