By 2020, more than half of the American workforce will be made up of workers who are Millennials or younger, still brands and employers continue to second-guess their strategies to attract and retain these young generations of mold breakers.
Data from Open Mind Strategy’s Youth IQ syndicated insight survey (which surveys over 1,600 respondents between the ages of 13-37 twice a quarter) unlocks a variety of insights into these consumers that bust some conventional myths about the goals and intentions of young people today.
In this article, I will examine three of the many ways that Millennials and older Gen Zs age 18-37 —collectively “New Adults” — are challenging the status quo and redefining perceptions and practices around career.
MYTH #1: Millennials are entitled, trophy seekers doing just enough to get by
Millennials are known as the cohort that expects praise and constant feedback, regardless of their work ethic. It is true that many need a steady stream of feedback in the workplace, however, when we look at this idea and try to understand it from their perspective, a different story emerges.
Many 18-37s do crave a fast track to growth with half of them agreeing, “I expect a promotion within one year of starting a job” – however they don’t expect things to be handed to them at all. 7 in 10 say “I work hard at whatever I do even if I don’t enjoy it” and 66% of 18-37s agree “I always want feedback on the work I do.” Student debt and cost of living is the highest it has ever been so when this cohort of 18-37s are expecting to move up quickly, it isn’t because they think they are owed anything—it is that they are working hard and have to plan out of financial necessity for themselves and their families.
Additionally, when ranking the most important things to them in a career, “a title” and “a team that works for me” ranked lowest, while “growth opportunities” and “the ability to constantly learn new things” rank significantly higher.
REALITY: While Millennials have a reputation of entitlement and lacking work ethic, at this point, they actually are well versed in disappointment. They may crave acknowledgement and advancement, but they are putting in the effort and they are eager for constant feedback in order to make sure they can advance as quickly as possible.
MYTH #2: Millennials pursue personal passions over plans or profits
Yes, Millennials are still the passion-led generation. They want to pursue careers that fulfill them entirely. So, we do see that eight in ten 18-37s agree “my goal is to have a job that makes me excited to go to work every day” and three out of four of them agree “Work/life balance is important in my career.”
But, they are realistic and serious as well, young workers have plans B and C on the backburner, in case plan A doesn’t pan out. We are seeing another side emerging among 18-37s, that money may be just as important as their passion.
If we ask would you rather work less hours or, work more hours to get overtime. 57% of all Millennials pick the latter.
When you ask them if they want more vacation time, or to make more money. 71% of all Millennials pick the latter.
REALITY:. While Millennials and older Gen Zs idealize a career of balance, they are acknowledging that making money is a really important part of success. They are prioritizing money equal to their passions at this point, because it’s their reality.
MYTH #3: They Reject Establishment, but Kombucha and Communal Space Keep Them Happy
Younger generations are known to be into working for a startup, as it can offer a cool and fun workplace vibe. When asked, we found that 70% of 18-37s said that they’d rather work at a well-established company than work at a startup. “New Adults” are not afraid to pursue non-traditional career paths, but the stability that established companies can provide them is quite appealing to their plans for profit.
Some companies that try to attract younger workforce tout perks like in-office Kombucha and a fun, co-working environment with open floor office space. When you look at what 18-37s actually want, 73% say they’d like to have their own office (vs. 27% work at communal/open office”) because they really value being seen as hard working and successful.
Whoever got the idea that Millennials don’t want to hear about 401k plans and work benefits, and would rather hear about fun perks, got that all wrong. 2 in 3 Millennials would rather “have a 401k plan where my company matches my contributions” with only 1 in 3 who would rather “have a lot of job perks.” They do want to hear about it because this is the stuff they actually need to succeed.
Millennials do have a modern take on the balance of life and work, and the reality is a good salary, with good benefits, and an office at an established company, could really make them happy—A more traditional work construct, go figure!
REALITY: They Take Comfort in Constructs, Want Earned Space and Find Benefits Sexy!
- When thinking about “New Adults”, 18-37 year olds in the workforce, it is important to think about where they come from and what they’re dealing with. They didn’t set the new price of success, with loads of student debt and a high cost of living.
- Don’t talk down to them when you’re talking about strategies. They need people to speak their language and to stop screaming entitlement and shift the narrative to empowerment.
- Don’t confuse the desire for flexibility with the rejection of stability. The new dream is about both balance and benefits.
Lianna Willoughby is the SVP, Managing Director of Open Mind Strategy, LLC. As managing director, Willoughby handles all business operations, including overseeing qualitative and quantitative research projects, from design, execution to analysis.