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Millennial Professionals Seek Flexibility and Recognition


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By Melissa J. Anderson

A new global study by PwC seeks to identify key characteristics about Millennial staff throughout the firm. But, the researchers say, they found just as many similarities between Millennials and people of older generations as differences.

The report, “NextGen; A global generational study” [PDF], was created by PwC, the University of Southern California, and the London Business School and relied upon the online survey responses of 40,000 members of the firm’s workforce. The researchers also used about 300 one-on-one and group interviews alongside a statistical comparison of surveys of Millennials and non-Millennials at the same work stage. The result, PwC says, is the largest survey of its kind ever undertaken.

Dennis Finn, Vice Chair and Global Human Capital Leader at PwC, said, “The breadth and scope of this research is unprecedented. It captures a broad array of insights into the motivations, priorities and work preferences of the youngest generation now in the workforce, as well as of their more senior colleagues.”

“PwC’s study discovered that the stereotypes about Millennial employees are more false than true. Millennials’ attitudes are similar to those of older employees,” he continued. “The compelling nature of this research will enable PwC to lead by example, and has already helped guide us toward making cultural and structural changes in how we manage, promote and compensate our people.”

Retention Tactics

Millennials already make up about two thirds of PwC’s workforce, and, the report points out, “Within that group, most are unmarried (75%) and without kids (92%), and for three out of four of them, PwC is their first job out of college.” The proportion of Millennial employees at the firm is expected to increase to 80 percent in the next three years. That’s why it’s critical that for the firm to get a better grasp of how and why this generation works. Finn explained, “By 2016 almost 80% of our entire workforce will be Millennials. We are passionate about providing them, and all our people, with the best environment to maximize their personal development and performance.”

He added, “The Millennial generation is already transforming long-held management practices within the workplace. Employers who want to recruit Millennial employees and keep them engaged and happy will need to adapt to meet their needs.”

The biggest challenge revealed by the study was that Millennials lacked interest in the traditional leadership pathway within the professional services, whereby they are expected to put in an “intense work commitment” early on, and be rewarded with partnership later.

In order to attract and retain workers of the Millennial generation, the report presents a number of solutions, most of which would be appealing to anyone of any generation. For example, 71 percent of PwC Millennials and 63 percent of PwC non-Millennials say that work interferes with their personal lives. PwC suggests that employers work to incorporate more flexibility into scheduling.

“If they were able to make their current job more flexible, 64% of Millennials would like to occasionally work from home, and 66% of Millennials would like to shift their work hours,” the report says. “Across the board, 15% of male employees and 21% of female employees say they would give up some of their pay and slow the pace of promotion in exchange for working fewer hours.”

The report also delved into the factors that lead Millennials to quit their jobs. For Millennials, the top reasons to leave the firm would be if their needs for support, appreciation, and flexibility were not being met. On the other hand, non-Millennials at the firm said they would be most likely to leave if they are not being paid competitively of they perceived a lack of development opportunities.

“Understanding these and other differences will help target customized solutions that will promote retention and an engaged workforce across all generations and levels,” the report says. By finding ways to make employees feel supported and appreciated at work, and by incorporating more flexibility into the workplace structure, professional services firms can help attract and retain more Millennial employees. Considering that this group is the growing majority of the professional workforce, firms like PwC would be wise to find ways to attract, retain, and develop them into leaders.