Understand the Millennials working in your midst

employee teleworkingLike most employees, your youngest staff members rank flexible work hours and telework high on their lists of perks that improve productivity and boost morale. Even with flexibility, though, they’re not willing to log the long hours that their baby boomer and Generation X colleagues did when they were young.

The sacrifice to their personal lives just isn’t worth the promise of a brighter future to employees born between 1980 and 1995, say the authors of a two-year study of 44,000 employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the multinational consulting and professional services firm.

Organizations that recognize that “seismic change” in the attitudes of the youngest workforce cohort will be better able to retain them, notes Terri McClements, PwC’s U.S. human capital leader—at least until they pack up and head to their next opportunities, another inevitability identified in the PwC study.

“The Millennial generation is pushing organizations to the work world many of them want,” McClements says.

PwC looked into the preferences of its Millennial employees—also known as Generation Y—when, a decade after the first of them entered the workforce, they began resigning en masse after just a few years on the job. Exit interviews revealed that these young professionals lacked any interest in climbing a traditional career ladder that would require them to devote themselves almost exclusively to work now so they could become partners in the firm later.

Amplifying the usual problems that accompany high turnover was the company’s forecast that almost 80% of its 180,529-employee workforce will be composed of Millennials by 2016.

What PwC learned about its Gen Y employees, including how their attitudes compare with their older colleagues’, might help your organization retain talented, workforce newcomers. Here are six of the study’s findings:

1. All work, no play? No way!

Long hours on a regular basis are likely to chase away Millennials. They highly value work/life balance and are largely unwilling to sacrifice it for the good of their careers. In fact, 71% of PwC Millen­­nials in the study perceive that their work demands interfere with their personal lives.

2. Work is not a time or place

Young employees view productivity in terms of output and results, not hours worked. Four-fifths of those in the study said they would like to shift their work hours so they could start later in the morning or put in a few hours at night. An equal number said they wanted the chance to work from home sometimes.

Millennials aren’t unique that way. Older workers said they want the same thing. In fact, employees of all generations expressed a willingness to give up pay and delay promotions in exchange for flexibility.

3. Teamwork = happiness

Gen Y workers crave a sense of community and prefer to work on strong, cohesive teams. PwC’s young employees told researchers they want to work for an organization whose culture values teamwork.

4. Prized: Transparency, travel

Survey participants said they want to have a say about their work assignments, and they value transparency, especially when it comes to decisions about their careers and compensation. Also, 37% of those surveyed said they would like to work overseas, compared with 28% of older co-workers.

5. Show some love

A pat on the back goes a long way. More than 41% of Millennials said they like to be rewarded or recognized for their accomplishments at least once a month. Only 30% of baby boomers craved so much praise.

6. Don’t believe the hype

Pop culture often portrays Millennials as slackers. Not all of them are. In fact, the study’s authors contend that twentysomething employees are just as hard-working as their older colleagues, and equally committed to their work. But they uncovered a few surprises as well:

  • Millennials, the study notes, don’t expect job security—which is fine with most of them, since they don’t want to spend their entire careers with one employer.
  • And although Gen Y’ers are known for their social media savvy, it seems they prefer face-to-face discussions with their managers—especially if the subject is their careers.

8 keys for managing Generation Y employees

Researchers who studied PwC’s Millennial employees found that these factors are key to retaining today’s youngest workers and helping them succeed:

1. Know them. Survey your own Millennial employees to learn what they want and how they are different from their more experienced colleagues.

2. Make them the right offer. Raises and cash bonuses might not buy Millennials’ loyalty. Mix flextime and telework into the package, along with training or opportunities for special assignments. Constantly gauge whether employees are satisfied with your menu of perks.

3. Develop them. Encourage managers to keep tabs on young employees’ personal and professional goals. Offer Millennials a variety of experiences by rotating them among assignments or locations.

4. Appreciate them—and show it. This generation grew up receiving constant praise and encouragement from parents, coaches and teachers. They want it from managers, too. Annual performance feedback may not be frequent enough for Gen Y’ers; they want to hear how they’re doing on a regular basis.

5. Free up their time. Advise managers to set firm deadlines—and then let employees work wherever and whenever they want. Millennials work well with clear instructions and concrete targets, not command-and-control supervision.

6. Teach them. Offer training, education, mentoring and other ways for up-and-comers to stretch and grow.

7. Promote them. Millennials don’t buy into the “paying your dues” school of career advancement. Results-oriented employees in this group expect to move up more quickly than older generations did. Consider adding additional rungs to the traditional career ladder so Millennials feel like they’re making progress.

8. Say good-bye. Recognize that most of your young employees won’t build their careers with your company. Plan for their departure so you won’t find yourself short-staffed. And keep in touch with young alumni you might want to rejoin your organization later in their careers.

Youngest, oldest workers share common attitudes

Your organization’s youngest workers have more in common with your oldest employees than anyone in between.

An engagement study by Randstad reveals that Millennials and mature workers both:

  • Enjoy going to work every day
  • Feel inspired to do their best at work
  • Perceive higher morale in the workplace than other age groups
  • Find a positive energy at work.

Their biggest difference, according to the study: Millennials are far more likely than older workers to consider jumping ship when other employers make attractive job offers.

And Millennial workers feel harder hit by the recession, with 59% complaining the economy has negatively altered their career plans. Just 35% of mature workers say they share the sentiment.