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Workforce 2020 – Part 1: The Looming Talent Crisis, or which myths about Millennials are busted

Everyone talks about Millennials – but we will have five different generations in the workforce soon. Millennials will be the majority, though, so now's the time to drill deeper into what is happening.

Everyone talks about Millennials – but we will have five different generations in the workforce soon. Millennials will be the majority, though, so now's the time to drill deeper into what is happening.

A new study conducted by Oxford Economics for SAP busts several myths that we hear about Millennials. More important, it found evidence that shows Millennials will be the workforce majority soon. It isolates several key factors that companies need to act on now. This week at SuccessConnect in Vegas, we will reveal details about this study – stay tuned here.

Oxford Economics and SAP conducted global surveys of 2,700 executives and 2,700 employees in 27 countries during the second quarter of 2014. We asked executives to identify their company’s performance level and employees to report their performance on their last appraisal. 

We found that although companies must manage diverse, mobile, multi-generational employees, they lack adequate structure, strategy, culture, and resources to do so.  And some of the current misconceptions on what Millennials care about need to be corrected.

In order to succeed, enterprises must take action on several fronts, including setting strategy around the role and relevance of people. The changing employee demographics and evolving definitions of work will contribute to the risk portfolio if not managed well. Companies will need leadership cultivation and they'll need to overcome shortfalls quickly to respond to worker wants and needs.

At the core of the challenges to mastering digital transformation (link blog series) will be talent acquisition and development – as well as lifelong learning to bridge the technology skill development gap.

Find more on the Workforce2020 hub here.

But let us look at some of the myths first, as Millennials are different, but not as different as companies think. Even as executives say they're concerned about Millennials entering the workforce, they aren’t making any special plans for managing them: Fewer than one-third (30%) of executives say they are giving special attention to the particular wants and needs of Millennials.

Millennials are different, but not as different as companies think.

And perhaps they don’t need to: There are many myths about what Millennials want most from work—let's zero in on five of them:

  • Myth 1: Millennials care more than non-Millennials about making a positive difference in the world through work.
  • Research reports:Just about one-fifth of Millennials and non-Millennials alike cite this as important to their job satisfaction. But competitive compensation matters most.

68% of Millennials and 64% of non-Millennials cite competitive compensation as an important or very important benefit, and 41% of Millennials and 38% of non-Millennials say higher compensation would increase their loyalty and engagement with the company

  • Myth 2: Achieving work/life balance is more important to Millennials.
  • Research reports: 31% of non-Millennials say this is important to their job satisfaction, vs. 29% of Millennials.  

  • Myth 3: Finding personal meaning in their work is more important to Millennials.

  • Research reports: Finding personal meaning is actually slightly more important to non-Millennials (18%) than Millennials (14%).

  • Myth 4: Meeting income goals are less important to Millennials as long as they are learning and growing.
  • Research reports: Millennials prioritize meeting career goals and income goals, followed distantly by learning and growing. When it comes to job satisfaction, Millennials prioritize meeting career goals (35%), meeting income goals (32%), and meeting goals for advancement (29%).

  • Myth 5: Millennials are more likely to plan on leaving in the short-term.
  • Research reports: Millennials are no more likely than non-Millennials to leave their jobs in the next six months.  However, women are more likely overall to leave than men and they express more job dissatisfaction than men.

Separating myth from reality and creating incentives accordingly is a key to success for the 2020 workforce. But Millennials do need be managed differently, in terms of feedback and development.

Nearly one-third of Millennials say they expect more feedback on their performance than they currently receive—and they want it more often than non-Millennials. More than two thirds of Millennials want informal feedback from their managers at least monthly, whereas less than half of non-Millennials expect feedback that often.

Only 7% of Millennials say they have experienced most of their professional development through networking, likely because they have not developed a network of contacts yet; this means Millennials are relying more on formal training and mentoring to develop their skills.

48% of executives report difficulty in finding employees with base-level skills, so they should be focused more on developing these skills within their organizations.

Accommodating Millennials’ desire for more feedback and development opportunities would not just satisfy Millennials—it would help push companies forward.

Find more details on the study here (

As mentioned above, one other element is standing out—technology skills development will continue to lag.

The need for skills like analytics, cloud, and programming/development will grow sizably over the next three years, but less than half of employees expect to be proficient with most of these key technologies in three years. Skills in vital areas such as cloud and mobile are also lagging compared to other technologies like programming/development and job-specific software.

Although 51% of executives say analytics skills are well-represented at their organizations, they also say that analytics skills are the most difficult to acquire.

In order to develop the technology skills they need within their organizations, companies will have to focus more on supplying the right technology and training to their employees.

Currently, less than half of employees say their companies provide ample training on the technology they need, and less than one-third say their companies make the latest technology available to them.

In my next blog on the Workforce 2020—Part 2, we will focus on what matters most and what companies need to understand about their employees' desires. There is a leadership crisis looming, but companies are not focused on developing future leaders. To bridge the gaps there is a clear mandate: learning—as better training and education opportunities would benefit employees and businesses alike.

Tune into the Tweet chat this Wednesday and watch the replays of SuccessConnect ( where experts will talk in-depth about the findings. And always care deeply about Millennials—they will be the majority of your workforce soon.

Follow us via @SuccessFactors, @SAPCloud and me via @SDenecken or LinkedIn to stay tuned.

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