5 work trends

HR experts weigh in on five trends among millennials in the workplace, and what they mean for young workers and the companies that employ them


Often cited as a symptom of the "flighty" millennial generation, job-hopping may be shaking off its negative image.

More than half, or 56 per cent, of chief financial officers surveyed here would be willing to hire someone who has a history of job-hopping, according to recruitment firm Robert Half. It defined job-hopping as having made four job changes within 10 years.

Ms Karina Kuok, head of professional practices at the Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP), says job-hopping is becoming more prevalent, especially as millennials are used to trying out many short internships as students.

In the early part of one's career, up to age 30, it is becoming more accepted and expected by both employees and employers, she says.

Experts say employees who make quick moves could benefit from higher salary progression and more experience in different industries, but the downsides include missing out on promotions and professional development.

Ms S.Y. Tong, 28, who is in her fourth job since graduating six years ago, says she understood her own skills and aspirations better as she moved.

"The end goal for me is to find something I can see myself being excited to go to work for and being able to contribute most actively to my organisation," says Ms Tong, who is now a business development manager in the food and beverage industry.


Millennials are digital natives and it is no surprise that they rely on technology when looking for new job opportunities.

The 2018 LinkedIn Opportunity Index study found that around eight in 10 respondents aged 18 to 39 said digital and social media have helped them find relevant roles or opportunities, compared with around seven in 10 for those aged 40 to 60.

Ms Jaya Dass, managing director of recruitment agency Randstad Singapore, says younger workers are likely to have a smaller professional network as they have not been working for long, so online platforms provide them with more options in one centralised place.

ManpowerGroup Singapore's country manager Linda Teo says older workers tend to rely on word-of-mouth referrals, established job boards and newspapers.

But the ease of applying for jobs - with a few clicks online - has resulted in millennials indiscriminately sending out their CVs, she says, adding that it is important to tailor the CV to the specific job before sending it out.

Ms Dass also recommends applying for jobs in the morning, "so that your application will appear right at the top of recruiters' and employers' inboxes when they log in".


Millennials prefer frequent feedback and mentorship, says Mr Foo See Yang, Singapore managing director and country head of recruitment firm Kelly Services.

And they place significant emphasis on communication, he adds.

Other than looking for mentors in their organisations, says Mr Mark Hall, country manager of recruitment company Adecco Singapore, millennials can also look to their tertiary institution's alumni, online communities, mentor programmes or networking outfits.

Tools to facilitate mentorships are being rolled out. For example, professional social network LinkedIn started a "Career Advice" function last year to recommend mentors or mentees to users based on the type of advice they want to give or receive.

Knowledge-sharing platform Tigerhall, launched in February, helps users set up one-on-one meetings with business leaders who have offered to give advice.

Mentors, too, need to understand what makes millennials tick, says Mr Puneet Swani, a career business leader at human resources consultancy Mercer.

The company's 2019 Global Talent Trends Study found that millennials are motivated by the ability to manage work-life balance, opportunities to learn new skills and technology, a fun work environment, recognition for contributions and having a sense of belonging.


The millennial's smartphone is commonly used for communication, entertainment and now, also for education.

Tigerhall's chief executive Nellie Wartoft says millennials are used to buying and consuming services and products via mobile devices, and so are more used to mobile learning.

"Combine this with the trait of wanting to get the most out of life and every single moment. We're seeing this group using 'micro moments' - such as waiting for a friend, taking the MRT - to upskill and learn on the go," she says.

A recent survey of about 1,000 millennials commissioned by training provider NTUC LearningHub found that over seven in 10 had tried mobile learning at least once.

The most popular topics for mobile learning were language, and technical and technology skills like coding.

But NTUC LearningHub chief executive Kwek Kok Kwong notes that about two in three respondents still think face-to-face teaching is important.

"Many of our learners still want the best of both worlds - online learning for convenience and learning on the move, and face-to-face learning through mutual sharing of experience and lending support to one another," he says.


With a reputation for being vibrant, tech-savvy and less hierarchical, start-ups are attracting millennials who eschew the traditional career trajectory that bigger multinationals may offer.

IHRP's Ms Karina Kuok says start-ups present learning opportunities to develop entrepreneurial thinking, leadership skills and resilience.

But ManpowerGroup Singapore's Ms Linda Teo advises millennials to check a company's work culture and financial situation before taking on a role.

Start-up owner Gerald Ang, 35, says he has been pleasantly surprised by how open millennials are in joining and adds that they are usually passionate, driven and willing to take on different roles and try out new things.

The chief executive of market research firm Milieu Insight, who has offices here and in Thailand, has eight employees in the Singapore office and six of them are millennials.

He has noticed that millennials in their 30s are usually less open to working in start-ups than younger ones, as stability is more important when starting a family or when they have elderly dependants.

Milieu's business analyst Grace Thong, 24, who joined the company last year, says it was initially difficult to help her parents understand why she chose to begin her working life in a start-up instead of an established multinational, which may offer bigger benefits.

"If you look beyond the immediate rewards of a bigger pay cheque and impressive titles, you'll realise the longer-term mission of building a career from a solid base - and more importantly for me, to forge meaningful relationships at work - makes it all worthwhile," she says.

In the past year, she has gained exposure to many facets of the business through shadowing the company executives, she adds.