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Millennials need workplace support

COMMENTARY
By Wanjiku wa Njoroge | January 16th 2017

The corporate term trending among human resource officers is “millennials”. The conversations mainly highlight the latest personnel challenge for organisations. Those who are on the side of the millennials build a case for why organisations must rethink some traditional workplace conventions in order to accommodate this new breed of employees.

In any employment establishment, there are three generations working closely together. Opinions differ on the exact dates for each generation. Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. Generation X showed up between 1965 and 1977; and the Millennials (Generation Y) arrived between 1977 and 1997.

The generation-in-betweens are referred to as sandwiches, and were born between 1940 and 1945; 1959 and 1964; and 1970 and 1975. Each generation has different values, ethics, and methods of working, communicating and solving problems. For this reason, these groups are struggling to cope with one another at the workplace.

Firefighting is an everyday activity as these generations clash on views about work. Baby boomers and some Generation Xers hold the opinion that Millennials are not committed to work. Apparently, this may not be the case. Studies reveal that Millennials are committed to assignments; they only work differently. Baby Boomers are currently in management positions. Some are already retiring, leaving Generation Xers to rise to management level.

When Millennials join an organisation, they check in with new attitudes and ways of working. Some boomers and slightly older Gen-Xers are not comfortable with this new setting. Regardless, this is the reality that we must adapt to.

Organisations have no choice but to strive to provide an effective work environment that will allow the Millennials to thrive. Granted, it is the institutions that will respond to this new breed of employee that will attract and retain superior talent in this age group.

Fortunately, researchers have figured out the expectations of Millennials. Studies reveal that this generation want a blend of work and fun. They want to combine work, play, and some element of learning. It has also been established that Millennials have a liking for informality. They do not want to wear suits. Millennials also prefer non-monetary rewards and flexible working hours.

They want Friday afternoons off, or declared Sports Friday. An interesting finding is that Millennials do not value face time. They do not believe that spending more hours at work translates into high productivity. Indeed, they argue that spending eight or more hours seated in an office is equivalent to an economic and health scam.

They reason that fatigue and other health risks associated with sedentary life will work against one’s health and productivity, and the company will still run overheads and medical bills. For this reason, they want their performance measured against the quality of their output and the value added.

They want the products they create or the services they offer to be perceived as revenue-generating centres where the cost of their input is appraised against the profits generated.

So, what should organisations do to accommodate the Millennials? For starters, they must provide for a work-life balance. Institutions must discard the belief that productive employees are those who are physically present for long hours.

Organisations must, therefore, create a flexible work program. This will give Millennials the options for work schedule and location. Depending on the nature of their assignments, let them work with targets, from anywhere, and at any time.

Some companies now allow their employees to have Sporty Friday afternoons. This, in fact, is the case in Rwanda for public servants. They have the luxury of participating in sports every Friday afternoon. The benefits that come with this policy include improved health for staff, and, of course, reduced medical bills.

Organisations must also integrate technology into the workplace. Millennials must be enabled to collaborate in assignments using up-to-date technological tools. This will allow them to work from any location at any time.

If they want to work in pyjamas from 10 pm to 3:00 am in order to deliver on a target, so be it. Give them credentials to log into the company system at that unholy hour and complete their assignments. This will give them the flexibility they so desire and increase their output performance. It will also act a motivator that has no monetary implication for the company. It creates a win-win situation for both the organisation and the worker.

Generations can learn to work together and deliver incredible results. In chess, it is usually said that what separates a winner from a loser at the grandmaster’s level is the willingness to do the unthinkable.

A winning organisation knows too well that competitive edge will not be gained by sticking to traditional work conventions.

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