What Millennials Want At Work — and Why It Matters

We’ve all heard and read the millennial-bashing. Millennial employees want free food; they want unlimited vacation; they want to run the company two days after they arrive; they want to be coddled and given a trophy. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I’m definitely not in the millennial-bashing camp.

Why am I always so bullish on this generation? Because if you look past the stereotypes, you quickly see that millennials are smart, inquisitive and passionate, and they expect their workplace to reflect those ideals. Millennials are also now the largest cohort in our countryIt makes business sense to support them.

I hear a lot of questions from leaders about who, exactly, millennials are, what they’re looking for from employers, and how to build a business to support millennials’ needs and preferences. While I’ve touched on many of these topics in the past, I thought I’d pull together some of my favorite recent articles about what millennials want at work – and the new mindsets smart leaders are embracing to keep young professionals around.

Millennials Will Sacrifice Salary for A Better Work Environment

“25- to 35-year-olds said they’d be willing to give up an average of $7,600 in pay for a better situation at the office, such as more career development and a healthier work/life balance. … ‘I look for a role where work actually gets done and I’m challenged,’ says [Laura] Arnold, who lives in Cincinnati. ‘Getting new skills and things you can take with you if things go south or you wanted to leave is really more valuable than an extra couple thousand dollars.’”  —  Read more at USA Today.

Millennials Want to Work For The Greater Good

“73 percent of Millennials seek meaningful work at an organization with a mission they support. In fact, a remarkable 90 percent say they want to use their skills for good—suggesting that Millennials seek workplaces with a culture of altruism that enables them to give back. Millennials also care about workplace culture, with 77 percent noting it is just as or more important than salary and benefits.” —  Read more at Bulldog Reporter.

Millennials Want to Be Entrepreneurial – Even Within a Big Company

“If you embrace Gen Y and Z’s entrepreneurial spirit and build a culture to support, rather than crush it, they will not need to leave your company to fulfill this desire. In any case, results are all that really matter. If you are focusing on anything else, you have it wrong. … Giving your employees the flexibility and freedom – where possible – to be their own boss with a focus exclusively on results, produces greater employee engagement, loyalty and ultimately better business results.” —  Read more at Forbes.com.

Millennials Want to be Coached

“They crave — and respond to — a good, positive coach, who can make all the difference in their success. In a global survey … 1,400 Millennials told us they want more feedback from their managers. … Overall, Millennials want feedback 50% more often than other employees. They also told us that their number one source of development is their manager, but only 46% agreed that their managers delivered on their expectations for feedback. There’s a lot of room for improvement, according to the data.” —  Read more at Harvard Business Journal.

Millennials Want to Design their Own Career Paths

“An essential component of Millennial employee engagement is letting them have a voice in how their careers are structured. The one-size-fits-all approach to building careers simply doesn’t square with Millennials’ ambitions. Their desire for amazing, personalized experiences and the chance to prove their abilities and quickly rise through the ranks often will trump the allure of a heftier paycheck. Unlike the traditional career paths of many Gen Xers and Boomers, which tended to be more linear, Millennials are forging nonlinear and unique career paths that are aligned with a personal sense of purpose.” —  Read more at MediaPost.

Millennials and managers of millennials, I’d love to hear from you! What do you think makes a workplace Gen Y-friendly? What mistakes do you see employers making when it comes to millennials? Please share in the comments below!

Lindsey Pollak is the leading voice on millennials in the workplace, trusted by global companies, universities, the world’s top media outlets — and, most importantly, by millennials themselves. A New York Times bestselling author, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her keynote speeches have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

Share this post

hi, i'm lindsey!

Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


Learn 25 Practical Ways to Manage Across Generations