How are millennials different in their relationship with management?

The millennials are regularly described as employees with a team spirit who have difficulty accepting a hierarchical structure and who no longer view their salary as the only motivating factor but instead are looking for a sense of accomplishment in their work. The portrait often drawn up is that of a generation which is keen to stand out from that of its elders, and which is difficult to pin down.

The eleventh edition of the Edenred-Ipsos barometer, conducted in 15 countries among 14,400 employees, of whom 3,500 are under 30, shows that the behaviour and expectations of younger employees have stayed fairly constant, contrary to popular belief.

More motivated than their elders, for them, the ideal company is having attributes which are actually fairly similar to those cited by their more experienced colleagues. For the company, the issue is not so much about dealing with this generation independently of the others, but rather globally rethinking leadership challenges in an environment which is increasingly digitalized, horizontal and multi-task oriented, taking into account the countries’ strong specificities.

Insights

Over 3,500 employees under 30, surveyed in 15 countries: Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States.

26% of Millennials say their motivation at work is increasing over time vs. 15% of over 30s, a gap already observed ten years ago, with contrasting results depending on the country (12% in France, 19% in Germany and the United Kingdom, 26% in the United States, 30% in Brazil, 32% in China and 58% in India).

57% of the millennials under 30 feel that the ideal company is one which puts reward for effort above all else. 59% of Millennials expect their management to respect its undertakings.

Generation Y Not So Unusual

With 26% of Millennials stating that their motivation at work is increasing, vs. 15% of employees aged over 30, Generation Y shows a greater commitment to work than its elders. Employees of this generation also have more confidence in their future careers within their company (26% “very confident”) than their elders (18%).

However, contrary to popular belief, younger employees were also more motivated than their elders ten years ago (27% vs. 19% between the two generations).

Are Millennials so different when it comes to their relationship with management? Employees surveyed as part of the Edenred-Ipsos Well-Being at Work barometer reveal that expectations are actually quite similar: honesty (same rate of 62% for the under and over 30s), fairness (61% for Millennials and 62% for other employees) and their capacity to respect undertakings (59% and 58%) are qualities they seek as a priority in their managers.

It should be noted that they also have a stronger feeling of being respected by management than the over 30s (35% vs. 28%).

But what do they expect from their employer? Like all employees, priorities are focused on the scale of the individual and their professional development. When asked about their ideal company, all primarily want it to acknowledge their commitment and allow them to develop.

In fact, rewarding effort ranks first (57% of Millennials and 62% of employees over 30), followed by development opportunities (38% and 34% respectively). Working conditions are considered half as important as recognition of effort; the desire for a less hierarchical organisation comes in last place.

For the under 30s, the main challenges facing companies are talent management (loyalty being cited by 32% of them, recruiting: 29%), attention paid to the human side (respect for a life balance: 28%, psychosocial risks: 27%) or change management (27%), these aspects being cited in similar proportions by their elders.

However, special treatment for Millennials does not seem to be a priority for this generation: intergenerational management is cited in last place at 15%.

Another misconception brought into question: the importance given to private lives as a specificity of the youngest. The Millennials surveyed view the work-life balance as one of their main concerns (28%), in a similar proportion to their elders (29%), but place more emphasis on the challenges related to new technologies and “permanent connection.”

“The findings of the Edenred-Ipsos 2016 Barometer demonstrate yet again places emphasis on how crucial it is for employers to take an evidence-based approach to managing people in the workplace. With high expectations for employer support, recognition and reward across all generations, there is no substitute to developing an in-depth understanding of what it takes to motivate and reward your people to ensure they perform at their best for your business. It is therefore imperative that mangers have access to the right tools and solutions to continue to develop their leadership skills in this area,” says Andy Philpott, Sales & Marketing Director, Edenred UK.

More Cultural than Generational Differences

So overall, Millennials stand out little from their elders; a few significant differences by country can be noted but only on certain criteria. This is particularly true for expectations concerning the company. In Brazil, good working conditions are a key factor in choosing a company (40% among the under 30s and 32% among the over 30s), in contrast with China where flexibility is paramount (31% vs. 19%), and France where the emphasis is more on diversity (10% vs. 7%).

Although the differences are not always generational, they are however sometimes cultural, whatever the age group concerned.

Disparities in trends in motivation at work speak for themselves: among French employees, for example, only 12% of Millennials believe that it is increasing over time (one of the lowest levels of the panel), vs. 19% in Germany and the United Kingdom, 26% in the United States, 30% in Brazil, 32% in China and 58% in India.

The Real Challenge: Managing in a Digital World

The early digital experience of Millennials has probably shaped their behaviour, but not to the extent that it radically differentiates them from their elders in terms of their relationship with work.

Development opportunities and the attention paid to employees remain the priority expectations of the under and over 30s. Similarly, talent management, attention paid to employees and change management are the leading challenges facing companies identified by employees for the coming years (regardless of age) – ahead of diversity, intergenerational relations and digitization which is no doubt already considered to be integrated in terms of tools.

More than a generational confrontation, the challenge primarily lies in the ability of companies to meet the expectations of their employees in an environment where digital technology plays an increasingly important part in daily life.

This article first appeared on HR in Asia.

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