I wish I had a dollar for every research report I’ve read telling me that Millennials (born between 1982 and 1999) want to work for companies that contribute to the greater good and hold jobs that help make the world a better place to live. Not so, says a just-released survey of work attitudes from San Diego State University.
SDSU’s Jean Twenge says her SDSU team analyzed the findings of a periodic study of 16,500 high school seniors that has been conducted periodically since 1978. Her analysis shows that Millennials were ‘….no more likely to want to help others and society through their work than other generations. The assumption that (Millennials) care about volunteerism and social issues has spurred many companies to let workers volunteer on company time as a way to attract this generation.’ And, that’s a mistake, she says.
But, wait, it gets even worse for Millennials. Not only don’t they care about societal ills as much as we were led to believe, they’re also a lot more high maintenance than either Boomers (born between 1946 and ’64) or Gen X workers (1965-’81). According to Twenge, Millennials want more free time, higher salaries and greater status than their older peers. So, says Twenge, the average Millennial ‘…seems to want to have their cake and eat it too. That is, they want high pay and status but aren’t interested in burning the midnight oil.’
Now, before my own employees lynch me, I want to go on record by saying that I’ve met and worked with hundreds of highly motivated, hard-working Millennials who are passionate about their work, burn the midnight oil and do care about the greater society.
That said, the SDSU research is a real eye opener and, if valid, should be passed around the offices of Fortune, The Reputation Institute, Working Woman and other media properties that measure and list America’s ‘most admired’ corporations. If what Twenge says is true, then organizations are wasting untold time and money providing perks that simply don’t matter to the majority of Millennials. And, that’s a game changer if I’ve ever heard one.
Now I’m going to grab my hard hat and flak jacket. Let the postings barrage begin.
Thanks to Greg Schmalz for the idea behind this post.
Very insightful, Debbie. Thanks so much. I agree there is a short-term agenda inherent in many Millennials (including my own). Constant communication is a must as you say.
I gave your post, and the studies you referenced, some thought, and in my small part of the employment world it seems to me that wanting to make a contribution to the greater good has become more important in recent years to people of all generations. Candidates and employees of all ages have expressed this interest, not just Millenials. I do see employee morale on the upswing when working on assignments that have a CSR component. On your other points, my experience with Millenials leads me to the conclusion that they are not afraid of hard work or burning the midnight oil, but do seem to have higher expectations of gaining status (and all that comes with that) at an organization at a rapid pace. This is not necessarily bad, and when the employee has the qualificatins it can be great. I’ve found it to be a little more challenging with this generation when you have to explain that they need to step on the brakes a bit and work on basic skills before accelerating at top speed (sorry, I have a Prius and out-of-control acceleration is on my mind). I think at times reaching the goal they set for themselves takes precedence over how to get there. Very frequent communication is definitely a by-product of this group’s needs.