Is it Relevant to Keep Discussing Millennials as if They are a Novelty?

If you, like me, are getting tired of hearing the term “Millennial” bandied about, you are onto something. According to the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network’s most recent analytics, Millennials are making strong headway within Shared Services Organizations (SSOs). In fact, more than half of North American SSOs say that Millennials represent more than 40% of their workforce.

Notably, Finance and IT have the greatest representation of Millennials in their teams.

So the significance of Millennials is assured. But, given that they differ, in their work and life habits, so significantly from generations that came before, keeping and leveraging them across the enterprise is going to require a different approach. According to our data, however, most businesses are following conventional strategies of providing opportunities for continual skills upgrades to prepare them for their jobs. Nothing new there.

More than half the SSOs are also implementing flexible work environments, however, that allow for mobility. Another strategy that takes into account the greater personal ambitions Millennials bring to the table is that of engaging or assigning them to projects that specifically allow for their creative expression.

On the other hand, we see relatively low take up of strategies that specifically support inter-generational collaboration, or strategies that make allowance for engaging via smart devices or apps so beloved of the millennial generation – which believes in an app for everything. And they are right. So where are companies lagging?

One of the results I found particularly enlightening reflects Shared Services practitioners’ views on how Millennials, specifically, are contributing to the organization.

As expected, fresh ideas and disruptive thought patterns is a leading factor. Also listed, but significantly lower than I might've expected, is their ‘digital native’ status. In addition, where we may have been misled is in how results oriented or focused on continuous improvement Millennials are, in truth. Both these characteristics rated low in terms of practitioners’ feedback. Millennials are also currently far from being recognized as an integral part of the workforce and needed for advancement.

So here is where I see a disconnect. If we consider that the Shared Services managers providing this feedback are in their 40s to 50s (definitely not digital natives), I would surmise that these leaders are either missing something completely, or the fact that the workforce is morphing in front of their eyes simply does not change a thing. The latter seems not credible, so I'm going to propose that a strong dose of wake-up medicine might be in order.

Considering most of these managers will, by now, have children that are themselves approaching Millennial status, it seems surprising that there is so little awareness of their capabilities. As a parent of two late-Millennials, I can attest to the fact that my children are far more savvy, capable, and initiative driven than my husband or I were at their age. While there is no replacing experience, it does mean I would trust them to brainstorm an innovative solution to a problem ahead of folks characterized by my generation.


You can see more data on this subject as well as digital disruption and customer experience trends here.


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