Millennial Time

November 9, 2010

I reported yesterday that there is finally some credible evidence for differences in work values between Millennials, GenX, and Boomers. Contrary to reports in the popular press and blog sphere, the work values of millennials are not that much different from previous generations.

The biggest differences the new research uncovered were in a category called leisure rewards. Here are the two questions from that category that millennials felt the most strongly about. In parentheses are the percentage of respondents that thought the item was very important in 1976, 1991, and 2006 respectively.

1. A job where you have more than 2 weeks vacation (17.3, 25.3, 31.3)

2. A job that leaves a lot more time for other things in your life (38.3, 40.4, 44.6)

Younger workers value time away from work more than any other generation in the workforce today. We would be wise to respect that and work with them to find ways they can fulfill their responsibilities at work and have more of the free time they covet.

Younger workers are going to be even more exasperated by inefficient processes that waste their precious time. Challenge them to help you continuously improve crappy systems and then reward them with time when they succeed. Don’t make the mistake of improving efficiency for them; give them the responsibility and authority to improve the systems that constrain the rewards they value.

Take a look at these other questions on the survey that were very important to all generations (again, 1976, 1991, and 2006 percentages in parentheses)

1. A job that is interesting to do (87.8, 85.4, 81.6)

2. A job that uses your skills and abilities – lets you do the things you can do best (70.9, 71.9, 68.2)

3. A job where you do not have to pretend to be a type of person that you are not (72.7, 72.3, 67.4)

4. I want to do my best in my job, even if this sometimes means working overtime (89.8, 89.1, 83.9)

Please don’t miss the fact that the strongest drivers of work motivation and performance are the same today as they were 35 years ago. The research shows that millennials are more narcissistic, and they do have a sense of entitlement, but that does NOT mean that what we know about motivation and performance is no longer valid.

Instead of abandoning the evidence-backed basics, work harder to understand those motivational principles, why they work, and how you can find new and more creative ways to apply them in your workplace.

Related Posts:

Treating People As Adults At Work

Employee Engagement And Performance: Finally Some Credible Evidence

The Responsibility For Self-Engagement

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Comments (8)

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  1. davidburkus says:

    You’re on to something. I’d say we don’t want to work less, just differently. We’re used to studying with friends and developing projects in school as a team. Working alone makes it feel like work. Working in a coffee shop surrounded by friends from other companies who are also working makes it feel fun. I think a ROWE-type environment accomplishes a lot for Millennials.

    The day off reward isn’t a bad idea either.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    The study data was very interesting, David. It actually suggested GenY was values social rewards less, but that’s all in how you phrase the question. Team work can be fun, but it is also time consuming. it’s often faster to do things solo. Will be interesting to see how your generation behaves as leaders 10 years from now. Thanks! Bret

  2. Andrew Henck says:

    As a Millennial, I think the “time away” component in correlation to overall work satisfaction is key. Oftentimes, I’m afraid that society has misinterpreted this into the quintessential “lazy” characteristic that folks connect with Millennials today. We’re a generation that strives for balance–wanting to make a vital contribution through our workplace, but also through other nonprofits/agencies/organizations that work for causes that we stand behind and support.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Andrew! You have a great point that wanting to spend your time differently does not equate to laziness. But the stereotype is out there, so people need to be aware of it and deal with it. I think that works as an advantage to those that address it rather than ignore it. Thanks! Bret

  3. Matt Gardner says:

    great video!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Thanks! Bret

  4. Tracey McDonald says:

    Hi Bret,

    Not to age myself too much, but I am in that last year of Gen X, so I too identify with the findings in this study of Millenials. Not to mention that my 5 younger siblings and countless coworkers/staff fall in to this category.

    In my career, I can attest that time off as a reward is incredibly valuable, more so than a monetary reward. An afternoon off is a huge deal!!!

    Most importantly, however, I believe, and experience confirmed by my colleagues of similar age, is that my time wasted by managers displays a form of incompetence. Inefficiencies seen as time wasters can easily undermine a manager’s credibility. Especially in technology. Managers who do not adapt to uses of common technology and by doing so, waste time, are obstacles in accomplishing work objectives and helping us leave the office on time.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Tracey! Great insights. I’m a boomer, and I too loathe people that waste my time. Thanks for sharing! Bret