Talking about a generation

Making generalizations about an entire generation is a perilous exercise. Stereotypes are not helpful! That being said, for employers, cracking the Millenial code is essential to recruiting – and retaining – new talent.

This week, a panel of five MBAs had a lively dialogue with the participants of the IMD Transformation Summit, an event for Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs). What better way to dispel stereotypes than to bring generations together in the same room?

Here were some of the hot button topics in this week’s discussion of Millenials in the workplace: Bosses, job offers, patience, purpose, ambition and loyalty.

What is your idea of a good boss?

  • Someone who creates a mentoring and coaching relationship. Someone who explains the “why.”
  • Authentic, honest about the pros and cons of the company and the role I am being recruited for. During the job interview process, it’s important to create trust. It should be a dual exchange and not just being evaluated on a checklist.

What would make you reject an employment proposal?

  • A lack of transparency in terms of where and when decisions get made in the company.
    There has to be fairness and also recognition.
  • It’s about mindset. I love to challenge the status quo. I like smaller brands, not a big, successful company.
  • It’s essential to have responsibility and room to manoeuvre. I need space and safety to develop ideas.
  • I need to feel a passion for what I do, passion for the product.

How long are you willing to wait until you get to the leadership role you’re aiming for (whatever your ambition is in terms of the level of leadership role)?

  • I’m flexible, as long as I can keep growing. It’s about assembling building blocks for the future. I’m looking for a role where I’m completely utilized, where my talents are used.

What big thing would you change in the business world?

  • Short-termism. When you have profit targets, going quarter to quarter limits your options.

Millenials are perceived as being less loyal to the companies they work for and more likely to move around a lot. Is this true? How do you see loyalty?

  • I’m loyal to my co-workers and my boss, but with the company it’s a contract.

What are you looking for in terms of work-life balance and job evolution?

  • A more fluid and flexible schedule: if my task, output and time frame are clear, it makes sense for me to organize myself in the way that suits me best to deliver.
  • I’d like the possibility to move in 3D (industry, geography, function) and to have transversal roles.

Imagine we are a company undergoing a transformation from a traditional and hierarchical organization to a new model. How do we retain you though this process? Inspire you?

  • Show me that there is light at the end of the tunnel: create a career plan for me, map the steps clearly.
  • Be honest and open about the realities of the transformation.
  • Seeing progress is important – even small progress. Show the plan for change. Demonstrate that you’re implementing feedback.
  • The company has to make sure the flame is still there!

Chairing the discussion was Jennifer Jordan, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour. To frame the discussion, Professor Jordan gave an overview of the unique characteristics of Millenials (see Cracking the Millenial Code). For example, Millenials are the first generation brought up with a child-focussed and emotional style that arose from 1960s counter-culture. They are also the first to grow up in a rich media environment offering complex and non-linear computer games. Values also differ: when asked to choose an object that represents freedom to them, Baby Boomers choose the car whereas Millenials choose the mobile phone, closely followed by sneakers!

Anouk Lavoie
IMD Research Associate

“It was very beneficial to be part of the panel as I had the opportunity to debate what the main challenges are that companies have attracting Millennial talent. I felt that companies have this matter on the top of their agenda, and are striving to create environments where Millennials can have a meaningful career.”

David Ruiz
IMD MBA 2018 Candidate

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