In the workplace, millennials have fundamentally different values than older generations. Speaking to Bain at a recent World Economic Forum workshop on the digital enterprise, Andrew Rear, CEO of Munich Re Digital Partners, explains why employers need to meet the changing expectations of millennial employees.
Read the transcript below.
ANDREW REAR: I think the challenge for talent is sometimes overplayed. If you have the right culture, and you have interesting opportunities for people, and you provide the right employment conditions, then you can find the talent out there. The more interesting challenge for us, with a digital business, has been how much we want our culture to be the same as or different to our mother ship.
One of the things that digital allows you to do is to empower your people. And empowerment creates speed of decision making. But empowerment gets in the way of a hierarchical decision-making structure. So we've been experimenting with organizational principles, like Holacracy. Not to go the whole way; eventually, we are still part of a large regulated, quoted company.
The World Economic Forum project on digitalization is very important, because digitalization is something that affects almost every company in almost every market in the world. So being able to provide some lessons that we have learned on the road is potentially very valuable for the economy as a whole.
One of the most interesting conversations we've had as a group during this workshop has been around culture and whether it's really true that there are a group of millennials who have fundamentally different values and therefore need a fundamentally different employment contract to the previous generation—whether that's really just about younger people vs. older people, so they will mature into the older people.
One of the things that we concluded that was a new idea for me is that perhaps the equation is a little bit the other way around. That what's happening in the world today, in the developed world in particular, is that companies are less and less able to predict the future and therefore less and less able to provide security to their employees—both actual job security and also career path security, because they have to change structures so often to meet the changing demands of their marketplace.
And therefore, in a sense, what we think of as the millennial demands—the demand for purpose, for lifelong learning—are actually part of the contract that employers need to put in place because they can't offer the kind of security that they used to offer. I think that's an interesting way of thinking about that problem. And it puts the onus back onto employers to say, how am I going to give the right deal to my employees, knowing that I'm not going to be able to predict even if they will be working for me in the future?