More so than any other type of workers, millennials want to make a difference in society through their work, are willing to toil beyond the exhaustion point, and always have one foot out the door—or not. I’ve been in Las Vegas at SuccessConnect 2014 this week where I had a first-hand look at a report released by Oxford Economics with support from SAP. It provides a new perspective that seems to refute some of the most commonly-held beliefs about what millennials in the workforce want from their jobs, their bosses, and their companies. The study, entitled “Workforce 2020,” is based on feedback from over 5,400 executives and employees in 27 countries. The findings may or may not be surprising to those of us working and living with millennials every day.
Myth 1: Millennials care more than non-millennials about making a positive difference in the world through their work.
Research Findings: Just about one-fifth of millennials and non-millennials alike cite making a positive difference as important to their job satisfaction. In fact, competitive compensation matters most to everyone. Sixty-eight percent of millennials and 64 percent of non-millennials cite compensations as an important or very important benefit. What’s more, 41 percent of millennials (higher than 38 percent of non-millennials) say higher compensation would increase their loyalty and engagement with the company.
Myth 2: Achieving work/life balance is more important to millennials.
Research Findings: Again, the non-millennials are slightly ahead on this one too. Thirty-one percent of non-millennials say work/life balance is more important versus only 29 percent of millennials.
Myth 3: Finding personal meaning in their work is more important to millennials.
Research Findings: Actually, finding personal meaning is slightly more important to non-millennials (18 percent) than millennials (14 percent).
Myth 4: Meeting income goals is less important to millennials as long as they are learning and growing.
Research Findings: Millennials prioritize meeting career and income goals first, followed distantly by learning and growing. Interestingly, when it comes to job satisfaction the most important thing for millennials is meeting career goals (35 percent), while non-millennials cited corporate values that match their own and meeting income goals as their biggest priorities (both at 30 percent).
Myth 5: Millennials are more likely to plan on leaving in the short-term.
Research Findings: Millennials are no more likely than non-millennials to leave their jobs in the next six months. However, women of all ages are more likely to leave than men, and they express more job dissatisfaction than men.
That’s not to say there are no differences between age groups. More than two-thirds of millennials want informal feedback from their managers at least monthly. Less than half of non-millennials expect feedback that often. Millennials are also relying more on formal training and mentoring to develop their skills. Only seven percent of millennials have experienced most of their professional development through networking.
The point is it behooves employers to separate myth from reality as they engage with all workers. For example, this study also found that companies may not understand what their employees really want from them—regardless of generation. Employees of all ages ranked competitive compensation and bonuses or merit-based rewards as the most important benefit. Yet less than 40 percent of executive respondents say their company offers competitive compensation.
Yes, millennials are different from other workers. But so is every employee depending on a variety of factors including age. Everybody’s jumping on the millennial bandwagon and well they should—they are the future. But this study might give everyone pause before accepting so-called collective wisdom. Listening to what workers really want and responding with realistic options could provide the path to a more well-informed future.