Vocational Values Part 1: For Millennials, “Work” Is a Four-Letter Word

by | Oct 30, 2018 | Behind the Scenes

Vocational Values is a 3-Part Series. Part 1 focuses on how Millennials are choosing to align with the values.

Do you consider work to be a necessary evil? You might not like what you do for a living, but you do it. Whether for the money or the potential for career advancement. It’s called “work” for a reason!

Not the case for many members of the millennial generation. Their perspectives on work might come as a surprise. Imagine taking greater personal fulfillment and more flexibility over being offered more money. Or wanting the allure of fresh challenges over advancement at the same job.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers has been studying millennials in the workforce. They note millennials will change the workplace due to sheer numerical size. The generation born between 1980 and 2000 is the largest since the Baby Boomers, who are now retiring en masse.

Millennials already make up of the workforce in the US. In two years, they’ll be about 50 percent of the global workforce, PwC says. So millennials’ work preferences aren’t just idle wishes. They could shake up traditional employer/employee relationships.

So what do millennials want? In some cases, they grew up watching their parents who had nine-to-five jobs struggle during the Great Recession of the late 2000s. All those years at work and suddenly their parent was laid off, with little to show for it.

For someone entering the workforce now, work should offer more than just a salary. What about having ping-pong tables in the break room or group outings to theme parks (the Google model)? That’s a bit old hat, too. Millennials don’t care as much about having a fun place to work as they do other factors.

More flexibility. According to PWC’s “millennials at work” study, many respondents said they’d trade salary increases or promotions for a looser, freer schedule. Think working from home several times a week. Longer maternity and paternity leaves.

Or unlimited vacation policies. No more one week in August and some days around the holidays as your only time off. Millennials want instead the ability to take off a month or longer: for substantial travel, for volunteering, to care for a loved one. Adam Miller, president and CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand, spells it out here. He notes that more companies (Virgin and Evernote, for example) allow unlimited vacation policies, so long as employees coordinate and deliver for their employers.

More individual oriented-training. On-the-job training was once straightforward: an employee learns how to do their specific job and comply with company policies. Millennials want training to be more. The Harvard Business Review noted that millennial workers, when asked what was most important to them when applying for a job, said the opportunity to learn and grow was a critical factor. Can a company help an employee develop a skill, such as learning a new language or a different type of computer coding? Training with an individual benefit angle can keep millennials engaged with their jobs.

Working ethically. The latest Deloitte Millennial Survey has striking data about how millennials perceive business. It’s not good. A minority of respondents believe corporations behave ethically (48%). About 75 percent of respondents see businesses as being only concerned with their own agendas, not society’s. Four in ten respondents say business leaders have a negative impact on the world.

An employer’s public reputation is key as to whether a millennial will want to work there. A company with a strong record of increasing employee diversity or being a good environmental citizen could appeal more than an employer with a more controversial profile, even if the latter offers more money.

More back-and-forth with management. Having a regular two-way relationship with managers is very important for millennials. They want more back-and-forth, with regular feedback given on their performances. This could change traditional practices, like the annual performance review. For millennials, it seems archaic to sit down with your manager only once a year and go over whether you met a prescribed set of goals.

Embracing mobility. Many millennials expect to have multiple careers. They’re the generation most likely to change jobs, according to Gallup’s “How Millennials Want to Work and Live”, which found that 21percent of millennial workers had left their job in the prior year, and six in 10 said they’d welcome different job opportunities: the largest percentage among all generations in the workplace.

A savvy employer can recognize this trend and adapt. If a valued millennial worker is likely going to look elsewhere in a few years, find ways to keep them in the fold. Let them change careers within your organization, or let them help develop a new subsidiary.

Engagement, not standard-percentage raises, has more currency these days.

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Suzanne Skees, author of the three-volume MY JOB series on real people in remarkable jobs, believes in the power of our jobs over our identity and wellbeing and, conversely, our ability to change our world with the work of our minds and hands. She lives by the Pacific Ocean and spends as much time as possible listening to the surf, and to silence.



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