Millennials and SME’s – why they need each other

Every business out there today is trying to attract Millennials. The bright lights of big corporate companies are a very tempting pull for many, so Millennials and SME’s may not feel like a natural fit.

But the small SME’s out there need Millennials just as much as the big players do, especially in turbulent times like the U.K is currently experiencing post-Brexit. Millennials have something that everyone wants. Youth. Talent. Excellent understanding of memes. Whatever it is, companies want it. Perhaps it’s that everyone is talking about Millennials and so everyone wants to get in on the game, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe it’s that Boomers are retiring, Gen X are getting older, and CEO’s around the world are resigning themselves to offices full of the social media generation, for whom even emails are too slow.

I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve come across an article on Millennials and wondered to yourself, ‘what’s the big deal?’. It’s been a topic of conversation in our office many times; do Millennials really want anything that different from what their parents wanted at their age? Are Millennials really lazy and entitled? Are you despairing at the very thought of having to employ them because suddenly you’ve realised you won’t have any staff left if you don’t? Does it feel like a hammer is coming down over your head during the hiring process, and you’re risking your company for the sake of a spoilt 20 something who still lives with mummy and daddy? Because of all the negative press out there about Gen Y, Millennials and SME’s together might seem like a nightmare.

But as more Millennials enter the workplace, hiring options outside of Gen Y will decrease. And I don’t want to upset you further, but just giving in and accepting that you’ll have to hire Millennials isn’t enough. No, just to pour some salt into an already tender wound, you’ve got to make the Millennials want you.

If you’re a big company with money to spend, this may not be a daunting prospect; but if you’re an SME you might be worrying about how you can make Millennials interested in you. You might be thinking that in the current job market, Millennials should consider themselves lucky they’ve been offered a job. There are plenty of people who want one!

True. But Millennials act with their feet – they’re quick to leave if they’re not happy, and the cost of looking for replacement staff (who will probably also be Millennials) after already hiring once is a cost you want to avoid. Company culture is a huge draw for Millennials today, and it’s worth considering whether yours appeals to them.

Millennials and SME's

What Millennials look for from their employees

(According to business.com)

1. The opportunity to do ‘meaningful’ work

Millennials are the most socially conscious generation there’s ever been, and we are also considered the ‘global generation’ thanks to the Internet. Millennials have embraced inclusivity; we have never defined ourselves as ‘Little Englanders’, and consider climate change a genuine threat. Millennials in the U.S helped presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders rise from obscurity to challenge Hillary Clinton for office, and 73% of millennials were in favour of same-sex marriage in 2015. Millennials’ values are at the forefront of all the decisions they make, and many are not prepared to work for a company whose values do not align with their work.

2. Someone to learn from

Rather than just being given a task and asked to get on with it, Millennials like working in teams and learning from others. Older employees with more experience will be your biggest resource for this. Being told what to do will make Millennials feel like they’re being treated like kids – but collaboration allows for Millennials to learn valuable knowledge in a way that engages them.

3. Flexibility

The 9-5 working day fills most Millennials with dread, especially when they’re making the jump from university life to full-time work. Working from home and the ability to shift hours is really important to Millennials because the quality of life is a priority to them. Younger Millennials have more access to disposable income and want to spend it! Instead of sitting and filling hours because it’s company policy, they want to work on projects that engage them in meaningful ways. Another benefit of allowing employees to work from home is that can also save money on everything from the cost of your premises to electricity!

4. An employer who embraces the digital revolution

Whether that be requiring that staff have social media accounts for work-related ventures or introducing training programs that use blended techniques such as YouTube videos and online quizzes rather than simple classroom-based learning, Millennials expect to be connected. They’ll probably have already checked out your social media accounts before they’ve even stepped through the door – for a Millennial, they can make a difference on whether your company is worth working for.

Differences between big and small companies

These things apply to big and small companies of course, but how do they differ in a small company?

  1. Small companies offer Millennials the opportunity to experience a range of roles and decide what feels most ‘meaningful’ to them, but also allows them to help shape what the company considers meaningful – small companies usually put their Millennials in much closer proximity to the head of the company than would be possible in a big corporate. In a small company, every employee counts; you’re not just a number, but a vital member of a team, and you can actually have an influence. Plus, when you’re in an SME all the work you do is meaningful because you make a difference to the bottom line every day!
  2. SME’s bring Millennials closer to the staff who have reams of experience and there are less people for them to share it with – so encourage your Millennials to take advantage! They could end up working side by side with your CEO if you’re a small company, which presents a fantastic opportunity for learning for both Millennials and SME’s.
  3. A small company can be great for flexibility – every business will differ, but Millennials and SME’s can really gel here because there are much fewer rules and regulations to work around. Keeping down costs is also important for SME’s so opportunities to work from home or in coffee shops can be useful for the company as much as it can be enjoyable for your Millennial to escape the office for a bit.
  4. SME’s can give Millennials the opportunity to shine through the technology they use every day – smaller companies may be a bit slower to recognise how useful social media can be for them as a small business, and how many different types there are to utilise. Being an SME means that lots of work has to be done by fewer people, so Tweeting or Instagramming can feel like a hindrance, especially to staff unfamiliar with social media. If you don’t use social media, or aren’t using it effectively, all those hours your Millennial spent sitting in a dark room as a teenager Tweeting about One Direction will not have paid off. This sharing of knowledge is beneficial for both Millennials and SME’s.

This, of course, isn’t an exhaustive list. If you really think about it, there’s probably plenty of reasons Millennials would want to stay with you, even if you are small. So… what’s your company like? What do you have to offer? If you don’t already do the things mentioned in this blog, will you now?

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