In 2008, PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted that by 2020, half of the world’s working population would be millennials.
In their soaring numbers, this generation (born between 1981 and 1996) would be doing almost every task and supporting a burgeoning older generation.
“Millennials matter because they are not only different from those that have gone before; they are also more numerous than any since the soon-to-retire Baby Boomer generation. Millennials already form 25 per cent of the workforce in the US and account for over half of the population in India,” wrote PwC in the survey report.
“By 2020, millennials will form 50 per cent of the global workforce. But although they will soon outnumber their Generation X predecessors (born between 1965 and 1980), they remain in short supply, particularly in parts of the world where birth rates have been lower. They will also be more valuable – this generation will work to support a significantly larger older generation as life expectancy increases. CEOs tell us that attracting and keeping younger workers is one of their biggest talent challenges.”
And 12 years later, PwC’s prediction has come to pass, with millennials dominating most workplaces and companies struggling with how to keep them.
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Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis International AG is one such company that has a huge millennial workforce and which has adjusted its operations to accommodate them.
“As an organisation, we are driven by purpose, where our mandate is to broaden access to improve and extend patients’ lives. Millennials, being very purpose and impact-driven, can connect to this purpose to increase patient reach,” said People and Organisation Head at Novartis East Africa Cluster Leah Heho.
She said the company also prioritises talent management, which coupled with cutting-edge technologies, has found it easy to retain millennials.
“We have robust talent management systems that enable solid performers to get opportunities to progress their careers further. We do this by developing their leadership skills and getting exposure to challenging projects through job rotation,” said Heho.
This means that employees have an opportunity to chart their own path and decide where they want to work.
But it is by creating channels through which millennials can express themselves that companies have managed to keep their youthful employees happy.
Millennials also like to express themselves, which explains their extensive activities online.
“We have created a very open, inclusive and ‘unbossed’ culture where every employee can contribute and share insights on what’s working and/or not working,” said Heho.
It is also important to keep the millennials happy and motivated as this, according to Heho, helps them be more agile and settle faster in their roles.
She also describes them as curious and dynamic and always ready for the next opportunity.
“They have a lot to offer and they don’t shy away from taking on new projects or opportunities since they are typically very confident in their abilities. Our performance management process allows for conversations that drive clarity on the expectations, desired outcomes, and opportunities to seek collaboration through regular check-ins. This also empowers them to manage themselves and own their contribution,” said Heho.
They also bring a lot of fun to the workplace, and we have created opportunities for them to drive activities that allow for more bonding, such as family fun days.
Reacting to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) last year that showed that the older generation was getting more into formal employment at the expense of the younger generation, X N Iraki, an associate professor at the University of Nairobi, said employers are afraid the youth are more likely to change jobs.
But Heho said with proper mentorship, the youth can get absorbed and work with patience.
“Millennials want to see themselves moving up the career ladder within a shorter time and are quick to take new roles in other organisations that meet their ambition. However, they also appreciate close mentorship, authentic leadership and clarity on career progression,” she said.
Most managers have complained about how difficult it is to manage the group because of their free-minded nature.
But according to Heho, making them feel like they are in control is one way to manage the group.