Looking around the insurance industry, it’s hard to believe that the global workforce is undergoing a period of momentous transformation. This is somewhat shielded by the grey suits, black ties and briefcases, but the truth of the matter is that something significant is bubbling away below the corporate surface.
Since 1999, a new breed of employee has entered the workforce. These creatures are different: they are outspoken, forward-thinking and innovative. They are millennials.
Often regarded as lazy, entitled ‘snowflakes’, millennials – or Generation Y – bear quite the reputation. Unjustifiably so, some might say. Like most things, it all boils down to perspective. Millennials’ tendency to revert to technology is often misinterpreted as laziness. Our inclination to speak up against something that offends us continually leads to us being branded “oversensitive”. The fact that we know what we want and won’t quit till we get it is repeatedly mistaken for an expression of privilege or having been “spoiled”.
What many millennial-condemners conveniently forget is that, one day, Gen Y will be leading the workforce. Your doctors? Millennials. Your teachers? Millennials. Your Prime Minister? You better believe it, millennial. In fact, according to KPMG, millennials already make up 35% of the nation’s workforce, and are expected to form 50% of the global workforce by 2020.
So, where does this leave the workplace of the future? Will we all become walking, talking, screen-wielding zombies? Will we lock ourselves away and cry every time somebody says something remotely offensive? Will we refuse to complete tasks we consider to be below our level of ability? I think not.
The reality is simple. Millennials are creating, expecting and demanding a different work/life experience. Organisations are increasingly managing non-traditional, multi-generational workforces as the conventional stages of life are questioned by Generation Y, who unapologetically adopt the “You Only Live Once” mentality. Working, breeding and dying isn’t enough anymore. Instead, millennials seek adventure, challenge and fun, and the workplace is changing as a result. Numerous studies have confirmed that millennials are typically more socially engaged, and this generational shift bleeds into our outlook on business. We’re not satisfied by simply changing the way a business operates internally: we want the organisations we work for to have a societal impact too.
But why is this?
It’s an accepted fact that every generation is eventually reduced to eye-rolling by the behaviour of their offspring. Your grandparents tutted at your parents’ antics in the same way that they then became exasperated at yours’. But, as a generation, millennials seem to have had it particularly tough: constantly being analysed and critiqued by the media, only to be labelled over-indulged, self-serving and bone-idle.
I can’t help but wonder whether the new age millennials have grown up in has shaped us as fundamentally different individuals to those who raised us, whatever their parenting style. We have grown up alongside major technological advancements and were at pivotal stages of life when social media hit its peak. Whether we indulged in these developments or not, the fact that they were emerging as we, too, were maturing has surely had an influence.
Social media has undoubtedly played a central part in this drastic shift of mindset. The notion of what “could be” is now so much more accessible thanks to the rise of social media, the internet and even transportation. The idea of “their life” vs. “your life”, the “that could be me” mentality, has been completely flipped on its head. Now, we think “that will be me”. Alongside this new mindset is the fact that new roles, industries even, are constantly being created and so, to quote the overused phrase, for millennials, the possibilities really are endless. We want excitement and regard this as an attainable goal. Is this why traditional markets like banking and insurance are struggling to attract young talent, while the tech and marketing industries are drowning in graduates?
For better or worse, millennials are changing the workspace. Generation Y(OLO) are rapidly transforming workplace culture as we strive to live in a world that is more accepting, and once corporate culture starts to evolve, the implications on wider society are limitless. Like it or not, millennials are here to stay and we’re changing the workplace, one recycling bin at a time.