Never Mind the Chatter – What do Millennials Really Want?

When it comes to millennials, the research and questions that go along with them are endless. For this hot topic, we dove into some research of our own, and instead of surmising all the data into pretty charts (OK, there is a little bit of that), we let their uncensored voices speak for themselves.

By Sabrina Viva

When we work with companies to develop transformative employee volunteer programs (EVP), the scope of our work neither begins nor ends there. In order to have a successful EVP, companies need to understand their corporate culture. They need to work across departments, company-wide, to fully engage their employees. The elements of recruitment, retention, employee morale and satisfaction, along with engagement and corporate citizenship all work and play hand-in-hand; each is dependent on the other. Some of the recurring questions we hear among our clients refer specifically to their millennial workforce:

  • How do we engage our millennial workforce?
  • What is important to them?
  • How do we retain this demographic?
  • How do we become the employer of choice to recruit the top talent?

Big questions. Important questions. In our field of Employee Engagement, the millennial research (today I am calling it chatter) we come across never seems to be in short supply. Here are three studies to shed some light on some of the questions above: The 2013 Millennial Impact Report. Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change The Millennial Generation: Pro-Social and Empowered to Change the World But we wanted to dig a little deeper. Through personal interviews and individual surveys, we spoke with a small sample of millennials all over the world to find out what millennials really want. But before we jump in, let’s define exactly what a millennial is.

What is a Millennial?

Wikipedia describes millennials as “the demographic cohort following Generation X”. There is some debate on the actual dates of the millennial generation, but this group is typically born between early 80s and the early 2000s. The white paper published by Cone Inc. and the AMP Agency characterizes millennials as “the most analyzed, marketed and intriguing generation to date [WOW!] … that is comprised of individuals that are extremely ambitious and have high expectations for themselves and others [this includes their employer]. They have been shaped by tragic world events … which resulted in developing a strong social conscience amplified by technology.” Our research also found this to be true. Millennials are driven, ambitious, and care about social issues. They need flexibility and mobility. They need to be tuned in to the world around them a majority of the time. Here are the three key themes we pulled from our research:

  1. Millennials Value Flexibility. Almost every millennial in our survey noted flexibility as one of their top ‘non-negotiables’ when selecting an employer. The millennials defined flexibility as the “space to be free to change, explore, be creative”. “The traditional 9-5 workplace setting and culture does not stimulate me.” They want to “balance their career with their lives and allow the two to be just as important as the other.”

    CHART 1 | Breaks down the top 4 non-negotiables among this group, bringing salary to the 4th position. Interesting …”I would rather work with a company that allows me the flexibility to have a good work/life balance.” “I would choose a company with a corporate culture that aligns with my beliefs, over a good salary.” “We get to choose and almost every time, people in my generation will choose the company that is socially responsible and forward thinking over one that is not, even if that means a difference in salary.” “The community, environment and our future is very important to us so we can’t work for a company that is contributing to making it worse or not contributing at all.”

  2. Millennials Need Meaning. Our group identified meaningful work as one of the top things they want in their job. “If the work I am doing has no meaning or impact, I don’t think I will stay with that employer” … “I need meaningful work; I want to contribute to the company’s strategic planning and be asked what I think.” “A lot of millennials find meaning in our personal volunteer experiences. If a company would provide opportunities to volunteer and give back to our community as well, we would be hooked. We just need to be asked.”

    CHART 2 | An overview of the top 5 elements millennials want from their job. There are a few more, but these made it to the top 5.

  3. Millennials Want to Contribute. Our millennials were full of suggestions on how to better the workplace (and the world). “Employers need to listen to what is important to their staff. Find the common thread and connect us all.”Our colleagues at Open Spaces Learning do a great job at finding a common shared value within a corporation and allowing that shared value to drive the core business strategy. “We are not entitled, we just grew up in a different time with many choices and we were taught to ask questions and demand the best for ourselves.” “We want to contribute, share our ideas. Work. And maybe change the world while we are at it.”

Why does it matter?

We often talk about the 4 conditions needed to create a successful EVP: space, movement, motivation and structure. When these 4 conditions are created, we give volunteers the opportunity to have a transformative experience. This is also true in the workplace. When you create the right conditions, your employees and your workplace can experience transformation. Employees want “a creative playground to bring out the best in us.” Here is a great example of how companies can do this. Companies that have already had great success in recruitment, retention and engagement are paying attention. A workforce that is happy leads to better productivity, more loyalty, less sick days, and greater financial success. Why does it matter? Millennials are the future, like it or not; don’t fall behind; listen to them; learn from them and let’s change the world.

Do you have any millennial experiences or research to share? We would love to hear from you. Comment below or shoot me an email.


Sabrina Viva
Project Manager

3 thoughts on “Never Mind the Chatter – What do Millennials Really Want?

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