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Revenue down the back of the beanbag

How to engage with employees to create a sophisticated strategy

Liam MulvihillBusiness leaders and HR professionals have become a little millennial-obsessed.  It is a modern day leadership pre-requisite to consider the attraction and retention of this new era of tech savvy talent. It’s become a boardroom agenda item; one where someone typically feels obliged to comment on his or her nephew’s smartphone addiction and low attention span.

Yet still amid the wave of office smoothies, dog yoga and beanbag break-out areas, is anyone actually saying or doing anything meaningful to truly engage them?

Clearly it’s premature and difficult to definitively answer this; time will tell. Therefore the question should be, is your company pursuing the right strategy? And more pertinently, is a specific millennial talent strategy required at all?

The concept of a millennial talent and engagement strategy makes me cringe slightly. The lazy media preconceptions of entitlement and self-gratification are hopefully being taken less seriously, but there are still some serious missed opportunities in treating this, or any other generation, homogenously. With the right overarching people strategy in place, you can keep everyone motivated, not just your under-35s.

I have identified two misconceptions that are barriers to successful engagement.

1.  The Millennial generation hates revenue-generating multinational corporations

The research shows that we are all de-prioritising money over a meaningful career and work-life balance. This is understandable from many perspectives - the impact of the financial crisis and a broader consciousness of the lack of corporate moral responsibility. This does not mean however that younger people aren’t motivated financially and aren’t interested in your company’s performance. The fundamentals of traditional employee engagement tools are as relevant here as they are anywhere. Transparency of the long-term business strategy, communication of company performance and creation of vehicles for shared wealth generation (such as well-designed bonus schemes and all employee stock plans) will always increase engagement. Everyone wants to have a role in a winning team, regardless if that team is a Nasdaq listed company or a ten-person start-up. There are some incredibly hungry and smart future leaders out there who think differently. Meaningful involvement in future forums, reverse mentoring, or even more fundamental activity such as earnings call debriefs, can create a line of sight and additional discretionary effort at all levels of the organisation.

There are only so many non-profit and NGO careers available. With the technology sector no longer the beacon of virtue, post-Cambridge Analytica and other scandals, there is an even greater opportunity for the pharma industry to attract the best talent. After all, in how many other careers can you say you are making people’s lives better? We just mustn’t treat people as too naïve to understand that you create shareholder value in doing so. Graduates can get as excited about an increasing share price as any executive I have seen, even though they have far less financial skin in the game.

2.  Wanting to have a sense of purpose, the need to have an impact, the desire to have clear communication and work in a fun environment, are prerequisites unique to this generation

For the first time in history, we see five generations of employees working in an organisation. Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and  Gen Y.

Due to the shifting workforce dynamic the millennials are fast becoming ‘the doers’. They currently comprise 35% of the
UK workforce, and are set to represent an astounding 50%  of the global workforce by 2020.  It’s important to set the right environment for everyone however. These groups have different archetypes but the fundamentals are the same.  Great line management cannot  be substituted by an innovative workplace environment, or an outlandish recognition programme. Companies still need to invest in manager essentials training, especially in an industry with highly specialised technical expertsin line management roles that they might not have a natural aptitude for.

While there can be some adaption to policy for more junior roles (not age groups) such as quarterly salary reviews, on the whole the documented pillars of millennial engagement should just become the expected method of workforce engagement across most organisations. Simon Sinek’s beautifully articulated views on the importance of creating ‘the why’ for employees is universal surely? More agile working, clear communication, the ideas of fun in the workplace, these are not the sole right of the under-35s.

We should stop creating generational stereotypes, but instead engage with all employees to create a sophisticated strategy, with core principles that make everyone feel valued, regardless of the mechanism for doing so. Assuming that a graduate or apprentice isn’t interested in company strategy or EPS projections is as ridiculous as assuming that baby boomers don’t like smoothie Fridays.

Liam Mulvihill is HR Director of Syneos Health Europe Commercial Solutions and a millennial (just)

In association with

Syneos Health

14th June 2018

From: Sales

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