Millennials have been criticized for being less committed to their work than older generations, but this is not an accurate assessment. The truth is that millennials are equally as invested in their jobs, they simply have different expectations of how work should factor into their lives. In order for employers to meet changing workplace expectations, they need to understand what motivates millennial employees.

A massive global survey conducted by PwC, an accounting and consulting firm, compiled more than 44,000 anonymous surveys from millennial and non-millennial employees. They also conducted 300 interviews and hosted 30 focus groups, all in pursuit of understanding the generational characteristics of millennials in the workplace.

The study, conducted pre-pandemic, identified what matters most to millennial employees as well as what they have in common with older generations. The results indicate that the millennial outlook on the workplace could redefine company values in a major way. Now, as many organizations struggle with employee retention, employers should pay close attention to the aspirations, work styles, and values of millennials.

Millennials prioritize their personal lives in the present.

Many millennials do not believe that excessive demands at work are worth the sacrifices to their personal lives. This was the number one takeaway from PwC’s survey. Although working long, demanding hours in the present could lead to better compensation in the future, the majority of millennials are unwilling to make their work lives an exclusive priority. Simply put, millennials are reluctant to sacrifice their happiness in the present in pursuit of an uncertain future.

Social needs are most important to millennials.

Millennials want to feel like they are part of a team. They value a strong sense of community in the workplace, fostered by transparency and open communication. Millennials want to offer input on their work assignments, they want to feel heard and supported by their supervisors.

This desire for support and cohesion in the workplace can be attributed to the fact that millennials are more attuned to the world around them than older generations. Empathy is their priority.

In fact, the number one thing millennials want from the workplace is an employer who cares about their wellbeing. As a result, millennials often make decisions based on their social needs, while their older colleagues are focused on transactional needs like career development and pay satisfaction.

Millennials want flexibility, and so does everyone else.

Millennials want their work to be evaluated based on the output they produce, not the hours they put in. They want to shift their work hours to accommodate their personal lives, by starting later or putting in extra hours at night. Tellingly, millennials say they view work as a “thing,” not a “place.”

Millennials want flexibility, and, strikingly, the survey results revealed that everyone else does too. A significant number of employees from all generations want a more flexible work schedule and many said they would take a pay cut to make it happen. That desire for flexibility has become a necessity since the pandemic began, evidenced by the millions of workers who recently quit their jobs. In order to retain employees, organizations must make flexibility a priority. The millennials are onto something, and employers should be listening.

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