Nordic Millennials' Work Expectations and How to Meet Them
Younger workers want flexibility and purpose, in addition to financial security.
Once upon a time, the best and brightest students graduated from their higher education programs and immediately secured steady jobs with established employers, where they stayed for life. Now, things are a little different. Millennials often prefer to either work at startups or jump ship after a year or few at a major company. At the same time, millennials are, on a global level, among the most stressed when it comes to finances.
For those who have been raised in times of financial crisis, the desire for flexibility stems from an aversion to putting all their eggs in one basket. This can certainly be said of Nordic millennials. The primary difference is that they arguably have an upper hand when it comes to working conditions. But, just how good does this group have it?
The Nordic social system provides basic financial security.
Financial insecurity makes us far more likely to accept a job offer without negotiating or even researching whether the salary is competitive.
When it comes to finances, those living in the Nordic countries generally worry less about money. For example, in Denmark only 33 percent of people report feeling stressed about financial security (versus 60 percent globally). Higher education is mostly state-funded, resulting in no tuition fees for students. Recent graduates in Denmark are unlikely to be weighed down by student loan debt and graduates who struggle to find work are entitled to unemployment benefits.
The social support available means that Nordic millennials are far less likely to succumb to frantically made career decisions, as a level of financial stability allows them to ask critical questions that go beyond salary.
Having a work-life balance is encouraged.
Your full-time job generally provides the largest portion of your income. However, money is not everything. Globally, and especially in the Nordic countries, people want to be healthy, wealthy and able to maintain a work-life balance.
Nordic millennials are particularly used to the idea of work-life balance as it is what they have observed in the day-to-day lives of their parents. This likely involved a flexible 37-hour work week and may have included several months of paid parental leave upon the arrival of a sibling. Parents would have had the time and energy for a consistent social life and vacations. They had a work-life balance because they would generally prioritize life over work, which actually made them more productive employees.
Companies would be wise to see millennials' desire for a work-life balance as an opportunity for attracting them. For example, employers who cannot offer the most competitive salaries can compensate for this by offering benefits such as a retirement plan, skill building or flexible work hours.
Innovation is embraced.
The Nordic countries are generally more urbanized, tech-focused and entrepreneurial than their European neighbors. Millennials in this part of the world value technology very highly, with 89 percent having some interest in online tools and 73 percent being willing to allow tools to hold their personal data. The Nordic countries also score among the best in the world for individualism, self-reliance and decision-making with a robust tendency toward flat organizations with low rankings on formality. All things considered, it's not surprising that tech startups have permeated the Nordic business landscape.
With a passion for sustainability and innovation, many millennials will scrutinize a job offer based on the company's business practices. They want to be proud not only of their role but also of the company for whom they work.
One of the most common complaints of millennial employees is that they feel too much of their time is wasted by traditional employers. In such cases, the best way for companies to move forward is to implement effective technology as a way of attracting and engaging young, tech-savvy employees. Great tools for this are those which optimize communication and productivity -- Trello, Slack, etc.
Resourcefulness is the key to retaining Nordic millennials.
By 2020, millennials will make up more than a third of the global workforce. Employers need to be resourceful when considering what to offer in terms of income, work-life balance, and sustainable and innovative practices. Employers also need to make candidates aware of what exactly is expected of them and by what criteria they will be assessed. A title alone is rarely enough to know what a job entails on a day-to-day basis and what opportunities for learning and growth it offers.
Remote companies often need a way to strike a good balance between autonomy and structure as different team members collaborate on projects and as new hires are onboarded. This can be easily done by using a tool like Trello to better manage workflow and performance tracking. All information about "who is doing what and when" as well as individual and team deadlines are available to the entire team.
Tools like Trello are very popular with millennials who appreciate getting to track their progress and the skills they've acquired along the way. And so will you, without anyone wasting time creating and reading incremental progress reports.
Respect millennials' time.
Speaking of wasting time, meetings tend to be the bane of most younger employees' existence. Unnecessary meetings often eat into the time they need to complete their tasks, which forces them to work (often unpaid) overtime. While eliminating meetings entirely is nearly impossible for most companies, it is essential -- and completely feasible -- to do away with the unproductive ones. Meeting tools like Jam, RunYourMeetings or Pinstriped (my company) can help you do that easily.
By creating an agenda-first meeting, you can clearly communicate the purpose and targets of the meeting. Any millennial employee who is attending the meeting will appreciate knowing this information in advance so they will be better able to contribute informed insights or questions. They will also know why their presence is actually necessary at the meeting.
Time is money, and setting time limits for each agenda item during the meeting will save you lots of it. Participants will be relieved to not have to take notes, as the meeting owner can easily follow up with the relevant actions and decisions. A focused, well-run meeting shows even the most jaded millennials that their employer values their time. Spare your millennial employees from the unproductive, rambling meetings which are a frustrating and all-too-common experience for nearly everyone.
Living and working in a Nordic country comes with unique challenges and benefits. As a result, Nordic millennials are less likely than most to compromise on quality of life or make career choices based on financial pressure. In order to recruit and retain the best employees, companies in the Nordics need to be seen as innovative, engaging and respectful of their employees time.
Small changes are often the most important ones a company can make and generally don't require huge investments of time or money, just tiny but important mindset and systematic shifts. Change is inevitable, and being ready for it is worth the effort as this helps to attract and retain the best and brightest.