Daniel is a 30-year-old software developer based in Silicon Valley. In 2015, he joined a medical technologies company that offered him a significantly higher compensation package than his previous job, as well as a promotion to a higher title. It was an exciting moment for his career because back then, a higher salary meant more prestige and a better life. This was what he always wanted, right?
After a few months with the company, Daniel realized that the grass wasn’t exactly greener on the other side. His new position offered little room for growth and upward mobility, and the company’s leadership firmly clung onto the traditional, strict nine-to-six work schedule. After two years of unsuccessfully negotiating for more flexibility and time off, Daniel received an offer at a much larger company that offered flexibility as a perk. Despite the lateral move in position and pay, he gladly accepted the offer. Since 2017, he’s been with the company and has no intention of leaving.
For Daniel, compensation was significantly less impactful than his employers thought it’d be. That’s because, like most Millennials, Daniel places value on work-life balance and career advancement—both of which his former employer didn’t offer. As a result, he didn’t hesitate to jump ship as soon as another opportunity arose. Most of his fellow Millennials would do the same.
Finding their place
We’ve all heard the claims that Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) are chronic job-hoppers who bring little employer loyalty to their careers—and in many ways, those claims are true. A Gallup report found that 50% of Millennials plan to join another company within the next year, and 21% said they changed jobs just within the past year. That’s three times higher than non-Millennial workers.
It’s easy to bash and shame an entire generation who seems more loyal to their phones than their work, but when we dig a little deeper, we find that Millennials (and Gen Zers) have significantly different work values compared to older generations. For example, baby boomers born into nine-to-five workplaces believe success at work and success at life are two separate entities.
For Millennials, the line between professional and personal life is blurred. In fact, 91% of Millennials believe success at work translates into success in life, versus just 71% of baby boomers.
Returning to work after COVID-19
Millennials and Gen Zers were the hardest-hit generations in the COVID-19-induced economic downturn. According to a study by Pew Research Center, 35% of workers between the ages of 18 and 29 lost their jobs amidst the pandemic, with 30% of workers between 30 to 49. What’s more, 45% of those in the 18–29 range were forced to take a pay cut, and 39% in the 30–49 range also saw wage reductions.
As restrictions around COVID-19 lockdowns loosen, it’s likely that Millennial talent will be applying to open positions in droves (also see: 6 Things Gen Zers Want From Employers As They Enter the Workforce). If organizations want to attract, nurture, and retain the best Millennial candidates, they’ll have to meet Millennial needs. Organizations that won’t meet Millennial needs stand to lose top talent, leading to less innovation and poorer business outcomes. Organizations that are willing are poised to succeed in both recovery and long-term success.
What will Millennials re-entering the workforce expect from their future employers? Here are a few things to consider:
1. Millennials want purpose
Millennials expect more than just a paycheck from their employers—they want to work for organizations that have clearly-defined purposes. That doesn’t necessarily mean their work must contribute to some altruistic, noble cause. Rather, Millennials strive to find meaning in the work they do. For example, the company Daniel works for builds cutting-edge graphics processors essential to self-driving cars, robot-assisted surgery, and many other sectors of robotics. The company touts its social responsibility in building safer roads, better healthcare outcomes, and moving humanity forward.
Employers with clearly-defined purposes get more engagement from Millennials and are positioned to reap the cultural and commercial benefits. According to a report by PwC, employees who have a strong connection to their employer’s purpose are 5.3 times more likely to stay, versus just 2.3 times for non-Millennials.
2. Millennials want coaching
Millennials gave rise to new management styles that center around developing close relationships with their managers and colleagues. They expect managers to act as more than just taskmasters and decision-makers. They want managers to coach their performance and value them as employees, teammates, and people.
Coaching can involve frequent one-to-one feedback sessions, which Millennials overwhelmingly prefer. Coaching can also mean developing close relationships with colleagues. A PGI study found that 71% of Millennials see their coworkers as a “second family,” turning workplaces into fun, social environments.
3. Millennials want flexibility
Work-life balance is the quintessential Millennial demand, and they’re willing to remain loyal to managers who offer it. A survey by Deloitte found that 50% of Millennials consider workplace flexibility “very important” when they consider working for an organization (interestingly, only 44% of Gen Z felt the same). Organizations that can offer flexible work are rewarded with higher engagement and greater loyalty.
Modern technologies allow employees to easily communicate and collaborate from anywhere, and providing Millennials with those technologies is key to driving innovation. Tools like unified communications combine team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone into a single platform that employees can access from anywhere using any device. Whether they’re working from home, on the road, or live in another country, they can collaborate with colleagues while enjoying work flexibility.
4. Millennials want growth opportunities
Career development is a very important attribute for Millennials. A Gallup survey found that 59% of Millennials consider an employer’s ability to nurture and develop their skills when applying for a job there. They don’t want quarterly or annual reviews that many companies still practice. Instead, they want ongoing conversations that cultivate their skills as they work. And as they continue mastering those skills, they expect employers to trust them with greater work responsibilities.
5. Millennials want culture
Not only do Millennials want purpose in their day-to-day work, but they also seek companies with an excellent culture. This could mean several things: companies that invest in employee learning opportunities, flexibility, diversity and inclusion, social responsibility, and personal growth. For example, many organizations today participate in programs like donation matching and community volunteerism, helping employees contribute to greater social causes.
A great example is LinkedIn’s “InDay” initiative, where every employee gets one day a month to focus on themselves. This could mean taking a mental health day, volunteering, a team outing, and even a day dedicated to learning a new skill.
Preparing to attract and retain the best talent
Today’s highest-achieving organizations have mastered the employee experience, and it’s paying off big time. Companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are famous for providing employees the best perks and opportunities in the job market. By attracting the best talent in the world, they’re reaping the financial rewards. It’s time all organizations followed suit to survive and thrive in the post-COVID-19 era.
Organizations can offer flexible work by equipping employees with the tools to succeed from anywhere. A survey by IBM found that more than 75% of employees would like to work from home occasionally post-COVID-19. Many organizations are preparing to meet that demand too. A recent Gartner survey on 317 CFOs revealed that 74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work post-COVID-19.
With higher demand for flexible work and an increasing supply of companies ready to meet their needs, organizations will be competing for talent as work slowly returns to normal. Make sure your organization is ready.
Originally published Jun 06, 2020, updated Jan 18, 2023