Guest Column | December 19, 2018

How To Create An Environment Of Success For Millennial Hourly Workers

By Atif Siddiqi, Branch Messenger

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Tl;dr, the world of work is changing fast, and so is the next generation of employees shaping it. Without a doubt, there is a major shift in the attitude, goals, and mentality of young workers who are increasingly filling the ranks of professional, hourly, and gig work. Born between the years of 1981 and 1996, millennials began dominating the workforce in 2015 and currently represent north of 51 million people.

On one hand, this crop of workers is both enticing to employers while also remaining misaligned and misunderstood. As available talent that is navigating an unpredictable stable of jobs that lack some of the pillars of stability that enticed their parents -- things like pension plans, they are also changing the game with an entirely different value set.

  • They’re unpredictable, yet predictable. More than any other previous generation, young employees are more likely to stay at a job for less than two years.
  • Full-time employees that are within this cohort are making less in their annual wages.
  • Lower wages have pushed Millennials into the gig economy and freelance work. More than 27 percent of workers aged 25-34 are more likely to engage in freelance work.

Today’s young crop of workers are tech-savvy, resilient, and emboldened by progressive viewpoints on corporate brands and philosophies. Just as important, if not more important, are working for a company that aligns with a Millennial’s values.

At the same time, the economic forces dictating the American work world are in flux.

“Blue Collar” roles that dominated the American workforce in the 1980s -- construction and manufacturing jobs -- have now given rise to a new economy of hourly workers pursuing roles in customer service, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail. The forces of automation and robotics also have greatly impacted a legion of jobs that relied on things built and shaped by hand and manual labor. There are still many challenges as economic factors have created a very tight and challenging job market.

For many hourly Millennial workers, the challenges of saving money and meeting fiscal obligations. These three stats stand out as chief challenges that differentiate today’s younger workforce:

  • Thirty percent believe that their job is merely a means “to pay bills while pursuing other interests.”
  • More than 30 percent of hourly workers report they are making less money than they spend.
  • In hourly positions, employees are most often working to live rather than living to work.

At the same time previous generations of the workforce are graying, and Millennials are increasingly uninterested and ill-equipped for some of the more technical and hands-on jobs -- especially manufacturing. Each year, 20 million Millennials are hired into the workforce, but fewer and fewer have the necessary skills or desire for hourly or technically skilled jobs.

To win Millennials’ loyalty, demonstrate that your company takes work-life balance seriously and understands that employees have a life outside the office. They’ll be happier and more productive on the job.

Here are some tips to win over their support:

  1. Set clear goals for your employees. Annual reviews are an ancient measurement for success for the Millennial worker. Instead, set benchmarks that map to specific goals and objectives that tie to projects or work. Use frequent check-ins to measure progress and understand where there are gaps that can be closed or address the positive aspects of job performance.
  2. Offer frequent feedback. Again, formal and frequent feedback is best for this cohort of workers. By offering formal feedback as often as once per quarter, and informal feedback every day, or every few days, is a helpful way to engage employees and ensure they are provided guidance that can keep them on the right path.
  3. Create a positive work environment that supports work-life balance. Millennial employees have spent almost an entire lifetime growing up with digital devices and connectivity. They’re the perfect group to embrace an “always-on” connection to work but for some more manual and hands-on job roles, there needs to be a distinction. When asked what they want from a job, increasingly younger employees are saying they want a competitive pay and an enjoyable work environment.
  4. Provide flexibility: With technology allowing greater flexibility for their personal lives, millennials also seek flexibility in their work lives. More flexible work environments can allow workers to be more productive because they're finding the optimal times that they work best. And work flexibility isn't just for those who can work from home -- it can be offered to hourly workers by allowing them ways to work their preferred hours and being able to swap shifts easily in case of emergency. They'll find greater satisfaction at work knowing they found a way to meet both their work and personal commitments.

With unemployment at its lowest since 1969 and millennials making up the majority of the workforce, the competition for millennial talent and leadership will only grow fiercer. Implementing a strategy for attracting and retaining your millennial employees can set the tone for the company for decades to come.

About The Author

Atif Siddiqi is founder and CEO of Branch Messenger, a workforce management application that provides hourly workers and their employers schedule predictability, shift flexibility, workplace engagement, and instant access to earned wages.