Wanted: millennials looking for meaningful work

Gallup’s new report ‘How Millennials Want to Work and Live’

A new report into the millennial workforce paints a picture of a generation poised to make a profound impact on the business landscape as we know it. Millennials aged 18 to 34, are unlike any generation that’s gone before. With enormous spending power and the advantage of being born into a digital world, they are causing baby-boomer bosses to rethink how to engage with them as employees.

Released this month, the ‘How Millennials Want to Work and Live’ report by Gallup is giving employers a window into the attitudes and behaviours of millennials who, according to Statistics New Zealand, now make up the single largest age group in the New Zealand labour force. In just five years they will dominate the labour force entirely.

The Gallup report identifies four themes common amongst those in the millennial generation; they are unattached, connected, unconstrained and idealistic.

Contrary to generations before them, millennials do not feel strong ties to their jobs and are less likely to feel pride in their communities, or to identify with religion or political parties. They are also waiting longer to get married, with the median marriage age now 30, compared to the 1970s median age of 23. This reluctance to be tied down is reflected in their tendency to move freely between jobs.

The Gallup report shows 21 percent of millennials have changed employer within the past year, more than three times the number of non-millennials, and half of the millennial workforce says they do not see a future with their current employer. This staff turnover is estimated to cost the US economy $30.5 billion annually, with recruiting new talent a significant drain for any business.

However the Gallup report holds a few helpful clues to help employers understand and retain the next generation. Despite millennials’ tendencies to remain unattached, they are highly connected with the world around them. More than 90 percent own a smartphone and 71 percent primarily use online sources for news and information. They are pushing for change in the workplace to accommodate their need for digital connectedness with flexible working arrangements and state of the art technology supporting this connectedness, but on their own terms.

They are also a largely optimistic generation, who desire to find work that fuels their sense of purpose and wellbeing. The margin between their work and personal lives is blurred to the extent that they want their work to directly reflect their personal values.

Businesses that have a strong social conscience and offer the opportunity to learn and grow are likely to be more attractive to millennials, with 87 percent saying professional and personal development is important in a job. Furthermore, they have a desire to be more engaged, with those that felt they could talk about non-work related issues with their employer more likely to stay in their jobs longer term.

Millennials have big dreams and aren’t afraid to chase them. Whether that is to the detriment or benefit of businesses depends on the willingness of employers to weave flexibility and sustainability into the fabric of their organisations. The report may be viewed as an early warning sign for businesses; however the opportunities to engage this new breed of employee are exciting and have the potential to promote deeper customer engagement and widespread societal good.

Click here to view the full report.