Millennials are often maligned when it comes to their attitude towards work – it is not hard to find the latest headline labelling them as ‘job-hoppers’ or describing them as entitled for wanting to take up senior levels within a business more quickly.

Modern businesses face a challenge when it comes to this generation, particularly in the context of matching their ambitions and personal motivations for work.

Higher salaries and tangible benefits are no longer a guarantee of enticing younger workers; many now desire benefits such as flexible working, more input into a business or access to better learning resources and professional development opportunities.

Unfortunately, few businesses think about whether they are building a company for the future; current or short-term strategies often take precedence, whereas what type of workplace and culture they are promoting is not the first thing on their mind.

So, how do businesses make sure they are building a forward-thinking business that meets the needs of the millennial generation? Led by Webgains CEO, Richard Dennys, the panel,  including Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones, Estrella Green director Natasha McKenzie and Pepperjam’s Derek Freer, shared their experiences managing the Generation Y with the audience at PI Live.

Understand their motivations

One of the things you often hear from younger workers is that their parents used to tell them they worked so they could save up to buy a house – so money was always a deciding factor when taking a job.

But the housing market has made it difficult for many young people to afford that first step on the housing ladder and as a result, money has become less of a motivator for the young workforce and this generation is now looking for other benefits from employers.

Benefits such as flexible working, professional development courses and better career prospects are changing attitudes among younger workers for the better.

Younger people don’t want to be made to feel that they are simply cogs in a machine and businesses would be best served to develop a clear sense of purpose that their workforce can relate to.

Challenges businesses face

One of the challenges to businesses is that young workers are more likely to leave a business within a shorter period of time than older generations, which clearly presents a problem.

The age-old question is, how much is a business willing to invest in a young worker knowing they could decide to leave the business within a short period of time?

This shouldn’t mean that employers are discouraged from investing in the younger workforce. In fact, the question should be, why aren’t they more motivated than ever to invest in younger workers to convince them to stay with the business for a longer period of time?

Creating an entrepreneurial ‘business within a business’

The fact that younger workers want to feel more involved in business decisions presents an opportunity for managers to build a company culture of a “business within a business” in the sense that younger workers are given the growth opportunities they want, while still enforcing the kind of stringent results-based policies of a traditional business.

Giving the younger workforce a deep sense of purpose is a proven strategy to keep them engaged in the business and is more likely to keep them within the business for longer.

Providing consistent feedback

Another thing that younger workers desire is more input into their performance from management; providing feedback on a regular basis is a solid and inexpensive strategy that can keep younger workers motivated.

This does not mean enforcing paper heavy HR processes, which require meetings and piles of paperwork, but regular informal performance reviews to guide younger people through their careers and build levels of understanding between them and senior management.

Generation Z and the rise of apprenticeships

Perhaps a bigger and less recognised issue for businesses in the current market is the issue of preparing for a workplace made up of ‘Generation Z’. This generation has been raised in the smartphone and social media era and is more likely to desire the kind of instant gratification for their work that larger corporations are not used to providing.

Dealing with this younger generation could turn out to be an even bigger challenge and is an issue businesses should be already preparing for. If they are, then they should be developing a flexible and adaptable business that is agile enough to survive long into the future.