Despite the evidence that boomers have pretty much equally short attention spans for jobs, much attention has been paid to job hopping millennials in recent years. Whether this is good or bad for their careersis up in the air, but according to a recent Aon Hewitt survey, it’s an undying trend. Almost half of the millennials surveyed say they plan to look for a new job this year.
According to Aon Hewitt, millennials feel that what they value in an organization is different than the priorities of their current workplace. Most employees believe their employers’ current values focus on more organizational-oriented themes, including teamwork, profit and customer satisfaction. When asked what qualities are the most desirable in an organization, millennials cited more relationship-oriented values, including work-home balance, employee recognition, loyalty and respect. I interviewed Ray Baumruk, partner and employee research leader at Aon Hewitt, to find out more about the survey’s findings and what corporations can do to keep their top Gen Y talent.
According to your study, millennials feel that what they value in an organization is different than the priorities of their current workplace. Explain that. What are their values?
In the study, we asked participants to select from a long list the 10 characteristics that best describe their current employment experience as well as the 10 characteristics that best describe their desired employment experience. For millennials, and other generations, the top characteristics listed in each category are quite different — in fact, only four characteristics show up in the top 10 across both categories. The characteristics most often cited as desired by millennials include balance (work-life), employee recognition, loyalty, respect and open communication. However, only employee recognition and loyalty show up as a 10 characteristic of their current experience. More interesting is perhaps the characteristics with the largest gaps between current and desired experiences cited by millennials. These include, in order of size of gap, balance (work-life), open communication, fairness, employee recognition, respect and clarity. In fact, though clarity shows up as a relatively large gap for millennials, it does not show up similarly for other generations.
Why do they feel those values aren’t being served?
Baumruk: It is difficult to pinpoint precisely the underlying cause of the perceptions from the data, but it could be that millennials have higher expectations in these areas than are currently being met, or they place a higher importance on some of these characteristics as part of their desired work experience.
Your study touches on the employment experience — including values and culture, work environment, engagement, total rewards and communication — wants, likes and dislikes across every generation. What big differences did you notice? Any similarities surprise you?
Baumruk: A few interesting differences stood out across generations. Boomers were more likely to cite “provides meaningful work” as an attractor compared to other generations; this is often seen as more of a millennial-oriented viewpoint (while millennials seek meaningful work, they are less likely to cite it as an attractor compared to boomers). Another difference was in how “fun” was viewed — millennials were mixed as to whether this characteristic had the potential to differentiate or was more of an expectation, while boomers were much more likely to see this as a potential differentiator. In the total rewards area, millennials tended to allocate more value to career development/skill building and less to retirement and financial wellness benefits compared to other generations — likely a product of their career stage versus a generational difference per se. Millennials were more likely to view their total rewards as competitive or better — a result that might surprise some employers. Finally, millennials show a higher preference for mobile and social communication channels, but only slightly more than other generations.
What can companies do to provide a better employment experience? Yes, they want to keep millennials and not have them job hop as much, but they also want to keep older, more experienced talent as well. What’s the happy medium?
Baumruk: There are many aspects of the desired employment experience that cut across generational boundaries, including employee recognition, respect, loyalty, balance, teamwork and open communication. So, it is important for companies to understand what really matters and to deliver a compelling experience across those characteristics. As companies consider what to do, first and foremost is to define their unique employment value — the clear articulation of the work experience that addresses not only what employees desire but what they can expect as well. Be sure to focus on the things that matter to employees like recognition and career opportunities, but also where you can differentiate.
Then tell the compelling story — be clear about what’s expected of employees and what they can expect in return. Inspire action by making it clear to employees what it takes to meet both business and personal needs and communicate consistently using effective language, tone, and style each time. Finally, remember that leader and manager communication skills matter — employees want to hear from these important sources on key topics like pay, performance, career, and what’s happening in the company or where it’s headed. Commit resources to help managers and leaders have meaningful, relevant, and authentic conversations with employees to better engage and in so doing improve overall performance.