Millennials Put Low Value on High Salary

This year, millennials (defined as people born between 1981 and 1997) became the largest generation in the American workforce, surpassing Generation X (people born between 1965 and 1980) for the first time. Since they now represent the majority of employees and potential hires, it is important for managers to be aware of what millennials value most in a job.


A recent study revealed that managers are not always in tune with what their younger employees desire, though. Nearly half of managers surveyed believe that high pay is the most important aspect of a job to millennials; however, only 27% of millennials actually feel this way. The top priority, at 30%, is meaningful work. While high pay came in second, number three was “sense of accomplishment” at 24%. For managers, meaningful work and sense of accomplishment both ranked 11%.

A Pew Research survey also confirmed that most millennials don’t consider high pay “extremely important” in a job only 19% do. 50%, however, said a job they enjoy is definitely important to them. And when asked, “Which three benefits would you most value from an employer” the top answer among millennials was, at 22%, training and development. Only four percent said they would give up their benefits for a higher salary.

What the results of each of these studies have in common is that millennials value their experiences at work more than how much they see in their paychecks, which differs greatly from how potential employers view them. The reason young professionals feel this way is probably because they are generally optimistic about the future. In fact, 53% of millennials say that while they don’t earn or have enough money for their future right now, they are confident they will by the time they retire.

In addition, millennials have been found to be statistically more liberal than previous generations and these values carry over into their expectations at work. Studies have found that companies with reputations for making their viewpoints on certain issues known can more successfully recruit and retain millennial employees, rather than companies who do not make their stances known to the public: “Recruiting organizations attempt to attract workers by distinguishing themselves from other organizations Pay and location are key factors but not all the factors. Research shows companies with higher [corporate social performance] are more attractive to recruits,” according to the study. If this kind of information was not readily accessible to young job seekers, they were more likely to speak negatively about other aspects of the company. With more members of the millennial than any other generation identifying as LGBT, it does not come as a surprise that they would want to work for a company they know supports their beliefs and, possibly, their lifestyles.

A study about how millennials feel about technology at work also garnered some interesting results. Considered the most connected to social media and the Internet, members of this generation statistically have the most Facebook friends and have shared more “selfies” than other generations. However, they don’t always believe technology and professionalism mix: only 13% of millennials believe it’s okay to use a cell phone during a business meeting.

And it turns out that these values correspond with newfound information about social media networks in the workplace for all generations. A recent study analyzed the effectiveness of communicating over social media platforms instead of in person. According to the results, social networks can be a useful communication tool, but only if a foundation of openness and trust has already been built: “an open, supportive environment has to be established through traditional face-to-face communication before companies can expect opinions and ideas to be shared online.” Overall, employees feel that there are certain situations where it would not be appropriate to communicate online and they would prefer face-to-face contact.

When looking to hire new employees, it is vital for managers to understand the needs of potential workers. Sometimes these needs may come as a surprise, especially when the new hires will be members of a different generation. However, recruitment and retention are both compromised if managers are not in tune to what job seekers want.

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