Q&A: Richie Holliday: “Millennials will leave if they can’t make an impact”

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 25 Nov 2015

Morgan McKinley's Asia Pacific COO says it’s possible to keep employees motivated, despite a culture of instant gratification

Richie Holliday - ProfileMillennials - sometimes known as ‘generation Y’ - are impatient for career success: they move jobs more often than their predecessors, searching for bigger rewards, more empowerment or a better work-life balance. People Management asks Richie Holliday, COO for Asia Pacific at specialist global recruiter Morgan McKinley, about the new HR challenges presented by millennial ambition.

How do millennials’ job searches differ to those of previous generations of workers?
It’s much more lifestyle-driven now. Everyone wants a funky office, with free food, ‘dress down’ days, the ability to bring your own device - or being given a laptop - and a good work-life balance. The previous generation wasn’t worried about work-life balance; it was more a case of get a job, get your head down and hopefully do well.
 
What impact do public reputation and employer brand have on jobseekers’ choices?
It would definitely cross people’s minds. If [the organisation] is seen as one that’s made an error or is not in a good place, people might avoid it. Conversely, you can sometimes learn more and get a better experience by working with an organisation that isn’t in a good place.
 
An organisation such as RBS [the troubled British bank which has been given bailout money by the government] is going through quite a radical shake-up and there’s a lot of project work - so you might get exposure to quite senior individuals, and you’ll walk away from that organisation with a whole new set of skills which someone working in a stable role might not have acquired.
 
What triggers are causing employees to seek new jobs at the moment?
The biggest thing is a lack of instant gratification. Part of our culture is that we’re used to getting things quicker: technology means we’ve become used to not waiting for anything, and this has pervaded the workplace too. Previous generations were prepared to join an organisation for a few years and see what happens. Generation Y will say: “If I’m not causing ripples here after 18 months, I’m gone.” Their timeframe is shorter and a perceived lack of speed in their progression will cause them to move on.
 
The second thing, linked to that, is seeing titles and responsibilities change and wanting new challenges. If you were an accounts payable clerk in an investment bank 20 years ago, you’d go in and try and work your way to the top over 30 years. You’d be happy to do the same job for five years. Now, when people feel they have cracked a certain job, they want to do something new and different - something fresh, a new challenge.
 
And employees will leave if there’s a disconnect between what the organisation’s management says they will do and what they actually do. If the great things they say they do aren’t manifested in reality, workers will start to look elsewhere.
 
Has HR become more central to organisational strategy?
It is becoming more vital to the way organisations are run - but it’s still not central to business decisions. When you look at the organisations that have embraced a more forward-looking people development strategy, HR is able to sit at the boardroom table and shape big decisions, rather than being brought in once those decisions are made and being told to make the plan work.