Millennials: a challenge for Human Resources

Marta Antúnez and Nazaret García as well as being part of the Millennial Generation work together in the HR department of Ferrovial Services Spain. Because of this, who better to explain how the millennials, the generation that are shaking up the business world view working life and to share their concerns and desires.

05 of May of 2016

“My goal was never to just create a company… but building something that actually makes a really big change in the world.” Mark Zuckerberg

After 10 years leading his company the Facebook founder gave us the real reason why a Millennial invests so much effort into a single project: improving the world. His speeches in Silicon Valley were representative of a whole new generation’s way of thinking. While Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Brian Chesky (Airbnb), Travis Kalanick (Uber) and Evan Spiegel (Snapchat) were busy becoming billionaires before turning 30 thanks to our new technological world, scholars were trying to attach labels to this new social phenomenon, to this new generation: Y Generation? Peter Pan Generation perhaps? the Generation of the Global Age? or Millennials?

Our aim here is to analyse this generation of 18 to 35-year olds, the children of the Baby Boom generation. If there is one characteristic common to all components of this social group – of which there are more than 8 million people in Spain and 1.7 billion worldwide – that is its complex nature. Within companies, and particularly within HR departments, it is increasingly important to try to understand every essential detail of this group which, according to Deloitte, will make up 75% of the work force by 2025 and change the economy, politics and society over the next few years.

What makes a Millennial?

As Leslie Kwoh, current Head of Marketing at Microsoft, says in an article comparing Millennials and Baby Boomers:

“They are often criticised as spoiled, impatient, and most of all, entitled.”

A generation that grew up in a country defined by greater racial diversity, where the educational gender gap has fallen considerably, but the cost of education has increased. They are a set of young people who have lived in secure and comfortable homes, but who have witnessed key events such as the economic crisis, 9/11, or 3/11 (the Madrid train bombings) here in Spain. These events have no doubt marked their understanding of and relationship with companies, and therefore their ways of working will be different to those of previous generations: not better, not worse, just different.

Millennials are digital natives and app addicts. According to Marketing in the Multiscreen World (by Millward Brown), young people spend 7 hours per day online and more than 80% have their professional profile on the Internet. They are also extremely social, they prefer to share rather than to have, they dislike fixed routines, they are multitaskers, flexible, creative, inspiring, impatient and very particular as to the companies they work for, demanding values such as transparency, sustainability and social responsibility.

So we can say that young people make up a group guided by values, a group that argues that companies should improve society in addition to generating wealth. Such is the importance afforded to the company mission by young people that, according to British consultant KE, if Apple were to open a bank it would get 37 million clients on the first day alone.

How do we recruit Millennials?

As 2.0 recruiters, at Ferrovial Human Resources we must approach Millennials on their own terms. But how to capture the interest of such a complex group? The answer is: adapting to what they demand. As a company, we need to recognise that today’s talent chooses where to develop professionally and looks up information on relevant companies.

And so the number of External Communications departments has grown significantly in recent years, particularly the number of Community Managers and Employer Branders. Our corporate image on social networks has become our presentation card and must be constantly updated. Ferrovial has not dragged its feet: it is  currently ranked 4th out of the Top 20 most “InDemand” companies on LinkedIN Spain, thanks to the many employer branding activities carried out by our staff.

Despite being one of the generations suffering the highest unemployment levels whilst being the most highly qualified – 54% of young people from this generation hold a university degree –, over 50% prefer to work on something they feel passionate about and which fulfils their values and interests, rather than sit in an office doing something they dislike. Their goal is not working for 11 months in order to have a month’s holiday, but rather to enjoy work and learn something in the process.

How do we retain Millennials?

According to a study carried out by the temping agency and HR consultant Randstad in 2015, 45% of professionals in work today plan to change employer within 6 months.

This means that companies need to work harder on creating strategies for developing and retaining talent. A large number of companies, aware of this professional revolution, have already created specific leadership development programmes to boost the capacities of their Millennials.

Their personality traits, so different from those of previous generations, have already made cutting-edge companies come up with original ideas. Two giant corporations born in the 20th century, Google and YouTube, have managed to read the signals and are already offering their staff the possibility of using 20% of their working hours for their own projects, amazing workplaces, flexible hours, and comfortable common areas in which they can develop projects with multicultural working groups and horizontal rather than vertical work disciplines.

However, Millennials need much more than simply being valued by their managers: they need to develop and grow within the company. Recognising the current situation and concerned for the future, at Ferrovial Services’ HR Department we have several programmes to help retain young talent: the International Graduate Programme, which lasts two years and where participants rotate through five national and international placements, and the Young  Talent Programme, which lasts for one year and includes very diverse face-to-face and online training.

We are passionate about Human Resources, and aware of the fact that very soon all companies will be obliged to solve the puzzle of having four different generations sharing the same space. We believe that the only way of adequately fitting the pieces together is through original and innovative ideas, such as those provided by the companies mentioned above.

To all the HR professionals out there: are you ready to work on solving the puzzle?

1 comment


    05 of May of 2016

    In reality, there are strong similarities between millennials and the generations that have preceded them: they want security and variety in their career; they want to be stretched and challenged; they want to work for a company of which they can be proud; and they have every intention of being loyal. But there are many ways in which this growing proportion of the workforce is different. They have strong beliefs and expectations that extend to the workplace. There are a number of key steps employers can take to address the concerns that have been raised through this research: Understand them: It’s particularly important to understand and address generational differences and tensions. Use metrics and benchmarking to segment your workforce in order to understand what millennials want and how these desires might be different from older workers. Think about this in the context of your Talent Strategy and Strategic People Plan. Get the ‘deal’ right: It’s important for employers to explain what they are offering a potential employee, but also what they expect in return. Think creatively about reward strategies and what motivates millennials. For example, is it time to shift focus from cash bonuses to other things. And remember, the vast majority were attracted to the prospect of customising their benefits. There is also significant gap between perception and reality when it comes to the promises made by employers on diversity and work/life balance. If employers want to continue to attract millennials, this has to be addressed – companies should review the messages they are sending out and test them against the reality of the employee experience. Help them grow: Managers need to really understand the personal and professional goals of millennials. Put them on special rotational assignments more frequently to give them a sense that they are moving toward something and gaining a variety of experiences. Challenge them to come up with new ways to streamline processes and to exercise creativity. Millennials have a strong desire to work overseas and this is a rich potential resource for organisations focused on global growth. Less desirable locations could be positioned as an important career path milestone. Every opportunity should also be taken to mix teams generationally. Let them know how they're doing: Millennials want and value frequent feedback. Unlike the past where people received annual reviews, millennials want to know how they're doing much more regularly. Give them honest feedback in real time — and highlight positive contributions or improvements on key competencies. Set them free: Millennials want flexibility. They work well with clear instructions and concrete targets. If you know what you want done by when, why does it matter where and how they complete the task? Give them the freedom to have a flexible work schedule. Does it matter if they work from home or a coffee shop or wherever if that’s where they are most productive? Set deadlines and if they meet them, don't worry so much about their tactics and the time they clock in and out.

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