TTT- How to set and meet the career expectations of millennials

Millennials-BlogPost-HomepageThese are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest Talent Think Tank (TTT) held on Tuesday 9th June 2015 hosted by Guidewire’s Ian Creamer (VP HR  EMEA) titled ‘How to Set and Meet the Career Expectations of Millennials’

The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior HR and Talent professionals from leading national and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.

Many companies are now focusing their attentions on how to retain high potential within their business and this is especially prevalent to the ‘new’ generation ‘The Millennials’.  But how are companies meeting the ever changing expectations of millennials and adapting their business culture to satisfy, motivate and keep high potential younger employees loyal to their business.

With the impact of social media and technology setting the bar high with millenials, are their expectations of norm and incentivised benefits at work becoming unrealistic.  Are businesses exhausting too many resources on the millennials that it is actually alienating the other generations of employees and causing resentment towards them for the preferential treatment?  Are businesses paying the price by prioritising the millennials when there is no guarantee they will stay for the long haul within a business?

Business Drivers:

  • Motivating high potential to manage their own career can feed their appetite and create the autonomy for millennials to grow within an organisation.
  • Attrition is high with many businesses finding high potential leaving after completion of graduate programmes, working with them to map out career can increase longevity.
  • Giving millennials the autonomy and tools to manage their career and maximise their potential is to the benefit of the company.
  • Engaging with management to manage the millennials effectively and having fluid channels of communication help maximise potential.
  • Retaining talent diminishes the cost of searching for high achievers, creating loyalty and ensuring knowledge can be filtered through the organisation when they are promoted.
  • Retaining high tech skills and IT software skills during the constant changing technological society.
  • Within niche sectors, millennials with specific knowledge and expertise can be particularly difficult to replace.

Best Practice:

Millennials are here and it appears they are here to stay!  Many believe they are the future leaders of industry and businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to engage, motivate and create loyalty for the long haul.  Many questions have been formulated from this session one being the impact society has had on millennials expectations, has the bar been raised with the  stigma that millennials feel they ‘deserve’ and are ‘owed’ the best privileges due to their high potential.  The question could be asked have their egos been over inflated and the millennials persona has given them the expectation that rewards and career fulfilment should be instantaneous and if not they will seek it elsewhere?

One notion suggested that millennials now have it easier, that previous generations had to graft for their promotion and recognition, but is this really the case.  The employment market has become increasingly competitive, employers expectations have meant the benchmark has been raised so how do millennials set them aside in this intensified marketplace?

On the counter side from the business perspective there is also elements of risk in investing vast amounts of time and resources into meeting and exceeding the career expectations of millennials.  How do you manage high potential talent when there is no long term guarantee they will remain within the company.  Loyalty within a business is becoming increasingly difficult with the prospect of heightened success in pastures new, the old saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side”, but is it actually?

The key question is how you balance these expectations.  There is increased variety and flexibility offered in the current climate so obviously employers must offer something to entice high potential to remain loyal to their company and motivated to reach their highest capability.  Companies including Google and Yahoo offer unique thinking in their approach, relinquishing the shackles of the office and providing environment where high potential can thrive and feel at ease.

Millennials are motivated by a number of key factors including the speed of decision making, having a level of autonomy, an environment where they can be creative and feel empowered and that the opportunity of progression is on the horizon.  Managing the managers is essential to this, as promotion is not going to be necessarily instantaneous.

The effects of Social Media also have a big impact on expectations and again businesses are embracing this and looking to manage accordingly.  Businesses are moving away from the 9-5 mentality offering flexible working, working from home and online platforms which encapsulate the level of autonomy and creative environment for millennials to feel empowered.  The adjustment from a traditional to more flexible environment is likely to provide an environment where they can be more resourceful and self sufficient.

Millennials in essence are looking for access to decision makers and a more speedy process which is amplified by social media.  Breaking down social barriers and providing a level of autonomy and flexibility is likely to encounter less resistance.  Ensuring managers are trained properly to set expectations and balance the company’s needs with the millennial generation’s needs.  Selling the Brand and the reality combined will enhance loyalty and focusing on the right experience are all factors to be considered.


  • Teaching the managers to manage millennials can be challenging, how do managers interact and manage high potential without frustrating them by being micro managed.
  • How does the business not ostracise other generations by focusing too much emphasis on the millennials.
  • Maintaining the balancing act of meeting the expectations of millennials whilst keeping it in the best interests of the business.
  • Companies need to embrace technological change and the impact social media can have on the expectations of millennials, what cost implication does this have.
  • Offering large levels of autonomy and flexibility can face the risk of disengagement from other generations, how can this be balanced
  • What assurances do companies have that if these conditions are offered that the millennials will in fact be loyal and longevity will be intact.
  • Staying commercial both in terms of cost of mobility and need from the business perspective to offer growing flexibility.
  • Virtual working and mobility are becoming the norm, how do companies align this with business needs.
  • Are millennials being pigeon holed in the creative society and high tech environment.

Measuring Success

  • Retention – How long will highly skilled millennials remain within the business, if they leave will there be the boomerang effect where one day they will return.
  • Engagement Survey – Are these a necessity with millennials or does recognition, autonomy and ownership have a bigger impact.
  • Offering the environment high potential work in is more likely to see heightened performance and providing the freedom they desire.

To conclude, it would appear that it is no simple task to meet the career expectations of millennials and that there is no definitive guarantee they will remain loyal to the business.  The important thing here is to find the right balance of motivating the aspirations of millennials whilst not coming at a great cost to the business.  Millennials should not get too a significant preferential treatment so that it becomes detrimental to the other generations, they too are inspired by recognition and the opportunity of career progression.  The key here is to finding the balance, working collaboratively with millennials and other generations to all move in the same direction.

Chris Beamish

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