Terms like ‘millennial’ are not one-size fits all, and each generation has its own expectations

Author: Liana Cafolla | Date: 8 Feb 2017

Experts at Morgan McKinley’s HR seminar say we are all shaped by our environment

Labeling entire groups of people and their expectations based only on when they were born is too simplistic, but it can provide organisations with a broad idea of what their employees want.
Every new generation brings its own set of expectations to the workplace and has needs that are related to the current era that may be out of step with those of other employees, said experts at Morgan McKinley’s recent HR seminar.
According to Morgan McKinley’s ‘Managing Millennials’ white paper, differences between millennials and previous generations can be largely understood by recognising that every generation (and individual) is shaped by their environment. Millennials are no different in this respect, with the 2008 financial crisis and the pace of technology growth playing central roles.
Millennials’ perceived sense of entitlement can be traced to growing up in a world that was stable, progressive and relatively prosperous until the financial crisis of 2008 hit. Then they suddenly found themselves having to cope with the shock of finding that incomes and opportunities can go down as well as up.
Their early comforts may have encouraged them to delay taking on responsibilities such as developing long-term relationships and building a career, which left them less financially and emotionally well-equipped to withstand the shock when the financial crisis struck, the report suggested.
“Don’t compartmentalise them – they’re just a newer, younger, part of the team,” advised Samuel Tsang, partner and human capital leader at Deloitte Consulting Hong Kong.
The tendency to expect fast results and progress has been fed by the speed of technology, which has made instant and constant communication a normal facet of millennials’ lives. This experience has encouraged them to expect regular and open communication in the workplace.
Demands for more feedback, communication and transparency are not unique to one generation. “That’s not a millennials’ issue – everyone would like more transparency,” said Niq Lai, chief talent & financial officer and co-owner at Hong Kong Broadband Network.
Millennials are reputed to demand better work-life balance, but that has been a long-held desire of many employees, said Tsang, who added that he enjoys the benefits of having flexible working hours himself, as do many of his colleagues.
Lai agreed that everyone wants more quality time for their private life, and is unequivocal about going beyond striving to achieve a work-life balance. “We [at HKBN] think that’s ridiculous,” he said. “Life comes first.”
Fundamentally, millennials are just like everyone else, said Tsang. “We were all once like millennials. What’s different is they tell you how they feel. Also, they are not afraid of failing. We need to learn from each other. We need to give them the space to try things out and adopt new mindsets to go forward with this workforce.”