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HR Trends with Game Changers kicked-off the 2014 season on March 25, 2014 by getting to the bottom of a question that’s been nagging HR managers and other business execs for a few years: What Do Millennials Really Want from the Future Workplace? Who best to answer this challenge than a trio of millennial panelists themselves. SAP tapped Lindsey Nelson, Content Curator from SAP Newtown Square, PA, Thibaud De Keyzer, Sales Executive at SAP Brussels, Belgium, and Erwil Heath, Biz Ops Principle from SAP Johannesburg, S. Africa. Listen to the podcast on-demand here.

SAP Game-Changers producer/host Bonnie D. Graham opened the session with a provocative quote from Lindsey Nelson, who said she “despises” the term “Millennial” and the associated stereotype.  Asserting that if these “Net-Gen’ers” were given more opportunities to voice their unique needs and wants, business organizations would see the real value in the fresh millennial perspective. It’s not so much “crazy,” as these new ideas are what the changing business landscape needs, including “flexibility, healthcare, and a real purpose to come in to work 40+ hours a week.” From Lindsey’s perspective, many of society’s assumptions are uninformed– “just because I like to work from home doesn’t mean I’m not working…and it’s through breaks and flexible schedules that the best ideas come.” She also believes the dialogue should be mutual: “As long as a company keeps me challenged, puts employees first, invests in us, and fosters inclusion, I’ll remain loyal.”

Thibaud De Keyzer’s European perspective reinforced Lindsey’s Net Gen’er ideas. Thibaud would rather take “a great social atmosphere at work over job security and financial reward, because it gives us the energy to be productive…the strong connection with colleagues is what drives [us].” Citing statistics to validate the ‘notorious claims’ that Net Gen’ers are constantly seeking change and better opportunities, he added that Net Gen’ers certainly do move jobs often – once every one to five years. To stay with one employer for a longer period, millennials require “essential perks, such as work-life balance, travel, diversity, and the opportunity to take breaks”. With optimism and confidence, Thibaud said, “The future is bright” and “millennials are tomorrow’s leaders, [so] we must embrace this challenge.”

From the “City of Gold” (Johannesburg), Erwil Heath conceded that “millennials have a different mindset and outlook on life and work altogether.” With 46% of the workforce expected to be comprised of today’s millennials by 2020, “the world is in the palm of our hands”. Agreeing with his American and Belgian colleagues, Erwil emphasized that Gen-Y is tremendously competent, but also dependent on “the power of having all of your tools in your hands and the flexibility to work wherever and whenever” as key factors for success. Sometimes this ambitious behavior creates a need for “instant gratification and to achieve more.” Despite the tremendous pressure on the millennial generation to succeed, Erwil sees his workplace experience as an exciting challenge. “If we can stand on the shoulders of giants and learn from their lessons, we will be the best generation for our organizations.”

The final segment of the program featured panelists’ Crystal Ball predictions for the year 2020.  Lindsey foresees that today’s millennials “will start to feel the ‘sweat’ because of the up-and-coming generations behind us”. Thibaud believes the state of today’s physical office itself will change – “no more offices. Working locations will become more fluid.” Lastly, Erwil sees great things for Africa as an endless frontier for technological resources, innovation, and to do good.

The next live HR Trends with Game-Changers Radio episode on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 will reveal Secrets of Optimizing Talent from a panel HR thought leaders and experts. Stay tuned and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at #SAPRadio.