What Millennials (Generation Y) Want Out of Work

This post, courtesy of Recruiting Blogswap, is written by Alexandra Levit, whose blog is Water Cooler Wisdom.

Ms. Levit, a “Twentysomething Career Expert,” is also the author of several books (two of them apparently still in the works):

Ms. Levit writes:

Last week, I went on a speaking tour at several corporations in the U.S. and abroad, training twenty-somethings and their managers on what recent college grads need to do in order to succeed in today’s business climate.

As a result of meeting hundreds of twenty-somethings over the course of the last few years and reading all of the research I can get my hands on, I’ve discovered some commonalities with respect to what twenty-somethings want out of work.

I’ve been sharing these with the managers who are desperate to recruit young professionals and keep them happy so that they’ll keep bringing talent, enthusiasm, and fresh ideas to their organizations!

The current generation of twenty-somethings, also known as Generation Y or the Millennials, is entrepreneurial and relishes challenging work and high levels of responsibility. They are driven not so much by money, but by a sense of accomplishment. They thrive on creative expression and want the flexibility to complete tasks in their own way, using their own innovative methods. They’re learning-oriented, and if they’re doing something wrong, they want to know about it now so they can move on.

Research suggests that Millennials want to work for organizations that are civic-minded and socially responsible. This means that the organization makes good products or services, gives back to the community, and is a good steward of the environment. That same company should be inclusive and fair to all, with a culture that prizes diversity.

And of course, Millennials want as many training and growth opportunities as possible, and they’ll take a lower salary if a position allows them to do meaningful work immediately (as opposed to mind-numbing administrative tasks).

When it comes to managers, Millennials want to work for someone who treats them like colleagues rather than subordinates, and someone who guides with a friendly but firm hand. This generation is big on open communication, so they want to give and receive feedback readily. They want their ideas and opinions to be taken seriously, even if they don’t have years of experience under their belts to support them. The Millennials’ ideal manager recognizes and fixes problems, and rewards top-notch performance in real-time.

I’m looking forward to learning even more about how this powerful generation is making their way in the work world.

Alexandra Levit, Twentysomething Career Expert

This article is courtesy of Recruiting Blogswap, a content exchange service sponsored by CollegeRecruiter.com, a leading site for college students looking for internships and recent graduates searching entry level jobs and other career opportunities, and Recruiting.com.


  1. Very interesting post. Here is an excerpt from an earlier post of mine relating to the topic of generational differences. Don’t mean to be contrarian, but there are lots of divergent opinions on whether such differences exist – or if they exist – the extent to which they are meaningful.

    robert edward cenek, RODP
    Uncommon Commentary on the World of Work


    The values of the average worker have changed significantly since the 1956 publication of William Whyte’s “Organization Man.” Unlike the ‘organization man or woman,” the typical worker today is not willing to be subservient to the corporation in exchange for security and a sense of belongingness. Employees “work to live,” and not “live to work.” Other than the “young, urban professional movement” in the 80’s, this trend has been on a pretty predictable and steady trajectory for years.

    Discussing generational differences is prime cocktail party talk. There is both a certain amount of mystery, as well as a certain amount of sense making by being able to attribute, explain and categorize patterns of behavior in the workplace. Astute pop psychology merchants understand that, and a few have been very creative at reducing complex demographical and societal characteristics into simple nostrums and four quadrant boxes, and have packaged those to provide a nice steady income stream.

    Dr. Morris Massey may have popularized the discussion of generational differences with his highly entertaining and at times comical videotapes that focused on the differences in values among workers. Dr. Massey, in a sometimes very blunt fashion, assigned core personal values to different age cohorts in the workforce. Many of his statements really resonated with training audiences, and his success produced a cottage industry of consultants, each claiming to have the latest and most accurate twist on generational differences in the workplace. Not all of the work done by some of these experts has necessarily been bad. Some of their work has helped interpersonally challenged leaders gain a better grip on the intricacies of workplace behavior.

    No one can deny that there are some differences among different age groups. However, strong evidence is surfacing that suggests that there are as many similarities as there are differences among workers, Jennifer Deal, who is affiliated with the highly esteemed leadership think tank, the Center for Creative Leadership, has undertaken some of the more compelling and insightful research. She surveyed approximately 3,400 workers according to their key values, interests and desires. Her survey respondents included solid samples from the baby boomers (early boomers born between 1946 and 1954 and late boomers born between 1955 and 1963) and Generation Xers born after 1964. There were fewer however in the pre-1945 age group, named by the researchers the “silent generation”, and fewer still in the late Generation X group born between 1977 and 1982.

    Dr. Deal’s findings suggest that some of the conventional wisdom about generational differences is more myth than reality. Some of her key findings included:
    Older and younger workers have many similar values, including valuing family, integrity, love and self-respect;
    fame, affluence, authority, competition and advancement were least likely to rank in the top five, regardless of age;
    Younger workers today change jobs no more frequently than they did 20 years ago;
    There are no age-related differences in the number of hours worked by employees;
    Older people were just as keen to undergo further training and to use computers as the youngest workers; and
    Older and younger workers do not find it difficult to work together.

    While there were many apparent similarities between generations, she admits to finding a few differences as well. For example, when asked if they saw themselves staying with their employer for more than three years, less than 40 per cent of the late Xers said yes, compared with almost 70 per cent of the early boomers – the most long-term-looking group in the sample. Fewer of the older generation were thinking this way presumably because some were looking at retirement in the short term. Comments made when asked what they wanted from employers often differed in nuance between adjoining generations but markedly between the oldest and the youngest. The silent generation, for example, tended to make comments along the following theme: “Give me interesting work to do, recognize my efforts and pay me fairly.” The late Xers, on the other hand, indicated a strong desire for advancement, with flexibility around work schedules, mentoring and merit pay for good work rather than extra pay for seniority.

    Dr. Jennifer Deal’s research findings have been supported to some extent by similar work from Sirota Consulting, a global survey research firm. The firm recently published a book entitled “The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profi t b y Giving Employees Want They Want .” The volume details the results of more than 30 years of survey research by this well-known firm – and debunks many prevailing myths about today’s workplace. One key theme in the book is that the vast majority of workers, regardless of their generational roots, want to be proud of the work that they do and their organization. Further, they yearn to be treated fairly, and value harmonious relationships with co-workers. Similarly, Dr. Gerry Ledford, formerly of the Center for Effective Organizations and Sibson, recently shared a presentation with me that he had delivered to the Irvine Chamber of Commerce detailing some of his earlier research that established that Generations X’ers and Boomers are not that different.

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