The Millennial generation is expected to make up about 75% of the total global workforce by 2035, and managers should understand the indicators of Millennial job satisfaction. These young employees are more prone to “job-hopping” than their predecessors, and their willingness to change career paths is enabled, and even encouraged, by LinkedIn and other Internet platforms and social networking services.
At the same time, a trend towards the meshing of work and play is emerging and creating a unique sense of the proper work/life balance. Because their work lives are so intertwined with their leisure time and extracurricular pursuits, millennials tend to look for more transparency, meaning, and flexibility in the companies they work for. While job satisfaction can be a difficult thing to describe, we've considered generation-specific indexes in our account.
THE GENERATIONAL GAP
To fully understand the millennial mentality, one should consider the work ethic of previous generations. Shell-shocked by WWII and the Great Depression, members of the Greatest Generatiion instilled a sense of the importance of stability, hard work and practicality in their children. Those children, the Baby Boomers, grew up in an era of economic prosperity that exceeded even their own expectations. Members of Generation X weren't so certain about their futures. But millennials are growing up to be relatively privileged (if, perhaps, less materialistic), as well as risk-loving and anti-status quo. They measure their level of career satisfaction in different ways.
Millennials place a premium on goods ands services from socially responsible companies – and flock to join these companies. Conversely, businesses are working to attract millennials by capitalizing on their conscious consumer ethos. (See: "How Conscious Consumerism is Changing Business.")
Consider WeWork, a real estate company that founders Adam Nuemann and Miguel McKelvey have transformed into a space-sharing tech platform valued at $10 billion. The company caters to what it calls the “We Generation" by engineering “a macro shift towards a new way of work—one focused on a movement towards meaning.” What this means, in practice, is that WeWork supports entrepreneurs and freelancers by providing them with a sense of community and offering the kinds of services that were once exclusive to the corporate workplace. (See: "Millennials Guide: Be a Freelancer vs. an Employee.")
“Work to make a life, not just a living,” has become a driving slogan for other young startups. Such aspirations might sound suspiciously idealistic to members of older generations. But personal fulfillment is seen, by millennials, as a simple requirement as they consider their employment opportunities.
Millennials are more apt to switch careers than the memebrs of older generations. This can be a problems for employers who invest serious capital in recruitment efforts and training programs for early-stage employees. In order to retain millennials, "generational coaches" like Haydn Shaw advise managers to get employees “engaged and productive so they make a big contribution for as long as they stay," and Bloomberg BusinessWeek recommends challenging work assignment and flexibility, allowing millennials "to connect through mobile devices and come to the office outside of the traditional 9-to-5.....”
DEATH OF THE 9-5
According to a study by PwC, done in conjunction with the University of Southern California and the London Business School, millennials do place a significant emphasis on job flexibility. Unlike members of past generations, who put their careers ahead of their personal lives, working long hours in order to rise up the ranks, the study notes, "millennial employees are not convinced that such early-career sacrifices are worth the potential rewards.”
The millennial attitude goes far beyond flexible work schedules. It also involves a more friendly, collaborative office culture, complete with happy hours and company outings. Airbnb’s career page tells potential hires that “together, we work hard, we laugh a lot, we brainstorm nonstop, we use hundreds of Post-Its a week, and we give the best high-fives in town... We master chaos through flexibility and youthful curiosity.”
Millennials have come to expect free snacks, relaxed dress codes, and Tequila Tuesdays, along with the professional meetings, networking nights and structured training programs that young firms offer.
The members of Generation Y also love authenticity, value transparency, and scorn what seem to them to be meaningless hierarchical structures. They'll see right through what's false or fake corporate culture, and won't be shy about blasting employers on social media. When Reddit asked its users to “spill your employer’s secrets herein,” the post quickly received 1,612 responses.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Managers should not mistake the preference for casual, social, and flexible work styles for a lack of committmment, or drive. Rather, workplaces should transform themselves in order to attract young thinkers who thrive in challenging, collaborative environments. If they don't, millennial workers will abandon them for a more innovative companies—or start those companies themselves.