Millennial white paper


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Millennial white paper

  1. 1. A New Look at the Millennials A Changed Generation and What That Means for the Workplace 2012 By Michael GordonThe N ew Millen Gene nial ration
  2. 2. T he year 2011 was a time of tremendous social upheaval, both in the U.S. and abroad. From the Arab Spring revolutions to the Occupy Wall Street protests, the status quo is being challenged by the dissatisfied, with Figure A the youth of the world often leading Demographics of OWS Supporters the charge (see Figure A). But what does this mean for employers? Will younger workers be storming the Bastille of Corporate America? The 35 and latest research indicates otherwise. older But to really understand the newest 36% generation in the workforce, we have to go back to its roots. 64% Younger The Rise of the Millennials than 34 The Millennial Generation has many names and even more Source: Baruch School of Public Affairs (2011) 1 definitions. Sometimes known as Gen Y (as befitting their place after Gen X) or Echo Boomers (as children of the Baby Boomers), the Millennial Generation is hard to pin down. There isn’t even a consensus on what ages the generation encompasses (see Figure B), let alone an accepted understanding of its behaviors and attitudes. Still, the discussion surrounding Millennials has been going strong for over 12 years. The first major treatise on the subject, Millennials Rising by Neil Howe and William Strauss, was published in 2000, before some members of the cohort had even been born. Howe and Strauss painted a rosy picture of what they called “the next great generation.” They expected Millennials to right past wrongs, be team players, and accept the institutions of their parents without question2. Figure B Range of Birth Years and Current Ages (2012) of Millennials with Source Oldest Youngest Source Birth Year Current Age Birth Year Current Age Howe & Strauss, New York Times 1982 30 2002 10 Bloomberg BusinessWeek 1979 33 1994 18 CBS News 1982 30 1995 17 U.S. News & World Report 1976 36 1987 25Age Ranges of Other Links to articles are available at the end of the paper.Generations (in 2012)Silent Generation: 67 to 75Baby Boomers: 48 to 66 If this position sounds startling in light of the recent domestic unrest, you may be shockedGeneration X: 36 to 47 by the findings of a 2009 study by Pew Research3, which found that Millennials’ views of businesses “are not substantially different from those of older generations…and are slightlySource: Pew Research Center less critical of business than are the views of Baby Boomers.” When asked if they agree that “business corporations generally strike a fair balance between making profits and serving the public interest,” 44% of Millennials agreed, compared to 35% each of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers—quite a far cry from the general perception of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Please refer to the end of this white paper for sources and links. 2
  3. 3. The conversation around Millennials in the past four or five years, however, has been something quite different. HR Magazine in May 2007 ran a cover story about how Millennials’ dependence on their parents was causing new challenges in the workplace4. Pundits have pointed to instant messaging and texting as causing a breakdown of communication skills among Millennials. The books recently written about Millennials in the workforce seem to focus more on the hurdles facing managers than the benefits reaped by inclusion of new blood (and new ideas) in the workplace5. In less than a decade, the Millennial Generation has been seemingly transformed. While there may have been nothing wrong with Howe and Strauss’ research and predictions, the shaping of the Millennials was far from finished in 2000. Two major forces changed the course of this generation in just a few short years. The Internet expanded their knowledge base, but the rise of social networking broadened the ways in which Millennials could communicate with each other and with the world. (See sidebar for social media behavior by generation.) But it was another event that turned many of this generation from gung-ho enthusiasts to anti-establishment rebels: the Great Recession. Social Media Use Millennials are often described as “digital natives,” having grown up with computers and the Internet and having reached maturity during the rise of social media. And while other generations are catching up on social networking, Millennials still hold the lead (see Figure C). The chart shows some of the differences in social media use between the three generations in Hodes’ social media study The Employment Conversation. Social media also played a role in many of the recent Arab Spring revolts. In Egypt, when 30-year old Google employee Wael Ghonim started a Facebook page about the death of a young Egyptian at the hands of police, the page became a focal point for much of the anti-government rallying in the country6. In Iran, Twitter was used to protest the 2009 elections, even as the Iranian government was attempting to shut down Internet access7. The Recession’s Toll on the Millennials Everyone, even members of the so-called 1%, felt the recession. Baby Boomers saw their savings evaporate and have had to delay retirement, while Gen Xers have seen their chances of promotion dwindle with Boomers not vacating higher positions. But the impact on Millennials has taken longer to grasp and may impact their careers far into the future.Please refer to the end of thiswhite paper for sources and 3
  4. 4. In 2010, the unemployment rates8 for Millennials ranged from 10.9% to 29.1% (see Figure D). And this only counts those who had been in the labor force; new graduates who can’t find work out of school are not included. Having these economic setbacks early in their careers not only impacts Millennials’ job prospects, but also shapes their outlook and approach to work. According to Yale economics professor Lisa Kahn, entering the workforce during a recession can affect not only earning potential and job prospects, but also career attitudes, with the effects felt for decades to come9. The problem facing employers is Post-Recession Millennials: that much of what we think we 1. Are more risk-averse. know about Millennials comes 2. Won’t invest as much. from research done prior to the 3. Question traditional hierarchies. recession. Back when employers 4. Believe luck plays a big role in success. were first getting interested in 5. Are more willing to settle. who the Millennials are and how 6. Are less likely to put themselves back on the job market. they work, a bevy of stereotypes 7. Are sheltered and would like to stay that way. were thrown around about 8. Want answers immediately. Millennials’ sense of entitlement, 9. Rely on technology, which makes them socially awkward. penchant for job-hopping, and 10. Don’t want to report to anyone. lack of respect for authority. 11. Are more modest and realistic. Regardless of whether there was 12. Work well in teams and hate conflict. truth to any of this, the more 13. Still value hard work. important question is who are the Source: Business Insider, January 2012 Millennials now? In a recent piece by Business Insider, Kahn and others weigh in on 13 ways the down economy has re-shaped Millennials (see sidebar10). Instead of the brazen, expect-to-be-CEO-by-30 hotshots of yesteryear, today’s Millennial workers are averse to risk and conflict and willing to take what they can get in a job. They are even switching jobs less often, according to Kahn. Sounds like good news for employers, right? Not necessarily. Millennials may be willing to settle for jobs not in their area of interest (and to a lesser extent for lower salaries), and for some this may result in less engagement, both with their work and with their employer.Please refer to the end of this whitepaper for sources and links. 4
  5. 5. Millennials in the Workplace When Hodes recently surveyed the employed, online population for our study The Growing Value of Employer Brands, we found intriguing differences between generations when it comes to engagement levels. When we asked how well-matched respondents feel to their current job, two- thirds of Millennials said “closely” or “very closely matched,” compared to 80% of Gen Xers and 82% of Boomers. We then asked whether, in the past 12 months, they had voluntarily worked late or over weekends without extra pay in order to help their employer meet goals. A respectable three-fifths (61%) of Millennials said they had, but so did 72% of Generation X and 77% of Baby Boomers (Figure F). An argument can be made that the differences in Millennial attitudes toward work predates the recession. When Pew asked “What makes your generation unique,” the top response from Baby Boomers was work ethic11, which did not make it to the Millennials’ top five. (Which isn’t to say that Millennials don’t have, or don’t value, a strong work ethic, but they don’t view it as a defining characteristic). More concretely, 66% of Millennials said (in response to a different question from Pew) that it was likely they will switch careers sometime in their work life, compared to 55% of Generation X and 31% of Baby Boomers12. Figure G What Makes Your Generation Unique? Millennials Generation X Baby Boomers Silent Generation Technology use (24%) Technology use (12%) Work ethic (17%) WWII, Depression (14%) Music/pop culture (11%) Work ethic (11%) Respectful (14%) Smarter (13%) Conservative/ Liberal/tolerant (7%) Values/morals (8%) Honest (12%) Traditional (7%) Smarter (6%) Smarter (6%) “Baby Boomers”(6%) Work ethic (10%) Clothes (5%) Respectful (5%) Smarter (5%) Values/morals (10%) Source: Pew Research (2009)Please refer to the end of thiswhite paper for sources and links. 5
  6. 6. What Employers Can Do The recession may have put a damper on the bold, change-the-world attitude that once characterized so many Millennials, but that doesn’t mean the potential isn’t still there. Employers who can reignite that passion may be amazed by the results. Just think of the meteoric rise of Millennials like Mark Zuckerberg, or the tremendous enthusiasm on display at protests across the country. Just because their passion may seem rebellious now, doesn’t mean it can’t be channeled to benefit your organization. Remember, many of today’s successful Baby Boomers were once camped out on college campuses protesting the Vietnam War. But how can employers tap into this passion? The methods that employers use to engage other generations may not work for Millennials. In Hodes’ most recent study of employer branding, we found some notable differences between what Millennials felt were the most important attributes that keep them at an employer and what Baby Boomers felt. After compensation and co-workers, the most important attribute to Millennials was work environment (47% ranked it as one of the top five most important attributes, vs. 23% for Boomers), while for Boomers it was the benefits package (40% vs. 22% for Millennials). Similarly, work environment/culture ranked high among Millennials when choosing an employer (41% vs. 18% for Boomers). Figure H Top-Ranked Employer Attributes That Make an Employer Attractive That Impact Decision to Stay at Employer Millennials Boomers Millennials Boomers Compensation (68%) Compensation (68%) Compensation (54%) Co-workers (58%) Job security (44%) Job security (40%) Co-workers (53%) Compensation (56%) Work environment/ Work environment/ Benefits (40%) Benefits (40%) culture (41%) culture (47%) Scheduling / work/life Financial stability Scheduling / work/life Manager’s respect balance (36%) (39%) balance (42%) (37%) Values/ethics; Job security; recognition Benefits (35%) scheduling; recognition Job security (38%) for performance (33% each) (33% each) Source: Bernard Hodes Group (2012), The Growing Value of Employer Brands Conveying a strong employer brand—one that reflects a positive work environment that fosters respect for employees both as workers and as individuals—can aid not only in increasing engagement levels among current Millennial employees, but can turn those employees into brand ambassadors. Candidates know that the best way to get a good sense of a company’s culture is to talk to current employees—and if there is one thing Millennials love to do, it’s share information.Please refer to the end of thiswhite paper for sources and links. 6
  7. 7. Looking Ahead It’s important to remember that Millennials are one of many groups that make up the country’s diverse workforce. Like any population segment, Millennials bring their own perspectives and new ideas, and help employers better understand and react to their customer population. And, as with all diversity recruitment strategies, inclusiveness and understanding are key when reaching out to Millennials. With Millennials, however, there is an additional aspect as well: change. The Millennial generation, being the youngest in the workplace, is a moving target. The carefree 16-year-old high school student of 2008 is now a 20-year-old undergrad thinking about his first real job; the confident third- year law student in 2008 is now almost thirty, married, and still looking for work in her field. As they move through different life stages, Millennials’ views on work and life may change. Yet despite the challenges—their changing attitudes, their non-traditional attitudes about work—the need to find, keep, and engage Millennials will likely remain constant; they will, in just a few years, be the dominant generation in the workforce. When developing initiatives to communicate with Millennials, either internally or externally, keep these two strategies in mind: 1. Ensure that your brand messaging is accurate and in line with those aspects of your culture that appeal to Millennials. 2. Keep on top of the latest digital trends to find the newest ways to communicate with this tech- savvy, information-sharing generation. And remember, Hodes can help. Learn how Hodes can help you develop employer brand and engagement strategies for the Millennial Generation. Visit or contact us today at 888.438.9911 and Learn more about Employer Branding at Learn more about Hodes Digital at 7
  8. 8. About the Author As Research Project Manager for Bernard Hodes Group, Michael Gordon provides primary and secondary research services to clients and Hodes account teams and has contributed to eight CEA-winning value-added research reports. Michael has been part of Hodes Research for five years and has nearly 30 years of experience as a Millennial. He has written numerous pieces for and the Hodes Voices blog. Michael has a degree in Linguistics from New York University and a Certificate in Editing from NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Sources 1 Captain, Sean. “The Demographics Of Occupy Wall Street.” Fast Company, October 2011.Michael Gordon Project Manager 2 Brooks, David “What’s the Matter With Kids Today? Not a Thing.” The New York Times, November 2000. 3 Millennials: Portrait of a Generation, 74. Pew Research Center, February 2010. 4 Tyler, Kathryn. “The Tethered Generation.” HR Magazine, May 2007. 5 Soble, Stacey. “Greater Expectations: Tulgan on Gen-Y.” Salon Today, October 2009. http://www.salontoday. com/features/salon-management/greater_expectations_tulgan_on_gen-y_125301373.html 6 Krishnappa, Samyuktha. “Google man Wael Ghonim emerges as the face of Egypt protests.” International Business Times, February 2011. marketing-executive-egypt-protests-detained-released-face-protestors-facebook-twi.htm 7 Schectman, Joel. “Iran’s Twitter Revolution? Maybe Not Yet.” BusinessWeek, June 2009. 8 “Household Data Annual Averages: Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population by age, sex, and race,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2011. 9 Kahn, Lisa. “The Long-Term Labor Market Consequences of Graduating from College in a Bad Economy.” Yale School of Management, August 2009. 10 Groth, Aimee and Giang, Vivian. “13 Ways the Recession has Changed How Millennials View Work.” Business Insider, Last modified January 16, 2012. Last accessed January 23, 2012. http://www. 11 Millennials: Portrait of a Generation, 5. 12 Millennials: Portrait of a Generation, 46. References for Millennial birth years: New York Times (1982-2002, citing Howe & Strauss): U.S. News & World Report (1976-1987, citing Fidelity): money/2008/09/04/troubled-finances-of-the-young-and-restless BusinessWeek (1979-1994): CBS News (1982-1995): Hodes Research Studies referenced The Employment Conversation: The Growing Value of Employer Brands: growing-value-employer-brands 8