Young adults really mean what they say when they want more workplace flexibility and most young women are not interested in assuming leadership positions.
That’s the conclusion from two recent studies of the ‘Millennial’ generation – also known as Gen Y – generally considered to have been born between 1978 and 1995 or thereabouts.
Millennials at work
A PwC study entitled NextGen: a global generational study reveals that enhancing workplace flexibility and equity between work and home is one of the keys to improving job satisfaction and retention amongst Millenial workers. The study sought input from 44,000 employees and was conducted by the London Business School and the University of South California Marshall School of Business.
As workers, the generation is overwhelmingly tech-savvy, informal, collaborative and globally-focussed. The PwC study says they are willing to work as hard but they also expect and want downtime.
The Head of Human Capital for PwC, Terri McClements, says the generation is pushing workplaces to adapt simply because they’re needed.
"Those organisations that pay attention to this seismic change and adapt accordingly should find themselves at a competitive advantage and better positioned to retain the talent they work so hard to attract."
PwC predicts that within four years, almost 80% of its workforce will be composed of Millennials.
The report notes that, unlike past generations who put an emphasis on their careers and worked well beyond a 40-hour week, Millennial employees are not convinced that such early career sacrifices are worth the potential rewards.
“They want to practice what those of us in older generations have preached,” says Ms McClements.
A study of 1,000 women in the same age group reinforced this attitude to work-life balance with 85% of them saying they are not interested in a leadership role. More than three-quarters also said they are concerned about the ability to achieve appropriate balance between their professional and personal lives because employers don’t understand them.
“Millennial women are unwilling to make the personal sacrifices they believe are inextricably linked to their ability to climb the corporate ladder,” said Barby K Siegel, CEO of Zeno Group who commissioned the research, and mother of two teenage daughters.
“It is a clear signal to employers that we cannot operate business as usual. We need to think about doing things differently when helping Millennial in the workplace, and in developing their careers.”
More than half the women surveyed said that the sacrifices that have to be made to become a leader are ‘not worth it’, and that having a family takes its toll on achieving professional goals.
Executive recruitment consultant, Maria Forrest, says the research is “no surprise” to her.
“We see it all the time with the younger people we talk to. They’re extraordinarily highly qualified, they have good runs on the board, they want to earn high six figure incomes, they’re prepared to work hard but there is a big ‘but’,” she says.
“They also value their down time; they want to be certain they’ll get their mandated holidays; they want to be sure they’re not bothered on the weekend; and if they have family, they make it clear that being part of a family and being a good parent is important to them.”
“It is very refreshing and gives me great confidence in our future generations, but there’s also an education process necessary for many of our employers who know only the 20th Century way of working.
“This research is very helpful as it gives us something to show our clients.
“The fact is, if employers don’t change they’re going to miss out on the best talent or, at a bigger level, Australia will. We just can’t afford to risk losing this talented generation of professionals," Ms Forrest says.