Embrace the youth, says Springage by Deloitte's Neliswa Fente

Companies will future proof their businesses by deliberately attracting and welcoming a younger skill set.

Born between 1980 and 2000, millennials love nothing more than selfies captioned with inspirational quotes and grand plans to change the world, all while wearing yoga pants or a man bun. Even unemployed at 27, they remain confident they can achieve millionaire status by 30. They don’t believe in failure because they got trophies for trying.

It’s a generation the corporate world is struggling to come to grips with, reflected in high staff turnover among younger employees. 

But while they don’t react to well to criticism and come across to their older peers as entitled, this generation is also an improvement on their predecessors, said Neliswa Fente, leader and co-founder at Springage by Deloitte, addressing delegates at the 2019 Finance Indaba in Sandton: “Millennials are also quite smart, they’re tech savvy, they’re globally connected, socially conscious and they have a better understanding and experience with diversity than the older generations.”

In this rapidly changing world, companies are finding it harder not only to attract a younger work force, but to retain them. A survey of millennials by Deloitte revealed that 43 percent of younger South African employees prefer freelance or consultative work.

Neliswa said:

“These young people reject companies because they feel that the organisation’s values are not in line with their own, and that employers are not looking at them holistically."

Many younger employees are multi-faceted and are already involved in earning extra money through the ‘gig economy’ and the internet, on top of having a day job. While they might be fulfilling a specific role at the company, outside of that they’re working as deejays, YouTubers or social media influencers. Millennials are digital natives who naturally consider the future in their thinking and Neliswa says they could be the differentiator in achieving the company’s strategic objective.

Companies that are rigid in their approach with regards to their employees having more than one job are more likely to lose their younger skill set because they have other skill sets that are providing additional income and exposure.

It’s one thing to hire a millennial and its an entirely different ball game to keep them. “Forty-three percent of millennial employees said that they only plan to stay with their current employers for up to two years. As soon as they get in, they are keen to figure out what’s next. So they’re joining companies, almost with one foot already out of the door,” said Neliswa.

Now more than ever, companies must make the effort to bridge the generational gap at work. “There is a big disconnect between the four generations,” said Neliswa. Millennials were born into a world that is inherently faster and more connected, whereas people born prior to the dotcom boom and information age approach work vastly differently. 

“One of the biggest problems facing millennials is being told to wait 10 years before they get a seat at the table ? this is a generation that can express themselves in 140 characters or less.”

Neliswa’s company, Stringage by Deloitte, is helping companies bridge the gap between generations through inter-generational workshops. These sessions have helped millennials to get more involved in their companies and have a better understanding of the challenges facing their senior executives.