Competencies and the Millennial Workforce

January 21, 2016 Kelly

 

A rising tide of Millennials is changing the workplace, and it’s a wave that has yet to crest. Educated, ambitious, and mobile, this generation is rewriting the rulebook when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, and competency-based talent-management can help you create an organizational culture that appeals to young job seekers and employees.

Less than a generation ago, the Millennial generation was barely represented, with only 6 percent of workers falling between the ages of 18 and 34. Today, this demographic accounts for approximately 35 percent of the North American workforce, and projections for the future suggest that Millennials will comprise anywhere from one-half to three-quarters of the workforce by 2020.

As Millennials increasingly dominate the talent landscape in every industry, talent-management strategies need to be adjusted to accommodate the expectations and preferences of this younger demographic.

Millennials are a mixture of typically youthful and uniquely generational traits. For example, young workers of every era—Boomers in the 70s, Generation X in the 80s, and today’s Millennials alike—tendto be more risk-tolerant and less safety-conscious. They’re also less likely to have family obligations, which means they prioritize upward mobility over job security. And they’re generally more idealistic than pragmatic, so they gravitate towards companies with clear values and a purpose they can relate to.

But Millennials also possess a number of attributes that are unique to their generation alone. For example, while young people of every generation could be expected to be less concerned with stability and more open to new opportunities, Millennials aged 30 years and younger average three times as many job changes compared to Baby Boomers at the same age, and a recent survey from Mercer indicates that 44% of employees ages 18 to 34 are seriously considering leaving their current job, despite reporting high levels of job satisfaction.

Millennials are also more focused on finding work that continually offers new challenges than young people in previous generations. Instead of a fancy title, prestige, and perks, Millennials want to be plugged into work that’s meaningful—something that’s bigger than them.

And while they take their work and their careers seriously, they are not willing to sacrifice quality of life for job success. While both Baby Boomers and Generation X accepted that fulfilling big ambitions required some tough choices, Millennials refuse to compromise. They seek a work-life balance that enables them to commit fully to meaningful work, yet gives them space to cultivate a healthy lifestyle, healthy relationships, and adequate downtime.

Competencies for Millennial success

So how can organizations continue to attract and retain this restless, ambitious new contingent in the workforce? A competency-based approach to talent management can help to facilitate a shift towards a more Millennial-friendly culture in several ways:

Core competencies. One of the key Millennial attributes highlighted in Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report was the need to be part of something bigger than themselves. In a world where more than half of the workforce is inspired by a sense of a deeper mission, core competencies can be transformative. Core competencies define the key values and strengths shared by the entire organization, and they become part of every employee’s job profile.

While an organization’s collective vision and mission can be difficult for employees to relate to their day-to-day performance, core competencies translate organizational strengths into job-level success metrics. By showing how job, at every level, helps make the organization great, core competencies help Millennials feel connected to the big picture.

Job-specific competencies. Job-specific competencies, which articulate the skills, knowledge, abilities, motivations, traits, and behaviors required for specific jobs within the organization, also have a role to play in engaging and retaining Millennials. A study of the Canadian workplace identified “quick advancement” as being essential to Millennials, and  echoed by a global PwC study that named career progression as their top priority—ahead of compensation and any other consideration.

Competency-based career development programs enable organizations to align job competencies with targeted learning opportunities that enable Millennials to identify areas for improvement and identify the fastest path towards career progression or latticing within the organization. Competency-driven career development defines the competencies and proficiency levels for every job in the organization, makes that information available to every employee, and identifies the training path required to achieve different competency levels. It’s an approach that gives Millennials the tools they need to visualize their career options, and it makes career progression a more transparent, accessible, and self-directed process.

To further align career development with Millennial needs, make sure learning resources reflect their technological preferences. Millennials prefer tech-driven engagements over traditional, face-to-face training, and options such as self-paced e-learning also reflect their preference for flexible, unstructured engagements that enable them to fit learning into their busy schedules.

Leadership competencies. A survey conducted by Virtuali and WorkplaceTrends.com showed that the majority of Millennials gravitate towards transformational leaders—leaders that are focused on people and purpose rather than profit alone. To attract this young and idealistic generation, organizations need to examine their current leadership competencies and determine whether they align with Millennial expectations. To learn more about Millennial-friendly, transformational leadership, read “Leadership competencies for a Millennial reality.”

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