Why millennials are a double-edged sword for HR

It’s predicted that, by 2020, millennials will make up 35 per cent of the global workforce. Clearly, they are an important demographic for businesses to recruit, motivate, engage and retain. But according to a new study, millennials are a double-edged sword for HR professionals – they are the most common and the hardest generation of employees to engage*. In fact, 48 per cent of the surveyed HR professionals in the US and UK reported that millennials make up the majority of their non-desk workforces. On top of that, 32 per cent said millennials are the hardest group of employees to engage – more so than Gen Z, Gen X and baby boomers.

As a generation, millennials value meaningful experiences over products. are more idealistic than pragmatic, are continuously in search of personal fulfilment (rather than ‘just another job’) and aren’t tolerant of subpar experiences – whether it’s the customer experience delivered by brands or the employee experience delivered by employers. There are specific ways companies can better communicate and engage with these younger generations of employees.

According to Erwin Van Der Vlist, Co-Founder & CEO of Speakap,

First and foremost, companies should tap into millennials’ intrinsic desire for personal fulfilment and a sense of purpose. A smart and secure way to do this is to take advantage of the socially intuitive experience (and user interface) provided by enterprise social networks and use these platforms to provide ongoing learning and development content. This will help your millennial workforce not only improve their job-related skills, productivity and performance, but it will also make them feel personally fulfilled in their roles and more satisfied with the company.

Key findings from the study

Technology-enabled HR is the rule, not the exception. Nearly three-fourths (69 per cent) of the survey respondents said that their organizations currently implement technology-driven HR initiatives. Plus, 48 per cent said that 16-45 percent of their total HR budget is allotted to technology designed for internal/employee communications. High employee turnover is a problem that cannot be ignored. 75 per cent of the surveyed HR professionals said they experience an average turnover rate of up to 30 per cent each year. This is further supported by the fact that 15 per cent of the respondents said their employees only stay for a duration of 1-2 years, while another eight per cent said the average duration of employment for their workers is less than one year. Real-time feedback, socially engaging experiences and mobile access influence engagement with millennial and Gen Z workers. 46 per cent of the respondents said that their millennial and Gen Z workers want an employee communications platform with a similar functionality and experience to social media. Plus, 47 per cent said their millennial and Gen Z workers prefer to have questions answered in real-time.  Improving employee-manager relationships and reducing turnover are bigger HR priorities with Gen Z workers than millennials and baby boomers. When asked to cite their top HR priority for managing Gen Z employees in 2019, 18 per cent of the respondents cited keeping employees engaged long-term and 13 per cent cited improving employee-manager relationships. When it comes to engaging baby boomers, mobile access and tech-enabled HR initiatives are less important. 45 per cent of the surveyed HR professionals said their baby boomer workers rarely use social media/mobile apps, while 57 per cent said this generation of employees are more likely to disconnect after working hours. Inefficient, delayed feedback loop creates a black hole in employee communications. 39 per cent of the surveyed respondents admitted to using paper surveys and 49 percent said they use the company intranet as a means of collecting employee feedback.

Erwin Van Der Vlist concluded,

A key takeaway from our research study is that HR departments should modify their employee communications based on the demographics of their employees. Given that millennials, Gen Z and baby boomers all have different tech skills, mobile adoption rates and expectations for the employee experience, this should be a no-brainer. I would recommend that organizations apply a buyer persona approach to their HR communications to better understand where their employees are searching for information online, what content employees are consuming most often and what content has the greatest influence in persuading them to take an action. This will prove tremendously valuable if organizations – and their HR departments – want to make a meaningful connection with these workers and keep them engaged long-term.

*The“Technology’s Role in Managing & Retaining Employees” research study released by Speakap, which surveyed over 250 HR professionals in the United States and United Kingdom to understand how they use technology to manage, motivate and retain employees, as well as to highlight key HR challenges and priorities in improving the employee experience for frontline workers


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