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Contemporary HRM: Challenges of Managing a Young Workforce
[Document subtitle]
In advancing towards generating strategic capability and creating high-performance work systems for organisations, HRM faces several new challenges in the contemporary business environment. Some of these challenges relate to the management of diversity, responding to globalisation, increased female participation in workforce, management of young employees, etc (Beardwell and Clayton, 2007; Lefter, et al. 2007). In order to add strategic value and deliver high-performance work systems, contemporary HRM is required to overcome these challenges. This report focuses on the challenge of managing young employees in contemporary organisations. It discusses the issues associated with management of young employees, explores the differences and similarities between them and their older counter parts. Lastly, this report discusses how HR managers and business leaders can manage them effectively to achieve success.
Youth Employment
Academicians and management practitioners argue that HR managers must learn to supervise a new generation of employees called Millennials. It is estimated that by 2020, nearly 50% of all the employees in many of the developed countries will be Millennials. There is a widespread perception that these young employees have different agendas and expectations, which brings new challenges for their managers as these employees desire for an excited, varied and creative work environment. Millennials desire rapid progression in their career paths and crave working under those managers and business leaders who can offer them a high level of freedom and autonomy (Taylor, 2014). More than two thirds of young employees have a tendency to change not only their jobs, but also their careers at some point in pursuit of their passions. Nearly two third of millennials are likely to switch jobs in 12 months (Advance System Inc, 2017). More than 50 percent of millennials do not believe in corporate loyalty and think than employee loyalty is an overrated concept (Advance System Inc, 2017). These statistics support the contentions that millennials are restless and impatient employees which makes it difficult for organisations to attract, motivate and retain them. They are also perceived to be short-sighted (Taylor, 2014). These issues pose a significant challenge for HR managers as replacing a departed millennial employee incurs tangible and intangible costs to employers.
Understanding Millennials
In order to manage millennials effectively, it is most important for HR managers and business leaders to appreciate the differences between the older generations and young employees and understand what makes this new generation of employees different from their predecessors. If the buzz surrounding the young employees is to be believed, they can be often mistakenly characterised as lazy narcissists, who are selfish, entitled and shallow. On the contrary, these young employees can turn out to be highly energised optimists who are open-minded and have a strong sense of community if managed effectively.
Employers often allege that millennials have different careers goals and expectations from their older counter parts, that they want constant acclaim for their work, they are digital addicts with less regard for personal or professional boundaries, and have a penchant for collective decision making (Armstrong, 2011). However, research indicates that this perception about millennials is basically a myth. Through a multigenerational study of 1784 employees from several organisations across 12 countries and 6 industries, IBM’s Institute for Business Value (2015) offers some very useful insights regarding millennials as employees. The study reveals that contrary to the widespread perception regarding millennials, they are not much different from their predecessors.
The study finds that millennials’ career aspirations are similar to those of older generations. Their goals – such as achieving financial security, making a positive impact within their organisation and the society at large, becoming experts in their field and doing work they are passionate about, and achieving a work/life balance - are diverse in nearly the same proportions as those of older generations (see figure 1). They emphasise the importance of inspirational leadership, a clearly defined purpose and business strategy just as much as older generation do. This research finds that young employees value performance-based pay and promotions just as much as their older counterparts. They fare nearly the same in emphasising a collaborative work environment, freedom to innovate, and the flexibility to manage a work/life balance (IBM, 2015).
Moreover, contrary to the popular belief, millennials value face-to-face personal interactions in acquiring and sharing work related information just as much as older generation employees (IBM, 2015). However, they are much more comfortable with virtual learning and using self-paced interactive module, applications and computer simulations as compared to older employees. Regarding switching jobs frequently, the study notes that young employees change jobs for the very same reasons – that is, making more money, working in a better environment, assuming more responsibility, doing work they are passionate about and making a positive social/environmental impact - that older employees do (IBM, 2015). This indicates that the itinerancy of young employees is likely to be an outcome of today’s economic conditions rather than a generational difference.
Figure 1 Career Goals of Millennials as Compared to those of Older Employees
Figure 2 Reasons for Changing Jobs

These similarities between the aspirations, goals and motives of young and older generation employees suggests that they are not characteristically different in nature and that there are no significant generational differences among millennials and older generations. Yet there is a widespread consensus that millennials do think and act in different ways at work which poses a challenge for HR managers and business leader to manage them effective. This is primarily because of the wider socio-technological environment in which millennials have grown up.
The fundamental difference between millennials and older employees is the digital proficiency of millennials. Millennials have much greater digital proficiency as “… the first generation to grow up in a digital world. Using mobile and social technologies, immediately accessing data, ideas and inspiring and instant communicating and collaborating is second nature for these digital natives’’ (IBM, 2015 p.1). This digital proficiency has many implications regarding how millennials think, act and make decisions.
Young employees are much more connected that their older counterparts and therefore they have access to a wealth of information and other people. For instance, young talented employees know the demand of their skills and talents as they have access to various sources to see what relevant jobs are available to them across the globe (EBS Consulting, 2016). They also know what they are worth as many of the jobs adverts not only list requirements but also provide information regarding pay scale, making it easier for millennials to determine how much they should be rewarded (EBS Consulting, 2016). They also have access to information such as advancement opportunities, day-to-day life and work environment offered by employers, and the socio/economic impact of organisations. They often get this information from news, online reviews, and by contacting former employees and listening to testimonials over social media (EBS Consulting, 2016). This makes it easier for them to be more in control of where they want to work and to make the best decision for themselves. In this way, young employees are different from their older counterparts. These highly connected and collective young employees are used to fast-paced ways of living, making informed decisions, and collaboration between internal and external stakeholders and; hence their tendency to switch jobs and even careers at some point (Subrahmanyam and Šmahel, 2011).
Managing Young Workforce
In order to manage young employees effectively to create high-performance work systems and achieve competitive advantage, business leaders and HR managers should foremost emphasise the importance of ethical/fair leadership (Balda and Mora, 2011). Young employees have a strong desire to be treated fairly. Due to their motive of making a positive impact on the society and environment, young and talented employees have a desire to be associated with those organisations that are perceived to be fair towards both internal and external stakeholders (Balda and Mora, 2011). Therefore, HR manager and business leaders should underscore the value of transparency and dependability in their management style and readily share information with young employees.
Due to their own fast-pace nature, young employees expect their managers to be better, faster and more effective. They are usually not shy and like to work on variety of tasks, assignments and challenging and stimulating projects (Espinoza, et al, 2010). This is not to say that they are more productive than older generations, but that they are happier when they are involved in variety of work rather than a routine assignment (Espinoza, et al, 2010). Being highly connected and collective individuals, millennials generally have a positive and friendly nature, and they can readily move into diverse teams and groups (Eric and Michael, 2009). Therefore, they enjoy working in organisations which foster team work and collaboration. Thus in managing them effectively, HR managers and business leaders should create an organisational culture that nurtures team work, autonomy and offers a stimulating environment in which individuals can work on varied projects and assignments.
In order to keep them intrigued, HR managers should assume the role of strategic business partners in organisation to provide a roadmap to young employees so that they can understand how to become more successful (Ferri-Reed, 2010). HR managers should create positive work environment in which young employees are valued as individuals, where they can pride in being part of a group that work towards a greater purpose, works effectively and achieves its goals (Ferri-Reed, 2010). In this way, HR managers would be able to not only attract the best young talent for their organisations, but be able to retain them and keep them highly motived.

Advance System Inc (2017). Manager’s Guide: How to Overcome the Challenges of Working with Millennials and Technology. Available from https://advancesystemsinc.com/managers-guide-overcome-challenges-working-millennials-technology/https://advancesystemsinc.com/managers-guide-overcome-challenges-working-millennials-technology/ (cited on 29th June, 2018)
Armstrong, M. (2011) Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice 13th Edition. London: Kogan page Ltd
Balda, J. B., and Mora, F. (2011). Adapting leadership theory and practice for the networked, millennial generation. Journal of Leadership Studies, 5(3), 13-24
Beardwell, J. and Claydon, T. (2007) ‘Human Resource Management: A contemporary approach’ 5th Edn. Financial Times Prentice Hall, Harlow.
EBS Consulting (
2016). 4 Steps to Overcoming The Challenge Of Hiring. Available from http://ebs-consulting.com/4-steps-to-overcoming-the-challenge-of-hiring-millennials/http://ebs-consulting.com/4-steps-to-overcoming-the-challenge-of-hiring-millennials/ (cited on 29th June, 2018).
Eric L. and Michael D. M., (2009),Workplace fun: the moderating effects of generational differences, Employee Relations. 31 (6) 613 – 631
Espinoza, C., Ukleja, M., and Rusch, C. (2010), Managing the Millennials: Discover the core competencies for managing today’s workforce, New Jersey: John Wiley & sons, Inc
Ferri-Reed, J. (2010). The keys to engaging millennials, The Journal for Quality and Participation, 33 (1) 1-33.
IBM (2015). IBM Institute for Business Value, Myths, Exaggerations and Uncorfortable Truth. Available from https://www-935.ibm.com/services/multimedia/GBE03637USEN.pdfhttps://www-935.ibm.com/services/multimedia/GBE03637USEN.pdf (cited on 29th June, 2018).
Lefter V., Marincas C., Puia R.S. (2007), Strategic human resource management. “Review of Management and Economical Engineering”, Bucharest, Vol. 6, No. 5, pp. 349-353.
Subrahmanyam, K. and
Smahel, D. (2011) Digital youth. Berlin, Springer
Taylor, S (2014) Resourcing and Talent Management. London: CIPD

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