To Understand Millennials, Think Lifecycle, Not Generation

Countless words have been written about the idiosyncrasies of the Millennial generation.

gettyimages-505726547-compressorHow they work. What motivates them. How they view their careers. What they expect from their employers. What companies can do to attract them, retain them, and get them to be engaged, productive and innovative while they’re part of a company’s workforce.

Bruce Pfau, a senior partner in KPMG’s Strategy practice, believes the issue is simpler than it may seem. From his perch, not only looking out over KPMG’s workforce but also advising c-suite officers at the firm’s clients on how HR strategy ties to financial results, he sees not so much a generational shift as a question of lifecycle. Plus, of course, a good dose of technological change.

“Workers who are over 60 are digital immigrants,” Pfau says, “while 25-year-olds are digital natives.” While this makes a difference in how the work gets done, he says, “it’s a minor element when it comes to what drives people at work.”

“Whether someone is a digital immigrant or a digital native is a minor element when it comes to what drives people at work.”

Beyond technology, he adds, the differences between the generations are a function of age and where people are in their careers. “Younger workers are more prone to change jobs than older workers are,” Pfau says, “and there are lots more jobs to change to at the bottom of the pyramid than there are at the top.” Even so, he adds, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Millennials are actually less mobile than young workers were 20 years ago. And that’s especially true, he notes, at places like KPMG, which has instituted a program that offers what they call an “early career investment bonus,” providing young employees with a financial incentive for sticking around.

What all workers, regardless of age, lifecycle or generation have in common, Pfau says, is the need to feel like they’re working for a successful company that:

  • Doesn’t do anything to detract from an employee’s pride in the company
  • Creates and sells great products and services to its customers
  • Provides workers with what they need to do a good job
  • Assigns work that is engaging
  • Pays people competitively

Check those boxes, Pfau says—and always make sure you’re telling the truth—and chances are you’ll have a “charged-up workforce”—regardless of generation—that is likely to “join, stay and deliver.”



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