Millennials' OE could be paid by the boss - but there's a catch in Kiwi professor's idea

A Waikato University academic has made a radical suggestion that employers pay millennials while they're away on their 'overseas experience' to entice them to stay with the company.

Your playlist will load after this ad

Four-day workweeks and paying them while away on OE are two suggestions. Source: Seven Sharp

The director of the university's Centre for Enterprise and Leadership, Associate Professor Peter Sun, made the suggestion at a Waikato University Future of Work Conference that pondered how to hold onto millennials.

Two years in London or New York on the company, and a job when they come home, might sound too good to be true, but what Associate Professor Sun has in mind is no free ride.

"I need to make this very clear. I am not suggesting that all organisations do that or have a paid OE," he told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp from the conference.

"There are various ways in which you could structure overseas experiences. For example, if millennials want to have that experience you could do so, but they could still do work for you while they're overseas."

Associate Professor Sun said employers could send millennials overseas to work for them in different situations, and this would develop them and their leadership skills. 

"And you will gain from that when they come back. So it's simply not sending them on a jaunt and enjoying themselves and then coming back for nothing," he said.

"And we know that millennials would form probably the large part of your workforce. So the question is how do you retain them? How do you attract them into your organisation? So giving millennials the OE experience that they so desire I think is a great lever to attract them and keep them."

Seven Sharp co-host Jeremy Wells suggested millennials should be "thankful that they've got a job" and a millennial who wants to go overseas should be told to go, but when they come back their job might be here or it might not.

Associate Professor Sun said that's the old mindset.

"That would have been true in the 1970s, '80s, '90s. But you are moving into a new generation of people that are coming in. So a job is probably not the only reason why they work for you," he said.

Associate Professor Sun said millennials are "more purpose driven", adding, "they want to know why they want to work for you."

He said: "If you get good talent you've got to hold on to them. You simply can't replace people."

Millennials - those born between 1981 and 1996 - get a lot of flak, but globally they're now the largest group of workers, replacing baby boomers.

Their numbers bring them power, but also uncertainty, with some millennials facing as many as six career moves. Because of this they're less likely to be loyal to a company.