global workforce

The Global Workforce Is Changing with Millennials in Mind

Four years from now, Millennials will make up half of the global workforce. They were raised in different times and in a different way, and this often leads to misconceptions. Older generations often accuse Millennials of being entitled, less accountable and even lazy. More than 6 out of 10 HR professionals believe that Millennials are “hard to manage” and perhaps even “unprepared for the workplace”. Millennials themselves also seem unhappy, with only 29 percent feeling engaged with their work. As a result, 6 out 10 Millennials leave their companies in less than 3 years at an estimated cost of $20,000 per person to replace.

As the Baby Boomer generation retires in the upcoming years, it is critical to understand Millennials’ different working perspectives in order to develop the right HR approach to attract and retain Millennial talent in the global workforce.

Can Do It

Brought up with a less hierarchical parenting and educational approach, Millennials were taught to form their own opinions, while receiving an ample supply of attention and appraisal. This has led to a more assertive, self-confident, and individually empowered generation.

Boss Baby

About 72 percent of Millennials would love to be their own boss. With this entrepreneurial mindset, Millennials desire ownership and autonomy and dislike work without understanding the end purpose. Micro-management is one of the biggest reasons why they quit jobs. It’s not a surprise that the gig economy with flexible work schemes is attractive to them. Amazon Flex uses the tagline “be your own boss” and stresses the ability to spend time on other passion points and challenges in life.

Addicted to Likes

Millennials seem to be addicted to constant feedback – they just think of obsessively checking Facebook and other social media updates. Translated to the workplace, it means they expect more intense coaching, with 42 percent wanting feedback at least on a weekly basis (more than twice the rate of other generations). General Electric got rid of its annual performance reviews in favor of app-based continuous feedback on short term goals. PWC and Accenture also use digital collaboration tools shifting focus to immediate performance development.

Millennials grew up in an internet-enabled and customizable world. Just like personalizing sneakers or Spotify-lists, they expect to customize work benefits too. Variety seeking Millennials like to use their unique talents and skills in project-style assignments. The global workforce of the future should include more flexible contracts.

Together We Are Strong

Although they are individually empowered, Millennials are in fact less individualistic than Gen X and Gen Z. They were raised with democratic decisions at home and cooperative learning styles at school. They believe a team can accomplish more with better results than solo riders. Microsoft created The Collective Project, a content hub highlighting the collaborative work of inspiring students to improve the world.

A Greater Purpose

With growing educational levels, work, income and classic status symbols (like company cars and titles) became more a means to an end. For 60 percent of Millennials a sense of purpose is the reason they chose their current employer. More than half would take a 15 percent pay cut to work for a company that matches their ideals. Unilever – with Paul Polman as the CEO – is a strong example of how the focus on sustainability and values can boost both the company performance and reputation. All Unilever brands have social purposes and nearly all have double digit growth. Unilever is also the third most searched company on LinkedIn (after Google & Apple).

The Me-conomy

The Netflix culture deck is a 124-slide presentation on SlideShare, explaining the goals, values and employee engagement programs that emphasize freedom and responsibility. Netflix has an unlimited holidays policy, unlimited parental leaves in the first year after giving birth and employees can expense without getting approvals. Starbucks encouraged staff to be more creative and engaged, by providing them with the Barista Originals platform for recognition. More than 7,500 locations across the US took part in the promotion selling coffees that were created by staff members.

Everyday Wellbeing

Health Assurance company Aetna has started with paying employees for each night they sleep more than 7 hours. Since lack of sleep can be harmful to health, the sleep awakening program is raising attention to this issue starting with the company’s own staff members. Scottish craft brewery Brewdog gives a week of paid “pupternity leave” for any new dog owners to help them bond with their puppy or adopted dog. When even investment banks like Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan implement “protected weekends” policies for its young bankers, everyday wellbeing at work is now a key focal point to retain Millennials.

While Millennials may not be prepared for the global workforce today, they are certainly more prepared for the workplace of tomorrow. To shape a pro-Millennial organization, companies must embrace a mission-driven culture and team-oriented structure. Those who are capable of distributing power and trust to young individuals while taking care of their everyday wellbeing are set to win the race for talent.


Kristof co-founded InSites Consulting in 1997, acting as CEO of the company since 2012, providing strategic direction and energy to more than 130 team members in New York, London, Rotterdam, Ghent and Timisoara. With over 20 years of relevant experience with world leading FMCG brands, Kristof helps global brands to unlock the consulting potential that resides in ‘ordinary’ consumers. Joeri Van den Bergh is co-founder, managing partner and NextGen expert of InSites Consulting, a global new generation research agency with offices in New York, London, Rotterdam, Ghent and Timisoara. He has extensive experience of all aspects of branding, marketing and advertising to kids, teens and young adults. His clients include global customers such as eBay, Coca-Cola, Spotify, Danone, IKEA, Heineken, Converse, Nestlé, AXA and Unilever for whom he has provided research and advice on how to target the youth market. He is an awarded global thought leader on the impact of Millennials and Generation Z on marketing and business. His best-selling marketing book How Cool Brands Stay Hot: Branding to Generation Y and Z has been awarded several times (a.o. The American Marketing Association Berry-AMA Book Prize) and the third complete revised edition will be published in April 2016. More information? Visit

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