Incorporating Millennials into Your Aging Workforce


By Kenneth Merritt and Scott Rottmann July 8, 2015

Human resources leaders play a crucial role in business transformation at every major crossroads companies face, from finding the right talent to competing in the digital era to adapting to workplaces that are increasingly mobile and collaborative. One of the most important business transformations facing companies now, and which HR again plays a central role, is understanding Millennials as they continue to assume a more prominent place in the workforce.

Business leaders are paying attention to this topic, particularly to the strategic decisions they need to make in order to keep their companies vital and competitive. We see this in the headlines all the time. For example, a recent article in Fortune titled, “Why hiring millennials could be good for business” states that this age group pushes the digital boundaries, seeks and creates opportunities to give back to society and has new ideas about corporate positioning and interacting with the public. Indeed, if an organization only caters to Generation X or Baby Boomers, it will likely miss out on meaningful opportunities to grow and evolve, and even risk becoming obsolete.

To take full advantage of the fresh thinking and new perspectives Millennials bring to their work, companies must think about their potential impact the same way they prepare for other major organizational changes. This requires involving all core business leaders, from IT and marketing to finance and operations. HR executives are crucial in the process of collaborating with other leaders in the business to bring about transformation with Millennials in mind.

Here are four suggestions to guide thinking and collaboration when it comes to leveraging Millennials for business transformation:

Evaluate Your Organization in Its Current State

The first step is to understand how the Millennials on your team prefer to work and interact and gauge the “Millennial-friendliness” of your organization. Is your company positioned to attract and retain the best young talent on the market? What can be improved? Who should or should not be involved in this evaluation and decision-making process?

For instance, your organization may have a bias for hiring people with more experience instead of Millennials who are earlier on in their careers. This naturally demands processes and infrastructure that only those individuals prefer. An honest assessment of your current state combined with the solicitation of input from your younger team members can shine a light on some areas that can be improved or even overhauled.

Determine Your Organization’s Limits and Non-Negotiables

Can your organization tolerate an overhaul? Once you have evaluated where your organization stands, consider what it is willing or not willing to do. How does incorporating Millennials fit into the organization’s bigger picture and overarching goals? What changes is your organization willing to make, and how will they play into the business transformation process? For example, many Millennials often appreciate an organization with flexible work hours, yet perhaps your organization does not have the needed resources to make this change. Instead, try compromising on flexibility and allowing staff to work remotely. Be flexible on where your staff works, not when.

Communicate and Collaborate to Implement Small Changes

It is important to gather input from all age groups when beginning the transformation process. All parties must understand how Millennials prefer to work and how these desires might differ from their more seasoned colleagues. It should be made clear that certain established practices will not change. For example, if your organization offers benefits that are important to team members nearing retirement age but not to younger colleagues, those benefits will likely not be replaced by ones Millennials prefer. Creating a plan that is inclusive of all generations and members of your infrastructure will have the greatest benefit on the organization as a whole.

Iterate and Reinforce

Once the business transformation is “complete,” it is not nearly over. A successful transformation occurs when systems are in place that can adapt to the changing realities in your workforce. For instance, implementing a “Millennial taskforce” that reports to senior leaders on a consistent basis can provide an ongoing review of your organization’s Millennial-friendly practices. This perspective will be instrumental in ensuring everyone is on board with changes moving forward.

Organizations with a significant share of Millennials in their workforce can reap the benefits of their fresh perspectives if they begin the business transformation process now. HR can take the initiative to implement this business transformation, carve out the appropriate roles and responsibilities for Millennials, and ultimately prepare the business for the future.

Kenneth Merritt serves as the managing director of strategy, finance and operations and Scott Rottmann serves as the managing director and enterprise market lead at MorganFranklin Consulting, a strategy and execution-focused business consulting firm headquartered in Washington, D.C.​


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