The Millennial generation is hitting the workforce, and the media and organizational leaders have…well, let's just say, concerns. To understand the situation better, Telefónica just released new data on our youngest employees, the Millennials, in preparation for their summit held on June 4th in London (reply available here http://event.ft-live.com/ehome/index.php?eventid=57248&). In partnership with the Financial Times, Telefónica conducted 12,171 online quantitative interviews among Millennials aged 18-30 across 27 countries in six regions including North America, Latin America, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, and Middle East & Africa . The 190 question survey was administered from mid-January to early February. (See more at: http://survey.telefonica.com/survey-findings/#sthash.SEfLbXMG.dpuf)
I took a peek at the findings and distilled the work-related results. Below are a bunch of statistics, all reporting data from the full international sample unless otherwise noted. Keep in mind these are broad generalizations made from a sample of Millennials. Of course, any one individual’s values and beliefs can vary wildly from these survey results.
Here’s a piece of good news: Millennials will engage in work as their parents and grandparents have before them. Seventy-five percent link who they are as a person to what they do for a living, and 43 percent say making it to the top of their career is very important to them (although only a third of Millennials in the U.S. similarly value their career). Ten percent say their career is their single most important priority, and 14 percent prioritize making money – beating out other family and friends for the top slot. To wit, over 40 percent rated personal finances and personal trajectory (i.e., what am I doing with my life?) in their top three biggest worries. That being said, only half of this survey's 18-30 year old sample is working outside the home – many are still in school. The youngest is, after all, only 10.
So many are planning on engaging in the workforce. Great. In fact, 75 percent "know exactly where they want to be in 10 years". A little vague, I feel. What do they want to do? Technology and economics beat out other fields of study as "most important to ensuring [their] personal future success" at 36 and 20 percent, respectively. In the U.S., technology came in lower at 28 percent with the difference mainly compensated for in Science at 18 percent. Seventy percent of this young generation is willing to work abroad, although that number drops to 62 percent in the U.S.
Will this engagement in work support our economy? We might say “obviously”, but much of our economic strength is rooted in entrepreneurialism. For our youngest workers, 55 percent say being an entrepreneur is important, but only 45 percent say the same in the U.S. The highest scores are in Latin American countries (78-96 percent), and the lowest come from Japan (14 percent). Only 41 percent want to work for a start-up. It seems as though this group is, at least for now, a bit risk-averse. You’ll see below that financial security is a concern, and a start-up, perhaps, doesn’t offer the assurances they are looking for.
Organizations are concerned with Millennials' turnover, and with good reason: consultancies' research reports that a half to two-thirds of this group intend to leave their organization. Despite past research I and colleagues have published which isolated generational differences (Kowske, Rasch, & Wiley, Journal of Business and Psychology) and showed this group as more satisfied at work as a generation, their age – their youth and career infancy – trumps. On job-hopping, Millennials are spilt with 53 percent preferring a steady job, and 47 percent feeling that it’s better to change jobs as opportunities arise. However, in the US, two-thirds believe in the benefits of steady employment. Interestingly (but to no surprise for those of us who watch the Chinese labor market), the numbers flip in China – 55 percent have more faith in switching jobs. The threat of Millennial turnover is real.
What types of organizations are more likely to engage them? We seem to think that contributing to the community is a key issue, and there is evidence to support this idea, but at their core they are like everyone else that works for pay: 95 percent want to work for a company that generously compensates its employees, and 86 percent want it to be focused on financial stability and the bottom line. In fact, over half of Millennials believe that a decent paying job is a right, versus a privilege.
But that’s not the whole picture. Seventy-six percent would rather love their job but make just a little money, and only 24 percent that wouldn’t mind hating their job if they made a lot of money. Eighty-nine percent want to work for an organization that allows for flexibility regarding when and where to work. In terms of the draw of corporate responsibility, over 80 percent want the organization to be socially and environmentally responsible. And they have ideas as to how: their top three most important ways to contribute to society are 1. improving access and quality of education (42 percent chose as one of their top three), 2. protecting the environment (41 percent), and 3. eliminating poverty (41 percent).
In other words, they want to work for top dollar, love their job, and have a flexible schedule, all while working for an organization that contributes to the community and protects the environment. Utopia, or the reality each organization faces?
So what did we learn? The eldest of Millennials are facing facts. They are concerned about their future and are worried about their personal finances. They are geared up to joined the workforce and contribute to the economy. But they are also looking for a balanced approach from organizations – they realize that you have to make money to survive as a firm first, and they hope the organization they join can do that in a responsible way. As HR professionals, we will continue to battle turnover in the Millennial workforce, but creating engaging jobs and upping the socially responsible-factor might help us mitigate this risk.
But let's remember: only half of this young workforce is currently working. And many of this eldest half are just starting families. Without a doubt, like generations before them, their perspectives and opinions will change. As they age, we will watch shifts and adjust our practices.
For more information on generational research, members can download the Bersin report Just the Facts About Millennials (And How Organizations Are Supporting Them).