More to millennials than smashed avocado

Earlier this year, Australian property mogul Tim Gurner advised young people to solve their housing woes by putting their ‘$22 a pop’ smashed avocado on toast towards a house deposit instead.

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The idea that young people are feckless is not new.  It is also a stereotype that would be deemed unacceptable – rightly – if levelled at any other community group.

Yet it so often prevails towards those early in their career.

In the housing sector and wider society, negative assumptions and biases need to be tackled head on if housing is to become an employer of choice for millennials – and ensure we build a sector as diverse as the society we serve.

Why does it matter?

There are more “Millennials” than “Baby Boomers” in the job market today.

For employers that don’t get with the programme, they will be less fit for purpose not just for the residents they serve, but for the potential talent who will serve them.

The housing industry is an ageing workforce.

If housing as a sector is going to remain relevant and attractive to younger workers, then we need to take steps to ensure that we meet the aspirations of potential employees, rather than churn out the same old offer of a salary with a five page job description.

Unlocking barriers to recruiting young people, can also address barriers to recruiting talent from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, and also LGBT employees from a generation that is more comfortable being ‘out’ in the workplace than those previous.

For customer-facing organisations, promoting workforce diversity is key in building trust, rapport and satisfaction with community groups who access those services.

Diversity among the workforce promotes diversity of thought, helping an organisation to solve challenges faced by residents and staff from particular community groups, mitigating the group-think that so often stifles innovation.

So what do millennials look for in an employer?

Research has indicated that millennials increasingly value working for a social purpose, rather than simply for cold hard cash.

The ability to work flexibly and with agility is increasingly a given, focusing on what adds value rather than what checks off a to-do list.

Residents meanwhile, increasingly expect to be able to access services in the evening or at weekends. So flexible working is a win-win.

Work needs to be recognised as something you do, not a place you go. In 2017, most offices are overheads which add little value to customers, and do little to stimulate innovation or improve performance.

The open plan office arguably solidifies silos rather than breaks them down, focusing more on tea-rounds than team building.

Being able to work using cloud-based digital channels, and do so collaboratively devoid of formal hierarchy is also attractive to the employees of today and tomorrow.

Opportunities to work across services areas to develop a broader range of knowledge and transferable skills is also lucrative,  as the modern employee prepares for the potential need to move into different sectors later in their career.

Brand agnosticism will apply increasingly to employees as it does consumers, with modern employees more likely to jump ship than previous generations.

After all, Netflix is a means to a varying end product, and if it doesn’t don’t deliver, they will go the way of Blockbuster.

New ideas, including those from people who have forged a portfolio career in other sectors are the lifeblood of solving the increasing complex problems the sector faces.

The Chartered Institute of Housing’s Future Advisory Board has been established to support CIH’s goal to grow its membership, by providing the type of support young workers want to enhance their careers and deliver quality outcomes across the sector.

As the housing sector becomes as much about clicks as well as bricks, it’s important that we forge ahead in embracing modern ways of working – and offer millennials more than simply a salary for their smashed avocado.

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