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Why millennials want flexibility in the workplace

Sep 28 2016 14:26
Lameez Omarjee

Johannesburg – Having a sense of purpose is the greatest driver influencing a millennial’s decision to choose a job.

This is according to the Deloitte’s 2016 Annual Millennial Survey. Tumelo Seaketso, partner and director at Deloitte Consulting shared some of the findings from the survey at a round table discussion hosted by Tower Bridge in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

“Personal values has a great influence on how millennials make decisions on where they work and the employers they choose,” she said. If millennials do not believe in the goals that their employers want them to achieve, or feel that it compromises their integrity, they would consider moving on.

The global survey, with 7 700 participants, including 200 from South Africa, showed that two-thirds of millennials state that the organisation’s purpose is the reason they choose to work there. They also prefer to have a collaborative work environment where they can share information and they value transparency, said Seaketso.

“They believe in innovation in business, and finding innovative ways to solve problems in businesses.”

Flexibility is key

Millennials want flexible careers that play to their strengths, said Seaketso. The survey showed that 66% of millennials plan to leave their current employment by 2020, in South Africa this is 76% millennials. “One in four millennials consider leaving their jobs in the next year,” she said.

This is often because millennials want their work to have a sense of purpose. Most millennials are concerned about the “people” aspect of their jobs which includes their contribution to society and connection to their leaders. Others leave because they believe their talents are underutilised, she explained.

Flexibility in the way the work is done and outcomes are achieved is another factor. “Millennials desire flexibility on a range of things,” said Prof. Andrew Thatcher, chair of industrial and organisational psychology at Wits University. Often millennials move across different companies throughout their careers in order to gain skills.

Technology is increasingly being used as a tool to enhance the flexibility in which millennials can deliver outcomes, said Seaketso. “They want to use technology to innovate and do work in a way that is meaningful to them.”

Having flexibility does not mean there should be no structure. Millennials require direction and output goals. They want flexibility in the way they achieve these outcomes, added Jackie Launder, executive partner at Mindcor Executive Search and Consulting. Instead of having annual reviews, they want direct feedback to “autocorrect” what they are producing, she said.

AUDIO: Jackie Launder on why flexibility in the workplace is important to millennials

Disillusioned millennials

Millennials are often disillusioned by what they find in the workspace and in terms of the accountability of their leadership. Often the employer’s value proposition does not match the brand they perceived as consumers, said Launder.

Employers often enforce leadership strategies from the 70s and 80s, and workforce dynamics have changed, said Launder. “Leadership is not ready for them, they still manage upwardly and do not collaborate with millennials.”

As more millennials leave their jobs, in pursuit of opportunities where they can develop innovative ideas, the entrepreneurial space has become a popular option.

“They believe they are being stifled and want to come up with ideas in innovative environments, which makes them leave,” said Seaketso.

However, instead of entering the entrepreneurship space immediately after matriculating, millennials often opt to learn from the companies they work for to develop skills that will make them successful entrepreneurs, added Thatcher. 

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