Do We Have To Take Special Care Of Millennials?

Bruno Kindt

Recently, I have seen numerous articles dealing with the new generation of collaborators called millennials. Some of these articles expressed a fear regarding these young wolves, sometimes they minimized their differences in relation to previous generations. One of these was a study by Manpower that highlighted their main characteristics and differences compared to other generations. These differences (or non-differences), and the importance of taking them into account, are of great interest.

The Manpower study, conducted with 19,000 young people across 25 countries, offers recommendations to attract, retain, develop, and motivate the best of this group, born between 1982 and 1996, within the 21st century workforce.

  • Millennials are lazy? Contrary to the “lazy label” that is often associated with them, the report shows that millennials work a lot, if not more than previous generations, and are convinced that they will work longer than their elders.
  • Give me a break: In terms of career progression, career waves are replacing earlier generations’ career ladders. Millennials consider breaks to care for others (e.g., children, parents, partners, voluntary organizations) or to take care of themselves (e.g., travel, passions, training).
  • Should I stay or should I go? Apparently not very differently from their elders, millennials prioritize three elements when it comes to choosing a job: money, security, and time off … then working with “great people” and flexibility at work. Depending on the location, those priorities may vary, but most millennials everywhere say that purpose is a priority. As for job security, the millennials give it a new meaning. They hope to acquire the skills that will enable them to meet market needs, if possible, while staying with the same employer. It is more about career security than about job security.

A new approach for all generations

As SAP launches its new HR tool, SAP Talk, all these findings echo in my ears. It is the perfect time for this new approach to performance management and to review how we manage the employer-employee relationship – not only for millennials, but also for all other age groups that are, in my opinion, not so different in their expectations for the labor world.

In fact, the sector of activity, the corporate culture, and the level of qualification have a more determining effect on staff expectations than people’s age. Only by understanding the particular expectations of each of our collaborators will we be able to provide them with an adequate response. To believe that everyone aspires to managerial responsibility is just as wrong as to proclaim that millennials are not interested in it.

Appreciation and recognition are key elements in retention of millennials, but the same holds true for their elders, although they will admit it less readily.

To conclude, I agree that the pieces of advice provided by Manpower’s study are very relevant in regards to millennials but could, and should, also extend to the entire workforce:

  • Focus on career security
  • Focus on career variety and mobility
  • Be ready to ride the career waves and be flexible
  • Have regular career conversations
  • Be open to alternative work models

As Winston Churchill once said, “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”

The need for organizations to provide all employees with opportunity and address all employees with empathy, regardless of their generation, is the key to making an environment a great place to work.

I am proud that SAP’s diversity and inclusion vision takes this into account, and is not only strong and true but real and tangible.

For more on diversity and inclusion, see How to Avoid the Most Dangerous Barrier to Good Decision Making.

About Bruno Kindt

Bruno Kindt is Human Resources Director for the Belgium Luxembourg region at SAP. After studying information technology, he started his career developing HR-related software. He joined SAP in 1995 as a human capital management (HCM) consultant, implementing SAP solutions for the first Belgian and Luxemburgish customers. After having been HCM presales and head of the training organization, he joined the HR department as a manager and later appointed HR Director for the Belux region, with additional responsibilities as regional board area HR business partner for analytics.