The term “millennial” is stamped with an assortment of sticky connotations. They’re alleged to be self-indulging, self-serving, self-absorbed and essentially any other adjective that’s “self”-gratifying.
New research, however, argues otherwise. The Millennial Impact Report-- a study released in June by the Achieve research firm and sponsored by the Case Foundation -- indicates that impacts of millennials are likely to be more exocentric than egocentric as they embed themselves deeper into the workforce. When considering careers, the study describes the generation as more cause driven than previous generations; it dually notes, traditional employers -- such as government institutions -- will likely have to adjust hiring practices and office culture to attract top talent.
"A lot of the things we discovered were based around the fact that the millennial enjoys feeling the work they produce at a company is doing something, whether it's advancing a social issue or whether it's advancing something else,” said Derrick Feldmann, Achieve’s CEO and the report’s lead researcher.
Feldmann said that whatever current opinions are, millennials -- individuals born after 1979 -- will be difficult to ignore considering they represent more than $300 billion in consumer spending each year, are 80 million strong and -- in about 10 to 15 years -- will represent 50 percent of America’s labor force.
As a key distinguisher of millennials, Feldmann said technology has allowed the generation to mobilize themselves and be more socially aware than past generations. A fact, employers should note he said, as millennials seek careers where they can contribute in socially meaningful ways.
“At the disposal of the millennial are the tools to quickly and easily self-organize, an ability previous generations didn't have,” he said.
Achieve’s study of millennials draws on four years of research and is part of an ongoing study of the generation’s influence on trends, employment and culture. Though the report explores a variety of characteristics, for governments considering millennials as prospective employees, here are five factors important to millennials when job hunting.
Research shows millennials' top attribute for selection, listed by 63 percent surveyed, was what an organization provided in terms of products and services. The report said millennials begin job searches by matching their skills with complementary companies and organizations. Though traditional, the report said it remained just one aspect of how millennials view an organization.
Feldmann said a culturally innovative environment is a big draw for millennials who often bristle at bureaucratically regimented or assembly-line-styled processes. Office cultures that award creativity and efficiency over routines is highly sought. Beyond pay and benefits, 53 percent of millennials said having passions and talents fulfilled was a primary motivator for staying with a company.
"If somebody says 'I want to hack the way we do the jobs that we have,' employers can create either a flight or fight scenario where we say 'No, you cannot do that' or 'All right, why not.'"
When Feldmann was growing up, he said he remembered being encouraged to find a steady job in the federal government, one with a robust pension plan and a predictable pay scale. Now, he said, that dynamic has shifted to one where a company's charitable causes affects its draw to potential job applicants. Research statistics show that 92 percent of employed millennials believe they’re contributing to a company that’s making a positive impact in the world. The study shows 87 percent also feel encouraged to volunteer in a company or an organization’s charitable work.
Relationships are an integral part of an optimal work life, and Feldmann said peer opinions matter. Millennials are highly extroverted, and as such, office environments remain a significant reason for a millennial to remain at a company. Survey results showed that 20 percent of millennials indicate that personal bonds with coworkers encourage their retention; that 62 percent preferred doing volunteer work with co-workers in their department; and millennials increasingly blend work life with their outside-of-work friendships in social media and other outlets. Creating a collaborative office environment is key, the report said.
The last factor was diversity -- millennials coming from all backgrounds and cultures -- and companies recognizing talents in terms of social impacts. As a recommendation, the report prodded employers who seek to hire millennials to award employees by recognizing how their work has effected social causes that touch people.
Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.