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7 powerful ways to engage and retain millennial talent in Asia

Clive Barrow

03 March 2018

One of the most pressing challenges that sit high on most leaders’ agendas is how to effectively attract, engage and retain millennial talent.

Why are Millennials important?

Millennials are important as they will shape the world of work for the future. By 2020, millennials will form 50% of the global workforce, and by 2025 millennials will form 75% of the workplace according to studies by PwC and Deloitte consecutively. By 2020 Asia will have 60% of the world’s millennial population so they are the future of Asia’s workforce.

We believe there are 7 pivotal approaches that cultivate and leverage this talent pipeline.

1.  Understand & connect

Understanding is one thing, connecting is another, so look at what makes millennials in your workplace tick. They hold values that aren’t so different to what you stand for, such as the desire for security and variety, wanting to be stretched and challenged and be proud of the company they work for. However, there are important differences such as the need for flexibility, fast career development, an inspirational leader, and the very best technology. Hobbies are particularly important for millennial workers in China, Hong Kong, Japan and Vietnam, alongside international exposure and mobility as identified by Universum.

Understanding what is important to your millennial workers is the first step to engage and retain their talent.

2.  Flexibility & freedom

Millennials want to work with a flexible schedule and with a flexible manner, and will thrive in organisations that have a more fluid approach to working hours and style. In Hong Kong flexible working is particularly important, where 45% of millennials think that in the future they will mainly be working flexible hours vs. 32% globally, as shown within Managing Tomorrows People by PwC.

Ask yourself whether it really matters if your team isn’t in the office everyday working traditional office hours if they achieve (or over-achieve) all their objectives in the manner to which you need.

3.  Coaching not control

Autonomy, and the ability to work through challenges, are more desirable to millennials than being told how to do things. They want to be inspired by leaders rather than be micro-managed. It is no surprise therefore, that millennials prefer to be coached and mentored rather than supervised.

The working environment therefore, requires an open and honest culture, with the ability to give regular two-way feedback in a trusted environment. This is likely to be more challenging within Asia, particularly in Hong Kong where research undertaken in 2014 by The Oxford Group identified that only 17% percent felt that their manager was approachable and listened to them, vs 30% of those asked in Singapore.

4.  Make promises you can keep, not promises you can’t

There is often a disparity between perception and reality regards promises made to employees. If organisations want to attract, retain and get the very best talent, they need to work to reducing this disparity. Authenticity and doing what you say you will do is hugely important to this audience.

Think creatively about what the business can offer millennial talent, and don’t just think about monetary rewards. Whilst globally, millennials are largely motivated by similar attributes such as benefits and salary, flexible working, career progression, good work/life balance, and so on, we can see differences in Hong Kong where they are more motivated by excellent training and development programmes, equal opportunities, and benefits such as pensions and health care, as highlighted by PwC.

The high achieving millennial will work hard on delivering their promises to you, so don’t make promises you can’t deliver if you wish to retain talent.

5.  Technology driven

Technology is a dominant force in millennials lives. They are inspired by the latest technology and will become frustrated if processes and hardware within their workplace doesn’t allow them to work effectively. Many of our clients share with us that millennials are bringing their own computers to the office and there is also more propensity to use email or text conversations rather than face to face or telephone.

Look at what your working environment offers, it is worth considering investing in better technology if you feel it could positively enhance the working environment.

6.  Help them grow and advance – quickly!

Historically, career advancement was built on seniority and time of service, but millennials have more of a refreshing view, believing that results matter more over tenure, and often become frustrated with waiting to climb the career ladder. Progression is important to them, so if they are high achievers and either deliver or have the potential to deliver brilliant work – then why hold them back?

If a promotion isn’t readily available, it is likely millennial workers, particularly in Hong Kong, will be equally motivated by moving across the business, being mentored, learning a new skill or going on a learning and development programme.

7.  Have a plan in place for when they leave

The ideal scenario is to retain the highest talent for the longest time possible within your organisation, however, it is inevitable that millennials will leave so this should be built into your plans. Make sure you have Strategic People Planning approach, which will help you adapt with a proactive and positive approach when changes occur.