Millennials: mark of a generation or sign of the times?

A recent BBC article reported on a ‘corporate day’ held by the Virgin Group, where the business reverted back to a policy of no personal phone calls, no social media, arriving at the office at 9am and in full formal business attire.

The purpose of the day was to contrast the flexibility that Virgin gave its employees compared to other businesses, and the article then went on to explore the work expectations of millennial generation and how these differed from previous generations.

As a service provider that specialises in managing the supply of contingent workers through recruitment agencies for a wide range of customers, we’ve become acutely aware over the last couple of years of a national shortage of skills in several job categories, and we have worked closely with our suppliers to understand the motivations that drive workers when choosing where to work.

What has become very clear is that although money is invariably important to the worker, of equal and in some cases greater importance is the appeal of the workplace.

With UK expenditure on contingent workers at £28.5m  per year and expected to rise further, and an increasing preference within many businesses to maintain part of its workforce as a variable rather than fixed cost, there is a real need to embrace the value driven workplace for all generations, not just millennials.

So what should an organisation do to try and attract the contingent staff that it needs? Perhaps the starting point should be not to view the worker as ‘just a temp’ but as a key member of its workforce.  The job for life culture is long gone, so a contingent worker on a six or twelve month contract may well be part of your workforce longer than a permanent member of staff.

Our suppliers frequently comment that the ‘just a temp’ approach, where the worker is given the least desirable tasks, asked to hot desk and generally made to feel like a separate part of the workforce may deter workers from accepting assignments and will certainly speed their exit from an assignment.

Having a clear understanding of assignment length is also important; a three month assignment with the opportunity to extend in reality means that the worker will be listening to new job offers after 10 weeks as they plan continuous employment. If an organisation is able to plan holistically and expects the assignment to be for 12 months or longer, then this should be outlined to the worker up front.

Flexible work arrangements such as working from home should be considered, although clearly in the right circumstances and where the workers’ output is measurable. Removing a two hour commute frees up a lot of time, particularly for those of us with family commitments. In our business we need mature, experienced relationship management staff to work with customers and suppliers, and offering the option of working from home has enabled us to not only attract but also retain the right level of staff.

Other simple considerations are the range of amenities available at your workplace - for example free parking is better than paid parking!

There is a growing need for organisations to focus on these workplace considerations and to adapt to the changing economic and cultural environment. Without doing so there is a clear risk of losing competitive advantage and being left behind.   

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