HR Indaba Africa 2019: Emergence Growth breaks down the impact Millennials have on effective  engagement 


Their research shows that Millennials are no longer interested in prescriptive leadership style and reward practices.

Emergence Growth research, conducted across over 20 countries and over 1 200 organisations in Sub-Saharan Africa, showed a dramatic change in the composition of workforces in both the public and private sector. 

Over 40 percent of workforces now comprise of millennials. This presents HR and leadership with both a challenge and an opportunity to make significant changes to the way that employees are managed and rewarded in the future. 

Overall, employee engagement across the continent, but more specifically in Southern Africa, continues to either drop or plateau. The reasons for this are manifested in both human resources and leadership’s inability to adapt to changing dynamics of the new workforce. These changes in the needs of the workforce are also reflected in research conducted by Buckingham et al earlier this year.

Millennials are no longer interested in prescriptive leadership style and reward practices. The three key areas that will impact on future engagement and disengagement are: 

  • Trust: It comes as no surprise that workforces generally and millennials specifically have lost trust in the leadership teams that are tasked with managing and directing the future of their organisations. There have, over the past number of years, been numerous cases of fraud, corruption and unethical practices, both in Africa and many other countries in the world. Our research also shows that millennials do not believe that the current leadership can be trusted to live up to the values of either their organisation and those of society in general. 
  • Teamwork: As technology becomes more entrenched in organisations, so too will the need for diversification of teams with different skill sets be required to execute increasingly complex projects. There is currently a one-size-fits-all approach to the way that team members are managed. Their inability of team members to effectively utilise their talents is not only an impediment for effective teamwork and execution of the project, but also is part of the reason for disengagement of the workforce. 
  • Reward: Although reward practices in some countries have changed to cater more to the specific need, lifestyle and life stages of employees, there are still numerous countries and organisations that have either not implemented this approach or are still prescriptive in the options made available to employees. For example, a flexible lifestyle approach will not meet the needs of the employees if only one option is provided for health care and changes can only be implemented annually. 

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Millennials are now starting question the total benefit offering of their organisations. Over 100 000 millennials across sub-Saharan Africa are now seriously questioning their satisfaction with a range of employee benefits. The top six employee benefits that millennials rank highest in order of importance are: Performance Related increases (98%), Salary (98%), Family Responsibility/Compassionate Leave (97%) Retirement Fund (97%) Study Assistance (96%) andPerformance Bonus/incentive (95%)

However, the satisfaction level for these benefits for millennials are as follows: Performance Related increases (46%), Salary (60%), Family Responsibility/Compassionate Leave (75%), Retirement Fund (72%), Study Assistance (67%), and Performance Bonus/incentive (47%)

What can organisations do to correct some of these problematic issues:

  • Embark on an exercise to understand employee talent and skills sets
  • Train managers as coaches to ensure they focus on employee talent and not old style management of command and control. This will also give leaders the confidence to provide ongoing performance and development feedback to employees. 
  • Identifying the different skill sets contained within the teams will enable organisations to build appropriate competencies and not rely on external parties to fill these constant gaps.
  • Ensure that managers and leaders are trained on issues of corporate governance and ethics.
  • Develop the competence of remuneration / compensation committees to ensure an understanding of broader compensation issues. The majority of compensation committees believe that their sole task is to provide management with a mandate to negotiate salaries and increases. The majority of these compensation committees have never seen a compensation policy. 
  • Re-examine / develop an employee value proposition that articulates in detail every benefit employees receive together with what the company offers in terms of leadership style, well-being, etc. The table below sets out a list of issues that should be presented in the employee value proposition document. 







Ability to progress and develop

Time off


Personal Achievements

Understanding organisation’s goals and plans

Training and Education

Holidays, annual leave

Increases and promotions

Work/Life Balance

Leaders and Managers Support (Management Style)

Career development



Understanding of one’s role and responsibilities

Collaboration and team spirit

Evaluation/feedback of performance




Social Responsibility



Job Evaluation system




Family Responsibility





Medical aid / Healthcare





This employee value proposition should form part of the on boarding process of the organisation, and should also be communicated and updated on a regular basis (a minimum of twice per annum). 

  • Compensation practices. Organisations need to start looking at compensation as “my reward”. Millennials want their compensation packages to meet their particular needs. “No two employees’ circumstances are identical.” One size no longer fits all. Although compensation packages and options available must meet the requirements of that particular country’s legislation, there are still options that can be made available that would meet the needs of employees. 

The public sector in particular, have a myriad of employee benefits available to employees. However, these are infrequently, if ever, communicated. This includes staff bursaries, well-being and other family benefits.

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