Top 7 Things That Millennials Want in the Workplace

millennials in the workplace


With Millennials now being over half of the workforce, what Millennials want in the workplace should not be a mystery. However, thousands of companies spend millions of dollars in research and marketing dollars in order to figure out what Millennials really want. Whether that be for products, a service, or what they want in a company, organizations continue to puzzle over the Millennial enigma-like mindset.

As a Millennial, I also find a lot of variance in the answers for what Millennials want. More specifically, Millennials, depending on what generation source you reference, spans over 15 years . Hence, by sheer volume, there is going to be dramatic variance making the question difficult to answer concisely. With that said, this article will be extremely high level, looking at the newer trends that have manifested during the years where Millennials have started to enter the workforce.

By becoming aware of these values and trends, you will be able to separate yourself from other companies and attract the younger talent away from competing organizations.

Note: I don’t agree with this list that all companies should adopt these ideas. These are combined from my research and findings of what Millennials typically look for in an occupation.


#1: Career Development

Kicking off the list, Harvard Business Review found that Millennials number one thing that they look for in jobs is career development. In other words, a company that provides Millennials a career track of how they can progress in their career. Companies can cater to this attribute in many different forms. Some companies use horizontal rotations in a company where employees can drive different jobs over a period of months to find what resonates with them. Others add mentoring programs were Millennials can learn from more senior employees to accelerate their career development.

One of the most demotivating aspects of career development is when a company sets year milestones for promotions. Humans have a ‘locus of control’ that relates to their happiness in proportion to how control they feel of their environment and if they can control their probability of success. When time is the benchmark, it communicates that employees just have to show up to work for that many years, and then they will be promoted. Control is taking out of their hands, and into time’s hands.

A great example of how colleges work overcome this common flaw, is where they require students to complete a certain number of units in order to graduate versus years attending. Typically, students complete a degree in 4 years at a 4-year university. However ,some people finish it in a shorter period of time because they took control of their future and accelerated the progress. Workplaces that can shift from promoting on skill development rather than time in work, will find younger demographics much more engaged at work.

millennials preferences in the workplace


#2: Inclusion and Diversity

A movement with a good purpose, also follows an enormous political controversy at an unseen magnitude. From this current movement, aspects as #metoo, #equalpay, #womenintech and many more have all manifested, with a consistent theme of equal treatment of everyone in the workplace. Companies that find themselves in the crosshairs of these movements from blunders, have found their reputation in the swarm of Twitter and media activists. Many of which, are younger employees such as Millennials.

Companies that want to show that they respect diversity and inclusion should update their marketing and recruiting efforts to show equal representation of ethnic demographics. This consists of changing pictures on their website, Glassdoor account and marketing pictures that have people in them to show a variety of demographics. One company that does a great job of this is Bain & Company, check out their Glassdoor account here.


#3: Remote Work Options

If technology allows people to work in a flexible fashion, why don’t workplaces allow it? One of the struggles that a lot of workplaces are facing is that technology is allowing remote work options, peoples are starting to expect it. If managers are to have remote team, their management style will need to change from facetime management, to performance driven management. Essentially, learning to manage someone without being able to see them in person.

A lot of companies are starting to have implement remote workforces such as Invision. Other companies still have employees come into the office but allowing them to work remotely whenever they want. These types of workplaces are referred to as ROWE (Results Only Workplace Environments). Originally tested at Best Buy where two Human Resource directors wanted to move away from the paradigm of ‘managing people by watching them in their cubicles’. Companies can attract Millennials by offering remote or ROWE options in the workplace.

However, as more companies begin to offer flexible work options, two caveats surface. 1. It’s difficult to manage people remote because not everyone is mature enough to handle remote work. 2. As more companies begin offering flexible work, its stops becoming a unique selling proposition in the recruitment process. Flexible work becomes an expectation that companies should offer. Better to offer it now then wait until it’s an expectation.


#4: Purpose Focused Companies

Companies like Tom have completed transformed the shoe industry and become a Millennial favorite company by promoting a powerful purpose. Their purpose: donate one a pair of shoes to someone who does not have shoes, when a customer buys a pair. Due to this genius decision to add this charity in the company’s mission, they mission caught fire and became a giant in the overcrowded shoe industry. However, not a lot of companies are able to pivot their mission and purpose as a company to accommodate the change in employee desires. In order to align with a purpose, having employees volunteer is a great way to promote the message.

One of the driving forces behind why Millennials are looking for more purpose driven companies, is the constant social pressure through social media. Through association, when someone joins a company that has a positive public perceived purpose, they are seen with that purpose in the public eye of social media. The digital world then rewards them for this association. While peer pressure usually has a negative connotation, in this situation it has a positive effect where people will be more focused on companies providing charitable value to the world. It’s not productive in the short term for company’s financial, but in the long term, it puts society in a better spot.


#5: Progressive Values

In the different industries where I consult, a constant word that comes up to describes the Millennial mindset is ‘soft’. Typically, this occurs in the blue-collar industries where they are observing the change in values in the workplace. Somewhat due to political shifts, others surrounding the benefit of socioeconomic prosperity. The overall mindset has changed in the younger employees. With that said, companies can accommodate this shift by doing two different things:

  • Positioning their company as a fun place to work.
  • Leaning the opposite direction and promote their company as a hard place to work.

Note, that this is a stereotype, and the political spectrum is spread across Millennials. However, in the digital world, it appears that younger demographics lean more towards companies that have more progressive values. This can is from a multitude of factors such as the degree which Millennials are willing to look beyond the normal circumstances to get help (also referred to as coherence).


#6: A Manager Who Cares

Who wouldn’t want a great manager!? Millennials consistently state that having a poor manager is a deal breaker at a workplace. However, what can companies do if their workplace is struggling to have those strong manager employee relationships? The true answer is: its extremely difficult to make that shift. Many practitioners would recommend that you need to train each manager to adjust the relationships with their employees. The unfortunate thing is, making individuals change that dramatically (going from a disengaged hard nose manager to one that consistently deploys empathy) is immensely difficult. It requires someone to change the own way they relate to people in their own life. That probably means overcoming years of psychological habits.

Once companies are able to hire and develop managers that Millennials like, companies can should take video testimonials of employees talking about the great relationships that they have in the workplace.


#7: An Open Mindset

Google in their research in 2012 Project Aristotle, which focused on the pillars to highly effective teams, found that psychological safety is a pillar for successful teams. Essentially the ability for a manager to make the team feel safe when they try things. Many companies now promote a safe environment, whether that is progressive values or inclusion workplaces. Regardless of your perception of those trends, you can imagine that they are both aimed at creating an environment where people feel safe. Fortunately, safety is one of the top pillars for high performing teams so it could do you merit to take a closer look.



Jeff Butler

Jeff Butler Internationally respected speaker and consultant, Jeff Butler helps bridge generational gaps between Millennials and companies looking for their talent and patronage. Butler has quickly built his reputation as a memorable presenter with tangible solutions for attracting, retaining, and engaging Millennials as employees and customers. Within just the past three years, he has spoken at two TEDx events and multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn.


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