What Studies Reveal About Millennials

by | 13 March 2015

Welcome to the second in a series of posts aimed at explaining how to attract and retain Millennials by examining workplace attributes. In my previous post, I started by exploring the macro business shifts that created the current business climate in which Millennials find themselves operating. In this post, I will explain some key learnings about Millennials that numerous studies have revealed. Finally, using the business context and these learnings, we’ll explore the workplace attributes that will help your organization attract and retain your future workforce.

Also: What is the current business climate for Millenials? | Don’t dread the advance of Millennials in the workplace

The first source of learnings comes from “The Millennial Generation Research Review,” a recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Its robust conclusions, which are too numerous to be included here, emphasize some of what we already know: For instance, technology has blurred borders within an accessible connected generation; or, the lines between work and life are ill-defined in a literal 24/7 world — further motivating Millennials toward work-life balance; and the workday is no longer 9 to 5.

More: Millennials’ impact on the healthcare industry | How Millennials are saving malls

The report also provides explanation for some of the stereotypical behaviors others in the workplace may find frustrating. For example, it mentions recessionary effects and outsourcing. It also states that “weakened job market can lead to entrants taking jobs that are not a good match, usually ones offering lower average wages, especially at smaller firms.” It explains further, “Research suggests that, even after recovery, college graduates who enter the workforce during a weak economy will … experience a relative wage loss for at least 15 more years.” Finding the right position in the right firm that provides job satisfaction is critical to success.

The second set of learning comes from PwC’s excellent “NextGen Study.” While some might consider it dated, since it was originally published in 2013, the study lays out four buckets of factors that are key to creating an emotional connection – and thus lead to retention. These factors framed the PwC’s approach moving forward after an initial finding that its Millennials were leaving the company in growing numbers after just a few years. These four include:

1. Balance and workload

  • Work/life imbalance
  • Impact of the workload
  • Manageability of the workload

2. Engaging work, development and opportunities

  • Work that is interesting and meaningful
  • Support for professional development
  • Knowledge and influence about opportunities

3. People and teams

  • The team
  • Mentors and supervisors
  • Friendship at work

4. Competitive pay and job opportunities

  • Perceived pay equity
  • Job opportunities at PwC vs. elsewhere

So, what does this all mean? The NextGen Study identified a number of areas that can be made manifest in the workplace, which I’ll explain further in subsequent posts. In the meantime, however, here’s a rundown of some of the study’s recommendations for attracting and retaining future talent:

Create a flexible work culture. The NextGen study found that 15 percent of male employees and 21 percent of female employees would give up some of their pay and slow the pace of promotion in their careers in exchange for working fewer hours.

Fully leverage technology. This is an absolute must for Millennials, who expect to have access to the best tools for collaboration and execution.

Increase transparency around compensation, rewards and career decisions. Take the mystery out of compensation decisions, and provide greater transparency to employees regarding their career development.

Build a sense of community. Emphasize teamwork, appreciation and support from supervisors, and give employees honest, real-time feedback, face to face.

Consider introducing or accelerating your global mobility program. Providing these opportunities not only adds to the development of the individual working abroad but also helps to create a cadre of future leaders with a global mindset.

Evaluate the impact that Millennials may have on the contingent workforce strategy of your organization. Leveraging Millennials as contingent workers will provide organizations better control over variable costs and enable a more flexible, dynamic workforce that is able to scale up or down to meet the changing needs of the organization.

One size does not fit all. Differences do exist among Millennials and other generations, and these generational differences should be taken into account by organizations that include employees from various groups. For example, Millennials are more likely to leave if their needs for support, appreciation and flexibility are not met while non-Millennials are more likely to leave if they feel they are not being paid competitively or are perceiving a lack of development opportunities.

Policies, location decisions and workplace fit-outs can be tailored to address each of these areas, as I will explore in forthcoming.

Ron is Managing Director of Strategy & Innovation for Corporate Solutions for Colliers International in the Americas. Connect with Ron on Twitter or LinkedIn. In his spare time, he runs … around the house after his infant daughter.