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Today, it is the Age of the Millennial. Those born between 1980 and 2000 are now of working age, and entering the workforce in droves, changing the operation of the workplace as they go. As a socio-economic group, millennials are growing in power and investment potential.  In addition to reshaping the workplace, they are also influencing localization, a much needed strategy across the African continent. Learning how to work with millennials has become increasingly important over the past few years, as studies have noted their approaches to work that differ from the traditional structure. They have unique abilities and expectations that, when harnessed effectively, can highly benefit both employee and employer.

 

Millennials and localization

In previous decades, it was not uncommon to heavily rely on expatriates to develop skills and make up the workforce in Africa. However, today, there is a shift in focus as governments and big businesses across Africa aim to localize their workforce. Localisation involves socio-economic development, local supplier development, skills development, ownership and management control, and enterprise development. This can be seen particularly in the mining sector, where the large majority of the workforce is made up of locals, and various commodity sectors have already been successfully localized, such as the Bus Recapitalisation Scheme in South Africa. Head of Business Development for Africa at Wipro Limited, Marleze van Loggerenberg, argues that, “Localisation is key, and organisations need to consider how they can positively impact the country into which they expand, whether by offering previously unknown services, upskilling the local workforce, or fulfilling a local need or demand”. Localisation thus focuses on capacity building and human capital growth, in turn enabling growth in communities and countries alike. It is thus imperative to facilitating sustainable growth on the African continent. Considering that millennials are the workforce of the future, taking the time and energy to foster millennial employees and their approach to work is essential to supporting localization and sustainable growth.

 

In The Mind of a Millennial:

In a study on millennials in the workplace, Instant Office drew many findings that can greatly optimize workplace experience on both ends. The report found three main findings of what millennials expect in the workplace: value for money and remuneration; security and stability; and time off. To reach the next level in their careers, 46% of millennials rank skills and qualifications as imperative, followed by job performance and more experience through new roles or projects, at 45% and 35% respectively.

Millennials are the people coming with fresh, original ideas and approaches. Having not been affected by the daily work grind, they tend to think in highly ambitious ways, thus coming up with unique takes.  They also prioritise personal growth in their work experience. 93% of millennials value lifelong learning, and 80% consider learning a new skill a top factor when choosing a new job. So, give them space and opportunity to grow. This shows that you, as an employer, are invested in their growth, which would make the employee feel acknowledged, and thus more likely to remain with the company. This can lead to increased productivity and general happiness in the workplace.

For those coming straight from completing their studies, millennials are used to following a particular life and schedule. For years, they have effectively balanced school work with their personal life in a flexible manner. Furthermore, their schooling has prepared them for multitasking, often working on multiple projects at various stages concurrently. As a result, they will most likely be accustomed to high-pressure situations and a large workload. In addition, millennials are hard workers, and willing to go the extra mile when given the chance. This can be seen in the report when it argues that millennials are already working harder than any other generations before them. 73% of millennials work more than 40 hours a week, and ¼ work over 50 hours. Millennials need a challenge. They want to know that their minds and abilities are being stimulated. By employers ignoring this multitasking skill, millennials are more likely to become bored and restless in their current position, thus encouraging them to seek other opportunities.

Millennials want growth. Static work, with little possibility of upward mobility is not attractive to them. Connected to this is the finding that millennials are willing to move on to another job opportunity if not promoted within a specific time frame. 2/3 of millennials interviewed said they expect a promotion within two years of working in a given position, while ¼ stated less than 12 months. This attitude is linked with the general need for affirmation. Work needs to be acknowledged, and rewarded. Encourage them. Mentor them. Constant feedback is imperative to growth and workers feeling seen.

 

How to Win in the Workplace:

So what are the practical steps to take in order to successfully embrace millennials in the workplace? There needs to be an adjustment of corporate values, the work environment and team structures. Consider the fact that millennials were raised with the belief that education is the ultimate key to success. As such, they are continuous learners. Furthermore, working is about more than just earning an income for millennials. Personal growth is an important aspect to one’s job. Thus, an effective method to harness this attitude is to focus on corporate learning in the workplace. Emphasizing learning in the workplace can improve talent attraction, employee job readiness and instill a culture change. This can be done through offering training and development opportunities. Through this, continuous learning is fostered, and employees learn new skills that can benefit the company. Furthermore, they become better shaped for promotions and thus upward mobility.

The social space is important in the workplace. Communication is key. Direct feedback and honesty from employers can greater improve work turnover. Year-end reviews are not enough. Shortening the feedback loop can allow the employee to be more aware of the efficacy of their work, and make the necessary changes to improve it. As such, learning opportunities and regular feedback can act as a sign that the employer is investing in the millennial and their future. Furthermore, make the work environment an inclusive space by hosting more opportunities for employees to come together and communicate. By taking these considerations to mind, the workplace can become a more inclusive, functional space that will encourage millennials to want to stay, and thus furthering the localization strategy.

Recruiting millennials in Africa requires a shift in focus. Just as the times change, so do people. Bradley Barr, Group Managing Director of CA Global, agrees, saying that, “We had to adapt the tools we use to target millennial talent. Considering that the nature of life nowadays is online, traditional forms of job recruiting are not as effective anymore. We all live online. Because of this, we made a concerted effort to shift our recruitment methods, now focusing on broadening our reach to candidates via social media. Through our numerous Facebook pages, Twitter, LinkedIn and our blogs, we reach more millennial candidates, thus furthering our influence. This allows us to more effectively serve our purpose as the leading executive and headhunting search firm for “Recruitment in Africa.”

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