Every day, in workplaces all over Singapore, the struggle between millennials and their baby boomer colleagues plays out. Older workers write off their younger subordinates for being entitled and flaky job hoppers, while the younger set derides their bosses for their rigid, old-fashioned ways.
Unfortunately for the latter, millennials are here to stay in the workforce, at least for the next few decades, and learning about their values and opinions can go a long way towards managing them well at the workplace. In fact, Deloitte has been conducting a Millennial Survey for a couple of years to find out just what makes them tick. Here are some insights into the millennial mind that Singaporean employers need to know.
They don’t trust organisations
Singaporean employers have long bemoaned their employees’ lack of company loyalty. In fact, amongst millennials here, it is common practice to leave a job after less than 3 years. Employers need to understand that millennials are inherently distrustful of organisations, and will not pledge their loyalty to a company in exchange for stability.
That doesn’t mean that they can’t be loyal to a company as a matter of principle. But they constantly question whether the business cares only about its bottom line and whether it treats its employees as mere digits, as well as whether the company behaves in an ethical manner. While this might not be true across the board, there have been a number of cases of Singaporean bosses treating their employees harshly, and this is eroding millennials’ trust in their employers even further.
They feel their skills aren’t being used fully
According to the Deloitte report, the majority of millennials don’t think their skills are being used fully. This could be due to the fact that the number of graduates in the workforce is at a record high and growing, and the job market can’t absorb their skillsets in its entirety. We’ve all experienced times when we basically spent our entire day standing in front of the photocopying machine, PhD in game theory be damned.
A friend of mine recently complained that there wasn’t enough work for which she had been originally hired, so her boss had been overloading her with administrative tasks instead—so much so that she was leaving at 10pm. At one of my previous jobs, the junior lawyers in a particular department used to complain that they spent hours every day doing secretarial work. Such underutilisation of skills may spur millennials to jump ship due to a lack of career growth.
The way an organisation treats its employees is extremely important to them
Singaporean bosses need to sit up and take note: millennials care deeply about the way an organisation treats its employees. The baby boomers might have been so grateful to have a stable career that they’d overlook poor treatment from the higher ups. But times have changed. Blame it on privileged circumstances or lack of resilience, but treating a millennial like crap at work will have him running for the emergency exit.
While there’s nothing wrong with being firm with your employees, many local employees need to seriously look inwards and ask themselves if they are treating their workers with fairness and respect. In a 2013 survey, 75% of the employers surveyed believed it was important that staff work over the weekends or after office hours, and a study conducted by Kelly Services found that only 46% of employees felt their efforts at work were recognised and rewarded, a dismal figure in comparison with the rest of the Asia Pacific.
They take issue with bosses being too traditional
While baby boomer bosses love grousing about millennials, the disdain cuts both ways, and the Deloitte survey found that millennials generally regarded companies’ leadership styles as being too old-fashioned. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that your millennial employees will turn mutinous, it does mean that they’re going to be very critical of a management style they perceive as being outmoded or too inward-looking.
As a millennial myself I can attest to the fact that I once worked at a company where the management had a reputation for being very “old school”. The company had a high turnover rate and most of the young employees who left privately cited problems with management or their bosses as their key reason for quitting. It may not be fair, but it certainly affects companies’ bottom line when they’re having to constantly rehire and retrain, so smart employers might want to adjust their management styles to be more millennial-friendly.
What do you think of the millennials you work with? Tell us in the comments!