Companies badly misunderstand millennials

By Niraj Chokshi

A game room in the office is low on the list of priorities for working millennials. Photo / 123RF
A game room in the office is low on the list of priorities for working millennials. Photo / 123RF

Working millennials ask a lot of their employers, but game rooms and rock walls are low on the list.

In fact, baby boomers more than millennials seek out jobs that are fun and encourage creativity, according to a new Gallup report that identifies what employers get right, and wrong, about millennials in the workforce.

What that rising generation seeks is actually pretty simple: Millennials -- those Americans born between 1980 and 1996 -- just want to know where they stand and where they're going.

"They want a workplace that helps them progress, but they also want to see their own value," said Jim Harter, chief scientist for workplace management and well-being for Gallup's workplace management practice.

The report -- the results of surveys of tens of thousands of Americans -- lays out six broad changes that organizations can make to attract and keep what is now the dominant generation in the United States workforce.

The first is a shift in focus from paycheck to purpose.

When professional and personal lives were more cleanly separate, a paycheck was enough. But because of the erosion of the wall between work and play, millennials also expect to derive a sense of purpose from their jobs. Work is life.

Job satisfaction still matters, but millennials are increasingly concerned with their development; they want to see their careers progressing. As a result, bosses should act like coaches, and rare, formal reviews should be replaced with ongoing conversations.

"Giving out toys and entitlements is a leadership mistake, and worse, it's condescending," Gallup Chairman and chief executive Jim Clifton writes in the report. "Purpose and development drive this generation."

Employers should take note, especially because millennials are a particularly flighty generation.

About 60 percent report being open to a new job opportunity -- a full 15 percentage points higher than non-millennial workers. More than a third -- 36 percent -- said they will actively look for new work if the job market improves in the year ahead, compared with just 21 percent of non-millennials.

But don't mistake that flightiness for a lack of commitment. Millennials are just dissatisfied: 55 percent report feeling unengaged at work, five points higher than Gen Xers, seven points above boomers and 14 points more than traditionalists.

"Many millennials likely don't want to switch jobs, but their companies are not giving them compelling reasons to stay," Gallup reports. "When they see what appears to be a better opportunity, they have every incentive to take it."

When they're looking for new work, Millennials want to see signs that bode well for their career development. The top five things they consider, according to Gallup, are: opportunities to learn and grow, quality of their manager, quality of management in general, interest in the type of work and opportunities for advancement.

Although those qualities are important to members of every generation, millennials are particularly concerned with some of them. For example, 59 percent of millennials rate opportunities to learn and grow as "extremely important" when applying for a new job. Just 44 percent of Gen Xers and 41 percent of baby boomers say the same. Exactly half of millennials rate advancement opportunities as extremely important in a job search, compared to 42 percent of Gen Xers and 40 percent of boomers.

Boomers and millennials hold quality of managers and management and interest in work in similar regard, while Gen Xers are slightly less concerned about those, although many still rate them as extremely important.

- Washington Post

Generation War is the topic for the next PwC Herald Talks event on September 14, 7am-9am, SkyCity Theatre. Hear Derek Handley and panelists discuss the theme. Tickets are available at iTicket

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