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Everybody is obsessed with millennials – they’re one of the most highly sought-after target generations for advertisers and marketers. Their habits and lifestyles receive an absurd amount of attention online, and product developers often design projects with millennials in mind. But they’re far from being catered to by everybody, and the workplace is one notable exception.

Recent studies by Deloitte found that over three quarters of millennials reject traditional careers, and an alarming one in five would choose to quit their current jobs and start their own projects. While this entrepreneurialism is generally a great thing for businesses, it does mean that a lot of companies are losing some of the most driven and hard-working employees in their workforce.

It’s in a business’ interest to adapt their workplace, culture and processes to suit the millennial generation – and HR has an important role to play here.

Setting millennials up to succeed 
As a flight concierge app for business travellers, AHOY has been arranging business travel, mostly for millennials, for over 4 years and it’s taught us a lot about how they work and what they need to perform at the top of their game.

Top of the list is the option to work flexibly. It’s not just us that have noticed this. According to this, seven in ten millennials want the option to work flexibly, and 85% of millennials desire full time remote working opportunities. That’s because millennials enjoy the freedom that comes with working whenever it suits them, and for that they are happy to put in hours on the weekend or later in the evening as well.

The dark side of flexibility is that plans, meetings, and expectations can change quickly. Even with great tools, making arrangements like booking and changing flights, often happen with little notice and can create extra admin fumes that add to a regular workload. With poor tools, or little support, it can create frustrations if they are unable to get to where they need to go and to do the work they need to do.

HR has a great opportunity here, to work closely with managers and employees and make sure everyone’s business needs around flexibility are adequately met, while ensuring they have access to the tools they need to enable them to perform at a high level, even if they aren’t seated 9-5 at HQ. 

Some claim that millennial employees are looking to be parented. While this may be an exaggeration, it is important to look at what types of support employers can offer. 

Career support
Millennials entered the workforce at a time when careers offered a lot less security, and as a result, they value things like income protection.[1] However, other benefits like purpose, results driven culture, and autonomy is valued even more. Millennials are the highest educated generation ever, and properly directing that potential can bring great returns.

Support for the mind and body
Any health support offered can also be attractive. Five times as many young people in the UK now suffer from a mental health condition compared to ten years ago[2], and businesses can create a competitive advantage by responding to this trend. For example, travel is sought after by millennial employees, but it can also be quite a stressful experience. HR can get involved to ensure stress doesn’t impact employees more than it needs too. 

Whether it’s fighting exhaustion when you’re zigzagging across time zones, trying to keep on top of deadlines and messages during disruption, traffic, and airport queues, or spending evenings and weekends booking, managing changes, or flying.

HR managers need to make sure their employees have access to the right tools and equipment that minimise the admin and stress of a journey. Staying motivated and energetic on the job may require mindfulness practices, travel yoga, or easy access to coaches who can help with structure, discipline, and help to say no, switch off, and take care of themselves.

Businesses that choose to support mental, physical, and intellectual health amongst employees will benefit both from their output and loyalty.   

Helping millennials stay motivated in their roles may require a new approach – they value inclusion, information, knowing how their work contributes to overall goals, and being recognised for their efforts.

One way for HR teams to accomplish this is to make sure employees don’t feel kept out of the loop and that there are clear workplace policies in place. This can comprise sitting down regularly to discuss the nature of their job and where they can contribute or what they value most.

HR plays a crucial role in building this workplace that accommodates transparency, engagement, and recognition. Take this example from how Google manages expense policy: if its employees find a cheaper service that does the same as an existing supplier of Google, the company switches over and lets the employee keep the difference in price every month. This helps improve the company’s efficiencies and makes employees feel more involved in decision-making processes to prevent them from disengaging.

Balancing act
For businesses to attract and retain millennial employees effectively, HR professionals need to get many things right. They need to work closely with management to offer millennials the right balance between flexible working options and the stress that frequent changes bring. The balance between autonomy and support. And between freedom and structures or policy. 

From supporting millennials with their business travel, we have noticed that they are far less lazy than the media picture paints, far more loyal and driven under the right circumstances, and take their responsibilities and expectations placed on them quite seriously. Sometimes perhaps more than necessary.

Implementing an environment that gets them to perform above the norm, requires an engagement and support structure that also goes beyond the norm. 

Sylvia Brune, CEO – AHOY

[1] Research by Canada Life Group Insurance, July 2019
[2] Open Access Government, October 2018

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