Analysis. Millennials in Romania: The driving (work)force

Newsroom 11/09/2017 | 12:00

Seen as the next generation of employees, Millennials have the power to make companies adjust their organizational culture in order to meet their needs and demands. But who are they and what are their career preferences? What should a company do to be on their “desirable” employers list? BR talked with specialists to get their point of view.

Anda Sebesi

 

The Millennial generation seems to have attained an almost mythical status: that they are a group so different in values, beliefs and expectations that they challenge the status quo across every aspect of our lives. From academic literature to the popular press, debates rage about how “different” Millennials really are.

Born towards the end of the last century, Millennials now make up the youngest segment of the workforce—the fresh talent that employers are eager to attract.

They are growing in affluence and, for a growing number of organizations, understanding the needs and desires of this generation is crucial.

According to the 2016 CBRE Global Overview, called “Millennial Myths and Realities,” by 2020, Millennials born between 1980 and 2000 will make up half of the global workforce. With such a large voice, Millennials’ decisions about where they work, how they work and whom they work for will have lasting consequences for the global economy and for real estate. For example, let’s consider the workplace, which plays a significant role in staff well-being and productivity. Employers looking to attract and retain the best and the brightest in the “war for talent” will need to know what motivates Millennials and how their needs may differ from those of previous generations, pundits say.

But who are Millennials – the current generation of employees who are about to change the organizational culture and force companies to adjust their strategies to their needs and demands accordingly? Seen from their educational perspective, Millennials are split into two different categories on the local market: graduates from universities and graduates of different industrial schools. “Both categories of Romanian Millennials challenge the local labor market,” says Mihaela Maranca, general manager at Randstad Romania, a subsidiary of Randstad, a top global recruiting company. The differences between the two of them come from their professional interests, types of companies they prefer to work for and their preferences for a specific working environment, just to name few.

Mihaela Maranca

“Millennials who graduate from university prefer to have a job in a flexible environment that meets their need for a sense of meaning from their work and a place which provides challenges and opportunities to develop rapidly. They prefer to gain new experiences across different projects rather than have the opportunity to progress,” says Maranca.

Millennials look for companies where their opinion is taken into consideration and where they get constant feedback; they are not attracted by organizations that implement classical biannual or annual evaluations and that are focused on barriers imposed by hierarchic levels.

“Plus, they have a preference for companies with a well-known brand that already offers them a good experience as consumers. They want to work for a dynamic employer whose business is dedicated towards a specific contribution,” adds Maranca.

By contrast, Millennials who graduate from different industrial schools that specialize in a wide range of technical professions, focus their interest on developing their career abroad.

 

More meaning and less money

Alis Anagnostakis, trainer, coach and founder of Mind Learners, says that, in her work with senior managers, she sees more and more of a gap between expectations and perceptions when it comes to the younger generation. “Often, younger employees are perceived as unreliable, superficial, entitled and I even heard the word ‘spoiled’ being used to describe them – all that for reasons that are partly justified and partly, in my opinion, have to do with a culture gap between two generations,” says Anagnostakis. She adds that, by comparison, some employees from the older generation, who grew up in the early days of multinational presence in Romania, seem to care less about fun working spaces, flexible schedules or companies that offer interesting work environments and a sense of meaning and belonging. They tend to value more job stability, career growth prospects, and generous financial packages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alis Anagnostakis

 

“Millennials on the other hand tend to expect work to be less of a duty, but rather a source of learning, fun and meaning. This younger generation no longer abides by the idea that work is work and play is play, but expects the two to mix. There is a worldwide trend showing that younger people are less interested in financial stability or markers of social success, such as owning a house or a car, but more preoccupied with freedom, flexibility, having as many meaningful experiences as possible (versus accumulating as many possessions as possible – which was the obsession of older generations) and contributing to society beyond their immediate circle,” explains the founder of Mind Learners.

Younger people seem to be more interested in making a difference in the world and, although many of them don’t really know how to articulate that. They expect their employer to provide a sense of meaning and contribution, to offer a flexible schedule, the possibility to work remotely and to recognize their performance more frequently. “They are no longer content to sell their time and energy in exchange for money. They expect innovative environments and to have fun at work. This need, when it’s not being fulfilled, tends to lead to oppositional or rebellious behaviors, which can easily be interpreted by employers as superficiality or irresponsibility,” adds Anagnostakis.

As Robert Machidon, general manager at APS Romania says, people want to have a decent and fair remuneration, they want to have their achievements recognized and promptly compensated. Moreover, young people want to get together and get involved in order to fulfill their expectations. “I guess what Millennials hate most is being bored and undervalued. And if you understand this,you can actually engage them and create a bubbly work environment where people not only contribute  by doing what they have to do, but also come up with fresh ideas,” adds Machidon.

According to him, Millennials’ expectations from potential employers refer to respect, opportunities, money and fair treatment. In other words, the usual stuff, but in different proportions. They fiercely protect their after-work life, they want to be free to enjoy their money and their time with friends and co-workers. “So, if you organize team building exercises, they have to be really good and meaningful. If you get them to work overtime, it has to be for a good reason and if you want them to join your CSR initiatives, it has to be for causes that are important for them, not only for your company,” advises the general manager of APS Romania. “On the other hand, I also noticed that, by integrating employees into the group and explaining the reasons behind the goals which need to be achieved, those goals become their own and they become more relaxed towards the aspects mentioned above,” he adds.

The financial issue is collateral for Millennials, say pundits. However, despite this, in the past years it was noticeable that candidates put significant pressure on increasing the levels of salary offered by employers for different jobs. “They have financial demands that significantly exceed the pay scale of the companies,” says Maranca of Randstadt.

As for their engagement with the business, a study conducted by Gallup last year, called ‘How Millennials Want to Work and Live,’ showed that just 29 percent of Millennials are engaged in their job, 6 out of 10 say that they are open to new job opportunities and just 50 percent intend to stay with their current company in the next year. “This is happening while organizations with better employee engagement are more productive, post less incidents to their workplace and a smaller percentage of absenteeism, while their work has a higher impact on the company’s profitability,” says Maranca.

 

How do Millennials set their career?

The way Millennials react when reading a staffing notice reveals what they expect from their potential employer, say experts. “A traditional announcement has small chances of attracting their attention, while they will react positively to a unique, vivid one. Millennials want an authentic dialogue, and are eager to be challenged and to be offered the chance to build something special, with an impact on society,” says Maranca of Randstadt. She adds: “Millennials expect a job to offer them the chance to develop and a way to contribute to a cause. When this doesn’t happen, Millennials need to change their job and thus the job hopping phenomenon begins.”

So, to what extent are Millennials job hoppers? According to CBRE global overview, the idea that Millennials expect to change employers frequently—or even that they want to hold a “portfolio” of roles with different employers simultaneously— is also at odds with what the Millennials CBRE surveyed. When asked about their ideal career ladder, the majority seem to have similar attitudes to previous generations. Most want to work for the same or a small number of companies during their career, while only a tiny proportion want to work for a large number of companies or change jobs frequently. As researchers found, 62 percent of Millennials see their ideal career as with the same or a small number of employers.

Mihai Paduroiu, CBRE

However, there are national differences in attitudes towards employment, with respondents in Mexico expressing the greatest appetite for change. German millennials, on the other hand, are the most loyal, with a third wanting to work for one company throughout their careers, says the same overview.

A recent survey conducted by Manpower and cited by CBRE in their global overview, found that Millennials want to move on and move up, but more often than not, they expect to advance with the same employer. The overwhelming majority of Millennials also want lifelong learning and are willing to spend their own time and money on further training. Almost two-thirds say the opportunity to learn new skills is a top factor when considering a new job.

Like the traditionalists before them, they want the security of full-time work to ensure they can maintain their standard of living. Rather than wanting one job for life, Millennials understand that continuous skills development is necessary to remain employable.

The same CBRE study shows that most companies recognize that the “war for talent” is real, and that they cannot take employee loyalty for granted. In this era of LinkedIn and job vacancy websites, it has never been easier for staff of all ages to identify opportunities elsewhere and for competitors or head-hunters to target your top talent. When coupled with the difficulty in finding satisfactory and stable employment in today’s competitive job market, it’s hardly surprising that young people tend to move between employers until a better “fit” can be found. Overall, the study found that the idea that Millennials are somehow pre-programmed for job-hopping seems misplaced; rather than desiring a nomadic career pattern, they are pursuing personal challenge, development, variety and skills enhancement.

Elsewhere, Machidon of APS says Millennials build their career as they go along. “In the beginning, they want to experience a lot of things and this may appear disconcerting to the people around them, as some of these experiences (work ones) tend to be quite short. They do not plan long term, that is for sure. However, many of them are very good at spotting great opportunities and making the most of them. You cannot blame them if they do not want to spend too much time in places they do not like. But rather, you should be happy when they choose to stay with you in the long run, this is a good testimony to the quality of the work environment you provide,” says the representative of APS.

 

A good work-life balance

According to the CBRE study, at present, 56% of Millennials worldwide think that work and leisure should be separate; they are not always-on and they value their personal time.

As the first generation of digital natives, Millennials’ aptitude with technology and its ubiquity in their lives changes their approach to work. As with the rest of the workforce, technology blurs the traditional boundaries between work and leisure time. However, while it’s widely assumed that younger generations readily accept or even welcome this blurring, CBRE findings show something different.

 

Slightly more than half of the Millennials surveyed agree with the statement, “work and leisure should be entirely separate,” while less than a quarter disagree. Millennials are not alone in expressing discomfort with the way technology promotes the intrusion of work into their personal lives. At the same time, though, employees of all generations welcome the ability to send personal emails or shop the internet from their desks. Sensible employers will recognize the need for work-life balance and will establish policies that demonstrate that they trust their employees to use technological access appropriately. They will also try to ensure that work doesn’t intrude excessively into personal life.

“At present, Romanian Millennial employees want to mix their work with creative and relaxation moments at their workplace,” says Nicolaescu of Dynamic HR. She highlights this trend by speaking about one of her company’s programs developed in 2010 in a call center, where the majority of employees were Millennials. “The main goal was to increase sales by encouraging well-being. Sales grew between 30 and 100 percent in the days when our program was implemented compared with other normal days,” adds the representative of Dynamic HR. However, she warns that, despite a balanced split between work and personal life is equally natural, healthy and desirable, the two concepts are connected as they have a direct or indirect influence on one another. “A total, extreme and clear separation between the two of them is not possible, as long as both of them have a mutual influence. Thus, this is an additional reason for paying attention to well-being programs,” adds Nicoalescu.

 

Millennials bring well-being to the next level

According to a study conducted by Deloitte last year that analyzed the answers of about 7,700 Millennials from 29 countries worldwide, the professional/personal balance posted the highest score, followed by the opportunity to progress in a company or be leaders (but not necessarily holding a formal leadership position.) So what do Millennials expect from their professional career and how do they mix it with well-being?

“Young people seem to be keener to cultivate well-being in their lives. We see more and more people actively practicing sport, healthy eating, sharing and sustainable living. Part of this inclination towards well-being seems to be the expectation that work should be a source of joy and satisfaction, not just something that has to be done to earn money and be able to “build a life” after work. For many young people, the border between work and life is becoming blurred, or at least this seems to be their aspiration,” says Anagnostakis of Mind Learners.

However, she highlights that there is the other side of the coin, which might give credit to some of the labels being placed on Millennials by  the older generation. Issues like the fact that the younger generation is suffering from the aftermath of an education system that is deeply flawed and misaligned with modern times; a lot of disoriented young graduates who don’t know where to go or what to do with their lives; a lot of discontent among Millennials who grew up protected from the outside world, raised by parents who told them that if they do their homework and get good grades all would be well – they would get a good job and be successful. “They are now confronted with the hard reality that their university degree doesn’t mean much or that the skills they learned in school are outdated and far removed from what employers need: the ability to survive in the modern labor market where they need to be resilient, have high tolerance for failure, be a self-starter and a life-long learner,” adds Anagnostakis.

The well-being concept is an issue that concerns both employees and the company they work for. The role of an organization is crucial when it comes to achieving, assuring and maintaining well-being, say experts. “In the past years, companies have learned that the well-being of their employees means their well-being, as an organization, and an assurance for the future. Well-being programs are no longer seasonal and discontinuous. They start to become a so-called ‘modus vivendi’ in a company,” says Nicolaescu, of Dynamic HR. When applied in a strategic manner, it’s not just burnout that is avoided, she says.

However, despite companies becoming more and more interested in implementing well-being programs for the benefit of their employees, Nicoalescu says that it is still a “work in progress.” “This means that organizations are not 100 percent ready to examine the situation exactly the way it is. When we apply the well-being audit within organizations, there are cases when the management fears that it becomes intrusive and may discover issues that the company cannot address,” adds the representative of Dynamic HR.

As for the engagement of Millennials with the company they work for, Nicolaescu says that the more they are involved in choosing those well-being programs that are suitable for them, the better they will engag with their organization. “Thus, focusing on well-being and implementing such strategic programs can be a double edge sword and a common denominator of both the employees and the company, with significant benefits for each of them,” concludes the entrepreneur.

 

More than a working space

Millennials prefer unconventional work spaces – cafes, working from home, co-working hubs. But this usually applies to people who are focused on creativity or liberal arts. “What we discovered is that young professionals appreciate the big Pipera sky scrapers, despite the full elevators, the badges and the security systems, provided they work with people they like. To be honest, back when I joined the company I am now leading, I stayed for the exact same reason, although initially I thought I would only have a summer job. I liked my colleagues, the work environment, the fact that we were all young and enthusiastic and there was nothing we could not do or experience,” says Machidon of APS Romania.

The mindset of Romanian employees has changed significantly in the past years, and the financial incentives have decreased in importance in favor of other factors. “New generations are increasingly valorizing the way their working environment looks and put in balance the quality of life when deciding to take a job,” says Mihai Paduroiu, head of advisory & transactions, office division at CBRE.

At present, the majority of multinationals that operate on the local market offer a good working environment with many benefits for their employees (leisure spaces, unconventional working spaces, proximity to transportation.) “The offices post spectacular changes due to the influence of the new generation of employees. Millennials are more rational and selective when it comes to choosing a job. They look for an employer with a permanent development in order to keep up with the advancement of their career and technology,” says Paduroiu. He adds that employers try to offer a balanced working environment, a good cooperation between departments, a high-quality working space that benefits from additional services.

According to the CBRE 2016 global overview, the cafeteria is the most commonly provided facility and the most popular, followed closely by coffee bars. Each is desired by more than a third of millennials—roughly as many as currently enjoy access to them. It is notable that several types of facilities rate high in importance for a higher proportion of Millennials than currently have access to them; there are also some— like day care, dry cleaning and game rooms—that fewer than 20 percent of Millennials consider decision-changers.

A lack of wellness facilities is potentially of greater concern, and is an issue that companies are starting to take seriously. Previous research by CBRE has found that 74 percent of European employers have some type of health and wellness program in place. The enhancement of employee health is a primary focus, but employers expect to benefit in turn, through reduced healthcare costs and improved productivity and performance. This is an important issue for Millennials in the workplace, since their generation is characterized by a relatively strong commitment to health and well-being. As Goldman Sachs reports, Millennials define “healthy” as more than just “not sick” — it is a daily commitment to eating well and exercising.

 

A force for change

Millennials are, from whichever angle we might be looking at them, a force for change. They are no longer willing to be compliant, to strive hard for the salary at the end of the month, they are not as respectful or fearful of authority and they are, by their very presence, demanding that companies change.

“I am convinced that having to incorporate this eclectic, colorful, restless, sometimes flawed, other times amazingly inspirational generation is forcing companies themselves to transform. More and more companies are seriously considering how to make work more fun for their employees, how to create work environments that are creative, flexible and stimulating and in doing all that, company culture itself is shifting towards more constructive approaches,” concludes Anagnostakis.

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