by Sarah K. White

7 things millennials are looking for at work

Dec 14, 2015
CareersIT LeadershipIT Skills

Millennials get a bad rap in the workplace, but a recent Microsoft study shows that the things they want from an employer aren't that unrealistic or uncommon.

Millennials face a number of misconceptions in the workplace. Are they really all buried in their smartphones and expecting to go from entry level to manager in a month? Recent research shows that’s not the case. However, millennials do want more from their employers than free snacks in the break room or a laid-back environment.

“Millennials will make up more than 50 percent of the workforce by 2020, so it’s crucial for companies of all sizes to consider how to attract and retain this generation,” says David Smith, vice president of Worldwide SMB for Microsoft.

Businesses need to take the needs of their youngest employees into consideration, as they’re quickly becoming a major part of the workforce. But building a company culture based on misconceptions won’t get these fresh grads in the door. Microsoft surveyed over 1,000 millennials aged 18 to 34 in the United States and found the seven biggest things that will businesses help attract and retain millennial hires.

They want to collaborate

Just because millennials love technology — and they might be better-known for sending a text than making a phone call — that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in face-to-face meetings. In fact, 65 percent said that their preferred form of communication with managers was face-to-face meetings. When it comes to collaborating with colleagues, 51 percent said they preferred to conduct in-person meetings.

“There’s that misconception that millennials are so glued to their devices that face-to-face communication has lost its relevance,” says Smith. But the data shows otherwise, with collaboration being an important aspect for millennials’ careers.

They do care about security

Millennials aren’t naïve about the risks that come with technology, especially in the workplace. Microsoft found that an overwhelming number of millennials are concerned about security at work. Of those surveyed, 81 percent said that when they are developing, communicating and sharing sensitive data at work, they’re aware of the security risks.

Smith points out that just because this generation appears quick to share personal information online and over social media, it doesn’t mean they aren’t aware of the security implications. And that’s good news for businesses, as security-oblivious employees can sometimes be a bigger threat than hackers.

[ Related Story: Are your biggest security threats on the inside? ]

They want BYOD

Using a smartphone or tablet is second nature to millennials, and that doesn’t stop at work, and millennials expect to use their own devices to get work done. Whether it’s because they’re more familiar with their personal technology or because they have a nicer personal computer than the one issued by work, they want to bring their own devices to the office.

Microsoft found that 58 percent of millennial respondents said they use their own devices to work and 57 percent responded that it’s important to them to be able to use their own device. And it’s more than just checking and sending email on a smartphone; millennials are often using more than one device at work. The survey found that 48 percent of millennials report using two devices to work, while 23 percent use three or more devices at work.

They don’t want to rely on IT

IT is has a lot more on its plates than helping workers unlock their accounts or troubleshoot their Wi-Fi problems, and millennials might be alleviating some of that load. According to Microsoft, it appears at least 29 percent of millennials are more likely to try to solve their own tech issues, while another 16 percent would simply ask a colleague before filing a help desk ticket.

While they don’t want to rely on IT, they also expect their technology to be dependable and to work consistently. Millennials cited a number of IT gripes that made them discouraged at work; 42 percent cited connectivity issues as a top challenge when connecting to virtual meetings, while 23 percent found it difficult to consistently share and view other users’ screens and 17 percent said they had issues seeing other participants. If you want to attract and retain millennials, invest in decent software that will be dependable and easy to use so they don’t have to call on IT just to have a video conference.

They want the latest tech

Millennials are the first generation to grow up with technology for a significant portion of their lives. They’re naturals at using the latest technology and Microsoft found that millennials want the ability to use the newest tech to extend to their careers. Of those surveyed, 93 percent noted it was important to them to work for a company that has updated technology. And of that 93 percent, 48 percent said it was “extremely important.”

“Embracing the latest technology is a crucial part of that innovation that’s necessary to compete in an ever-changing business landscape. Millennials don’t just want to get the work done, they want the tools that will enable them to do their best work,” says Smith. If millennials walk into your office and find outdated software and hardware, it could be a major turn off for them.

They want autonomy

Millennials might be young, but that doesn’t mean they expect their employer to hold their hand throughout their careers. In fact, 80 percent of respondents said they felt they were in charge of their own career paths. However, in some cases, with that autonomy comes a limited tenure. The study found that 31 percent of millennials planned to stay at their company for less than two years, while only 17 percent said they saw themselves staying for seven to nine years.

But just because they want autonomy, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t invested in their current roles. “Millennials want a career that will allow them to be independent and innovative without sacrificing collaborative, in-person teamwork,” says Smith. Millennials might not be in it for the long haul, but if you equip them with the right tools, they’ll do the best job they can while they are on the team.

They want purpose

Reports abound about how millennials are more invested in purpose than money, and Microsoft’s research supports this idea. An overwhelming amount of respondents, 88 percent, said that when choosing a company to work for, they wanted an employer with a strong mission and values system.

“They want a career, not just a job, and they want a career that aligns with their values and desire to give back. These are weighty things that ultimately contribute to the overall culture of a company, and they may not be easy for business owners to quickly wrap their heads around or implement,” Smith says.

That means while things like free soda and snacks might be appealing to millennials, these are just “icing on the cake,” according to Smith. Businesses should have a stronger focus on instilling a sense of value and purpose into their mission to help give millennials a reason to come to work every day.