Businesses looking to attract and retain millennials should focus on similarities rather than differences.
Generational change experts provided insights into Generation Y, the demographic cohort name given to millennials aged 20 to 34, at the fifth annual Solent Thought Leadership conference by property consultancy Vail Williams LLP.
Attended by 120 business professionals, it was held at University of Southampton Science Park at Chilworth, near Southampton, home to 100 companies and around 1,200 people.
The event heard how we are now live in an era where there can be four or even five generations of workers in the same business due to changing demographics and higher retirement ages.
For example, by 2031, the number of 65-year-olds and over will outnumber people under 20 in the UK.
Positive characteristics of millennials include collaboration, global citizenship, a social conscience, flexibility, a desire to “fix” and being tech savvy.
They are also said to prefer light, spacious and contemporary workspaces, constant connectivity through technology and social media and a work-life balance.
Another requirement was having a relaxing place to “decompress” at work.
But a Generation Y downside can be a job-hopping tendency, the event was told. This has financial implications for business; research shows that it can cost up to £11,000 to replace an average employee at small to medium-sized enterprises.
Six out of 10 millennials expect to move on from their employer within two years, with only 12% looking to stay beyond five years, attendees heard.
Findings from a recent survey of 165 office occupiers were also shared; more than half stated that attracting and retaining millennials, along with retaining so-called ‘twilighters’ close to retirement age, was key.
A further 40% of respondents said attracting and retaining millennials were essential.
One speaker said millennials are causing a bit of a stir and seem to be the topic of conversation in terms of the changing generation in the workforce and changing workforce needs; they are seen to be a bit more demanding.
“We’ve also heard about demographics in the workforce leading to change, the challenges in balancing the needs and aspirations of up to five generations in the workplace at any one time.
“But, more importantly, the work drivers for millennials are no different from previous generations. However, their societal demands are.
“As someone who has two teenage children, issues about ethics and a high level of intolerance of discrimination and a lack of environmental awareness are incredibly important to them.
“I think that is absolutely fantastic and puts most business leaders on their mettle – and that is where they should be.”
Matthew added: “As employers, we need to embrace the strengths of millennials. They are wired differently but, unless we understand what they have to offer, our businesses will not continue to strive and remain successful.”
Afterwards, Matthew said: “As one of the speakers eloquently stated, businesses should focus on similarities rather than despair at differences.
“Our Solent Thought Leadership provided revealing insights into millennials and how those businesses which better understand and address their needs, without alienating older colleagues, will stay relevant and competitive.”
Guest speakers were Jane Holt, in charge of Business Development at University of Southampton Science Park, Carrie Foster, an author and practitioner in organisation development, and Terence Dankyi, a workplace futurologist and post-graduate business student at the University of Southampton.
Also speaking were Philip Gray and Rob Stangroom from legal firm Irwin Mitchell, and Sarah Kavanagh, Business Transformation and HR director at retailer Southern Co-op, which has employees ranging from 16 to 79.
Roderick Bisset, a Vail Williams partner and expert in business rates consultancy, compered the event at the science park’s new Axis conference centre.
Networking preceded the event.
Vail Williams is the managing agent and sole marketing agent for Southampton Science Park, which has 17 buildings on 73 landscaped acres.
The consultancy has offices across England, including at Ocean Village in Southampton and Lakeside North Harbour in Portsmouth, and works with landlords, occupiers, developers and property investors.