Millennials sitting around a laptop in lively and exciting discussion
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What do millennials want at work? It’s not what you think

27 Jun 2018

What do you think your millennial employees want in their career? Do you think you have them figured out? Think again.

Millennials can get a pretty bad rap from other generations. Society seems to allow itself to brand the entire millennial generation as lazy, entitled and even ‘too politically correct’.

In a new report, Udemy looked at how millennials are actually faring in the workplace, both in terms of their own attitudes to work, and the challenges they face with other generations.

Firstly, what do we know about the millennial generation that’s factual and not simply a stereotype? While the exact years may vary slightly depending on who you ask, it’s safe to say that the term ‘millennial’ refers to those born roughly between 1981 and 2000.

We also know that millennials are currently the largest generation currently active in the workforce – so, whatever you may think of them, they have the power to stand up for what they think they deserve in the workplace.

With this in mind, what do millennials want from their employers?

Udemy’s report was conducted with more than 1,000 US adults aged between 21 and 37. The report showed that learning and development, flexibility, and stability were some of the key desires from millennial employees.

Shelley Osborne, head of learning and development at Udemy, said one of the more surprising findings from the report was the millennials’ desire for stability. “One better-known millennial stereotype is their tendency to be job-hoppers. Surprisingly, our research found quite the contrary,” she said.

Indeed, the report showed that 43pc of millennials expect to have between three and five jobs during their career, and 38pc are expecting only one or two. “That doesn’t sound like a desire to job-hop to me.”

Osborne also warned that employers are in danger of stunting the millennial workforce with a lack of trust. More than two-thirds of millennials say there’s a gap between what they feel capable of doing and what employers believe they’re qualified for. Additionally, 86pc feel undermined by negative stereotypes about their generation’s work ethic.

“It’s time employers shut down these stereotypes and empower their millennial workers to do the job at hand and help them prepare for the next one,” said Osborne.

And which stereotypes and labels bother millennials the most? Unsurprisingly, ‘lazy’ topped the list, followed by ‘entitled’ and ‘self-centred’.

Women, especially younger women, also dislike being perceived as ‘unprepared for a real-world workplace’ while younger men are more bothered by being called ‘oversensitive’ or a ‘know-it-all’.

Upskilling and the future of work

While assuming the key to millennials’ hearts is quirky perks and games rooms is a common misconception, the truth is much simpler.

We’ve noted learning and development as one of most important elements of a job for millennials, with 42pc deeming it the single most important benefit when deciding where to work.

“Millennials are eager to enhance their skillsets, and employers must provide learning resources if they want to bring millennials on board and, more importantly, keep them there,” said Osborne.

Looking ahead to the future of work – which the millennial generation is set to dominate in numbers alone – 73pc of those surveyed said they expect they’ll need to pursue additional education or training to advance in their careers, dispelling the notion that this generation wants a prize just for showing up.

Osborne also warned employers that millennials are vital for the future of work. “They make up the largest population in the workforce and, by default, the future of work would be jeopardised if employers stunt millennials’ professional growth.”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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