According to LinkedIn’s 2015 Talent Trends Report, millennials will comprise 50% of the workforce by the time 2020 rolls around. In less than 10 years, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. Yet many agencies, despite hiring and retention problems, have not considered the unique opportunities and problems of attracting and retaining this growing segment of the workforce. But who are millennials, and how do agencies make themselves more attractive places for millennials to work?
There are no precise dates for when the millennials cohort starts or ends. Demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years.
In reality, there are strong similarities between millennials and the generations that have preceded them: they want security and variety in their career, they want to be stretched and challenged, they want to work for a company of which they can be proud, and they have every intention of being loyal.
But there are many ways in which this growing proportion of the workforce is different. They have strong beliefs and expectations that extend to the workplace.
Data suggests millennials are driving a shift towards the public service sector. In 2010, Myers and Sadaghiani published research in the Journal of Business and Psychology stating heightened participation in the Peace Corps and MeriCorps as a result of millennials, with volunteering being at all-time highs. Volunteer activity between 2007 and 2008 show the millennial age group experienced almost three-times the increase of the overall population, which is consistent with a survey of 130 college upperclassmen depicting an emphasis on altruism in their upbringing. This has led, according to a Harvard University Institute of Politics study, six out of ten millennials to consider a career in public service.
A 2014 Brookings publication shows a generational adherence to corporate social responsibility, with the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) 2013 survey and Universum’s 2011 survey, depicting a preference to work for companies engaged in the betterment of society. Millennials’ shift in attitudes has led to data depicting 64% of them would take a 60% pay cut to pursue a career path aligned with their passions, and financial institutions have fallen out of favor with banks comprising 40% of the generation’s least liked brands.
In 2008, author Ron Alsop called the millennials “Trophy Kids,” a term that reflects a trend in competitive sports, as well as many other aspects of life, where mere participation is frequently enough for a reward. It has been reported that this is an issue in corporate environments. Some employers are concerned that millennials have too great expectations from the workplace. Some studies predict they will switch jobs frequently, holding many more jobs than Gen Xers due to their great expectations. Psychologist Jean Twenge reports data suggests there are differences between older and younger millennials regarding workplace expectations, with younger millennials being “more practical” and “more attracted to industries with steady work and are more likely to say they are willing to work overtime” which Twenge attributes to younger millennials coming of age following the financial crisis of 2007-2008.
Surveys of political attitudes among millennials have suggested increasingly social liberal views, as well as higher overall support for classical liberal economic policies than preceding generations. They are more likely to support same-sex marriage and the legalization of drugs. The Economist parallels this with millennials in the United States, whose attitudes are more supportive of social liberal policies and same-sex marriage relative to other demographics. They are also more likely to oppose animal testing for medical purposes than older generations.
Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist and democratic candidate in the 2016 United States presidential election, was the most popular candidate among millennial voters in the primary phase, having garnered more votes from people under 30 in 21 states than the major parties’ candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, did combined. In April 2016, The Washington Post viewed him as changing the way Millennials viewed politics, saying, “He’s not moving a party to the left. He’s moving a generation to the left.” Bernie Sanders referred to millennials as “the least prejudiced generation in the history of the United States”.
Millennials are expected to make up approximately half of the U.S. workforce by 2020. Millennials are the most highly educated and culturally diverse group of all generations, and have been regarded as hard to please when it comes to employers. To address these new challenges, many large firms are currently studying the social and behavioral patterns of millennials and are trying to devise programs that decrease intergenerational estrangement, and increase relationships of reciprocal understanding between older employees and millennials. The UK’s Institute of Leadership & Management researched the gap in understanding between millennial recruits and their managers in collaboration with Ashridge Business School. The findings included high expectations for advancement, salary and for a coaching relationship with their manager, and suggested that organizations will need to adapt to accommodate and make the best use of millennials. In an example of a company trying to do just this, Goldman Sachs conducted training programs that used actors to portray millennials who assertively sought more feedback, responsibility, and involvement in decision making. After the performance, employees discussed and debated the generational differences they saw played out.
Average incomes for millennials have fallen at twice the general adult population’s total drop and are likely to be on a path toward lower incomes for at least another decade. A Bloomberg L.P. article wrote that “Three and a half years after the worst recession since the Great Depression, the earnings and employment gap between those in the under-35 population and their parents and grandparents threatens to unravel the American dream of each generation doing better than the last. The nation’s younger workers have benefited least from an economic recovery that has been the most uneven in recent history.”
In 2014, millennials were entering an increasingly multi-generational workplace. Even though research has shown that millennials are joining the workforce during a tough economic time, they still have remained optimistic. About nine out of ten millennials surveyed by the Pew Research Center said that they currently have enough money or that they will eventually reach their long-term financial goals.
In their 2007 book, authors Junco and Mastrodicasa expanded on the work of William Strauss and Neil Howe to include research-based information about the personality profiles of millennials, especially as it relates to higher education. They conducted a large-sample (7,705) research study of college students. They found that Next Generation college students, born between 1983–1992, were frequently in touch with their parents and they used technology at higher rates than people from other generations. In their survey, they found that 97% of these students owned a computer, 94% owned a mobile phone, and 56% owned an MP3 player. They also found that students spoke with their parents an average of 1.5 times a day about a wide range of topics. Other findings in the Junco and Mastrodicasa survey revealed 76% of students used instant messaging, 92% of those reported multitasking while instant messaging, 40% of them used television to get most of their news, and 34% of students surveyed used the Internet as their primary news source.
One of the most popular forms of media use by millennials is social networking. In 2010, research was published in the Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research which claimed that students who used social media and decided to quit showed the same withdrawal symptoms of a drug addict who quit their stimulant. Marc Prensky coined the term “digital native” to describe “K through college” students in 2001, explaining they “represent the first generations to grow up with this new technology.”
Millennials use social networking sites, such as Facebook, to create a different sense of belonging, make acquaintances, and to remain connected with friends. In the Frontline episode “Generation Like”, there is discussion about millennials, their dependence on technology, and the ways the social media sphere is commoditized.
Along with being educated, millennials are also very upbeat. As stated above, about 9 out of 10 millennials feel as though they have enough money or that they will reach their long-term financial goals, even during tough economic times. They are also more optimistic about the future of the U.S. in general. Additionally, millennials are also more open to change than older generations. According to a Pew Research Center 2008 survey titled Millennials in Adulthood, millennials are the most likely of any generation to self-identify as liberals and are also more supportive of progressive domestic social agenda than older generations. Finally, millennials are less overtly religious than the older generations. About one in four millennials are unaffiliated with any religion, which is much more than the older generations when they were the ages of millennials.
There are a number of key steps employers can take to address the needs and preferences of millennials. Consider these 12 tips to ensure your agency is millennial-friendly: