Engaging millennials key to business success

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Millennials tend to very comfortable with their smartphones and tablets. Thus, companies should equip them with all the tools and apps to fully harness their potential and skills.Millennials tend to very comfortable with their smartphones and tablets. Thus, companies should equip them with all the tools and apps to fully harness their potential and skills.

A crucial factor affecting how businesses are run now is the fact that millennials are entering the workforce, according to a recent survey.

“What we know about business is changing, and we need to rethink the people strategy and prepare for the workforce of the future,” said SAP Malaysia Sdn Bhd managing director Bernard Chiang in an interview with Business Circle. “Companies need to treat millennials just like any other employee, but [must] recognise that they are different from previous work generations.”

He was elaborating from findings of a Workforce 2020: The Future of Work in Malaysia survey. The survey – which was conducted by Oxford Economics Research and supported by SAP – saw 2,700 executives and 2,700 employees (where 50% are millennials) anonymously polled across 27 countries. The term “millennials” was defined as “workers who started work since the new millennium, and encompass the age group of between 14-35 years old”.

“The survey proves that priorities are shifting, and the top trends impacting companies’ workforce strategy nowadays are (i) millennials entering the workforce; (ii) the globalisation of the labour supply; and (iii) the increasing number and use of intermittent and seasonal employees, as opposed to full-time workers,” said Chiang. “About 89% of executives say they will be increasing the use of contingent, intermittent, or consultant employees.

“Out of all the executives polled, only 23% feel that they’ve made progress in building a workforce that can meet future business goals,” he said, added that a likely reason for such a low result was due to communication gap. “Companies do not understand what their employees really want from them – so clearly, there could be a generation gap which is causing ‘loss in translation’ of expectations.”

ChiangChiang (pic) said: “Generally, we have found that while millennials are different, they are not as different as companies think. Based on the survey, it has been found that millennials – who were generally born between the 1980s to early 2000s – do not differ very much percentage-wise when asked what matters to them; the key differences are in their priorities.

“For example, about 29% of millennials feel that making a positive difference in the world is important, as opposed to 31% of nonmillennials. However, when talking about compensation, work-life balance, meaningful work and achievement of income goals, millennials placed more emphasis on them compared with nonmillennials – especially with regards to compensation (75% and 63% respectively).”

Chiang noted that when it comes to the question of what matters at work, there is a big mismatch that was very glaring. “When comparing what employees say is important with what executives say their company widely offers, the results are very telling. While 69% of employees said competitive compensation is important, only 32% of executives agreed.

“About 36% of employees rated flexible work locations as important, and 39% said the same of flexible schedules. However, only 18% of executives placed agreed with each point. Conversely, 66% of executives rated supplemental training programmes as important, whereas only 38% of employees thought the same.

“Crucially,” Chiang continued, “we find that 16% of employees feel that access to social media is important, compared to only 9% of executives. We have found that there is this great debate happening in companies on whether to allow use of social media at work – and it cannot be denied that it has already affected how the business world works.

“Millennials are already very comfortable with their smartphones and tablets. Not surprisingly, we can find that collaborations happen in social media – and work collaborations happen too. These are tools that allow such collaborations to happen – so if the enterprise doesn’t equip them with all the tools and apps that can help the business, they may not be harnessing the millennials’ potential and skills fully,” he said, adding that along with increasing use of technology, better training and education opportunities would benefit employees – which would, in turn, benefit the businesses.

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