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Jan 7, 2015

Most employers say that competing for talent is one of their greatest challenges.

Employers that want to remain competitive will need to meet the requirements of rapidly shifting demographics in the workforce.

Cangrade, a company specializing in data science and predictive analytics to help firms hire, engage, and retain employees, crunched the numbers from their recent large-scale study.

The data was obtained as part of an online survey conducted using Cangrade’s state-of-the-art data collection platform. Cangrade surveyed more than 800 working-age adults in the U.S.. Unlike most other research, they surveyed a diverse age range, allowing for new insights about the similarities and differences between generations.

What job characteristics do Millennials find most desirable?

First thing’s first: What are Millennials looking for in a job? Here are their most desired characteristics, in order of preference.

  1. Work-life balance (having time for activities outside of work);
  2. Security (job security, safety, benefits);
  3. Stimulation (challenging work, task variety, learning opportunities);
  4. Achievement (opportunities for recognition, prestige, and growth);
  5. Pay (high salary/income);
  6. Affiliation (opportunities for friendship and interpersonal connection); and,
  7. Power/influence.

These are the job characteristics to have (and to advertise!) if firms want to attract and engage top talent.

How do Millennials differ from previous generations?

Now that we know more about the job characteristics that Millennials find desirable, let’s looks at how these preferences may have changed over time. Here is a comparison with previous generations (left):Millennials 1

Millennials and Baby Boomers show similar preferences for most job characteristics (security, achievement, affiliation, power/influence). These characteristics were rated quite differently by members of Gen X (who only comprise about 15 percent of working adults).

Only two work characteristics show steady increases in desirability over time: work-life balance and pay.

The desirability of stimulation at work, while quite high overall, nevertheless appears to be declining.

Are Millennials’ preferences more diverse than other generations?

The basic argument goes something like this: a generation growing up with certain technologies (e.g., the Internet, cell phones, video games, on-demand entertainment) is likely to have been influenced by a wider variety of opinions and viewpoints, and to have had greater control over what they are exposed to and when.

The data confirms that the overall variability in job characteristics that people find desirable is, in fact, increasing.Millennials 2

Takeaways for managers

There are several big conclusions that we can take from all of this.

  • Millennials most strongly value work-life balance, job security, and intellectual stimulation. This seems to indicate a strong desire to find fulfillment, both in and outside of work. While Millennials do value achievement, pay, affiliation, and power as much or more than previous generations, they do not appear to be top priorities.
  • Millennials and Boomers show similar preferences for most job characteristics. However, these characteristics were rated quite differently by members of Gen X. Most differences between generations are not as large as we might have expected. There are many more similarities between Millennials and Baby Boomers than previously assumed.
  • The job characteristics people find desirable have more variation than ever. What this means is that we can no longer use one-size-fits-all solutions to attract employees, or to keep them happy, satisfied, and productive.

Younger generations have diversified as they adapted to modern advances, and businesses will need to do the same to stay competitive.


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