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The Role of Technology in Attracting and Managing Millennials

Derek Stewart Speaks at the Q2 HR Solutions Conference

Last September 22, 2016, Flat Planet was invited to speak at Q2 HR Solutions’ Conference, titled: Gen whY: Decoding the Millennial Workforce, at the Dusit Thani Manila. Our Business Improvement Manager, Derek Stewart represented Flat Planet to talk about how the company harnesses technology in attracting and managing millennials. The 100+ audience was made up of executives and senior HR professionals from Fortune 500s with large shared service operations in the Philippines, outsourcing companies, professional service firms and HR consultants.

Derek had a unique perspective coming in to the Q2HRS’ second HR Innovation Conference as he is a millennial himself. As an Australian Expat from Melbourne, and a millennial manager, Derek has considerable knowledge and experience working alongside millennials in both Australia and the Philippines.

Millennials in the Philippine and Beyond

Grouping people according to their age brackets and attributing specific characteristics has its merits, but using it as a universal guide to generalise people may not be very telling as people’s behaviour and world views vary more according to cultures, socio-economic levels and other factors. In Australia, many millennials are focused on being independent, moving out on their own as soon as they can. Here in the Philippines, partially because of the financial reality, many millennials still live with their parents until they get married (or even afterwards), even if they have the means to live independently. This is just one example of how different the attitudes can be of people the same age, due to factors beyond age.

How We Use Technology

Flat Planet thrives on technology, and we are huge fans of the latest and best technology. “Our business, offering high-value virtual talent from the Philippines to work remotely for our clients in all corners of the globe is made possible by technology. We owe our existence to the rise of cloud computing, low-cost communication tools such as Skype and other recent innovations which power our business,” Derek stated. Having said that, Flat Planet does not behave like a hip venture backed Silicon Valley startup, but more like a modest, professional, friendly, results- and process-oriented company.

When it comes to recruiting and managing millennials, it is not sustainable to constantly give them prizes, rewards, and perks to keep them engaged in the workplace, or to encourage them to join your company. If this becomes the norm in the industry, it may get to the point where it becomes an arms race of perks, setting a culture that is heavily dependent on rewards to keep the company moving instead of professionals taking initiative, being intrinsically motivated and working hard to become the best at what they do. Perks are also very easy to copy, and not a defensible competitive advantage, whereas a strong workplace culture is very hard to replicate at all, and especially not quickly.

The Forgotten Millennials

Derek says there are people who are considered “Forgotten Millennials,” outside of the mental picture most executives have of millennials being 20-25 year olds. These are the Filipinos in their late 20s and early 30s who are often “aged out” and disregarded by recruiters because it would be cheaper to hire fresh graduates. What is missed in this situation is that these older millennials who are more mature, have more knowledge, life skills, training and diverse professional experience. Staff who are stable, responsible and who have the skill sets would provide great value to any company.

On the other hand, there are millennials who lack proper maturity, office decorum and etiquette, so a key part of Flat Planet’s recruitment strategy is hiring millennials who have more life and work experience, and who can provide the best value. This may entail the company paying more, but the extra salary is worth having employees who are experts and professionals in the workplace.

In terms of trends, Derek echoed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ sentiment that we can’t predict what will happen in the next ten years, because no one can predict the future. What Flat Planet focuses on is what will not change. There things that will be constant in terms of the employment climate—“Staff will never want to be underpaid, or do work that is not important. So we focus on paying staff enough so that they can live with dignity, and focus on high value work,” Derek said.

Trends Flat Planet Follows

Flat Planet concentrates not on short term perks, but on practical matters that make an impact, like paying staff weekly, which is a rarity in the BPO industry. We have invested in technology that makes the payroll process faster and more efficient. We built our own time and attendance software and apps because we know that staff will never want to be paid slowly or an incorrect amount. This is an area where there is a measurable and sustainable benefit.

As a family-run business, Flat Planet knows that family will always be a key part of Filipinos’ lives, this is why we celebrate the annual Family Day, where staff bring their loves one to celebrate together. Health will always be the number one wealth, and this is why we offer a great HMO (private health insurance) package to our staff. We don’t hire contractors, not even for our cleaning staff. All our staff are full time employees, because no one will ever want less job security or less certainty of benefits. Fads in technology, HR and recruitment come and go, but there are things that will remain unchanged for staff members.

Actionable Advice

Derek told the conference attendees not to worry about meticulously catering to millennials as a unique type of employee, with highly customised benefits or trending strategies. Before you know it, another new generation will be applying to be part of your company (the Gen Zs born after 2000), and your Gen Y strategy will no longer be relevant, and you will be scrambling to focus on another custom strategy. “Focus on what will not change,” Derek said. “Ask yourself what is important at a human level, at a cultural level, at a practical level, because everyone in this room is in the people business. By doubling down on the things that never change, you’ll get the best candidates, and keep them for the longest time.”

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