Millennial Careers: Understanding the Generation-Y Workforce

attract and retain
Practical Advice To Help Employers Attract, Retain And Develop Millennial Workers
October 14, 2017
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Generation-Y Workforce

By 2020, Millennials will make up for over a third of the global workforce. This is one of the many reasons, why multiple reports aiming to predict their behaviour exist. Some say they are disloyal, self-absorbed and lazy, while others claim they’re a generation of digital entrepreneurs and innovators. Some aim to dispel the myths others have created. Just type “Millennials are…” into a Google search to see the stereotypes.

However, as this generation gradually captures the highest share of employability, it is important for employers to not be privy to these stereotypes and understand quantifiably what millennials want at work. As world of work experts, we have nearly 30,000 employees advising 400,000 clients regarding hiring decisions and talent development every year. We find work for 3.4 million people – about half of whom are Millennials.

Hence, it is vital for employers to understand how different the Generation Y is from the rest of the workforce and from generations before them. And, what could be some clear recommendations for organizations to attract, retain, develop and motivate the best Millennials for the 21st-century workforce.

To get a clearer insight into this query, ManpowerGroup carried out a quantitative research across 25 countries surveying 19,000 Millennials, including 8,000 of our own associate employees and more than 1,500 of our hiring managers. We asked them what they look for in a job, what development opportunities they seek and what would make them stay longer with an employer.  Here’s a brief summarization of the Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision report to help employers understand what millennials want at work:

A  Varying Degree Of Confidence About Career Prospects

In the Human Age, Millennials are both shaping and being shaped by their world of work. As the offspring of parents whose jobs became increasingly precarious in the 70s, 80s and 90s, they entered the labor market during a global recession that witnesses record youth unemployment, faster-changing business cycles and an increasing demand for new skills for which they are often told they lack the necessary education.

satisfactory employment

Despite the aforementioned hurdles towards satisfactory employment, the Generation Y is surprisingly upbeat about their careers. About two-third of millennials from across the globe are optimistic about their immediate job prospects. Sixty-two percent of them are confident that if they lost their main source of income tomorrow, they could find equally good or better work within three months.

Overall, Millennials in Mexico, China, Switzerland and Germany are the most positive, while those in Japan, Greece and Italy are the least positive – a clear reflection of the economic, political and cultural variables in these countries. A majority of Millennials globally see a promising future and successful careers ahead.

Preparedness For A Career Ultramarathon

Millennials have a career ultramarathon ahead of them and they know it. Early retirement with a gold watch at 50 or even 60 is an antique attitude. A major section of this workforce knows they’ll work longer than the generations before them and some of them even acknowledge the fact that they might work till the day they die. Rather than having one job for life, Millennials think about careers in waves with changing paths, pace and regular breaks.

 career ultramarathon

Globally, over half of this generation expects to work past the age of 65. Twenty-seven percent of them expect to work over the age of 70, and 12% say they will likely work until the day they die. In Japan, that figure is more than a third. Still, a significant number remains optimistic that they will retire before 65. Only time will tell if the people in this minority are realists, optimists or just downright naive.

generation expects

Affirmation For 50-hour Weeks

Contrary to the lazy label, the data tell a different story. Millennials are working as hard, if not harder than generations before them. Seventy-three percent of them report working more than 40 hours a week and nearly a quarter work over 50 hours. Indian Millennials claim the longest working week and Australians the shortest – on average 52 and 41 hours a week respectively. Twenty-six percent of the Generation-Y globally is working two or more paid jobs.


Need For Regular Breaks

Millennials expect to work harder and longer than previous generations, so they already anticipate more variety and more times when they will take their foot off the gas. Eighty-four percent of them foresee significant breaks along the way, reinforcing that Career Waves are replacing the Career Ladder of earlier generations.

Career Waves

However, the reasons for these breaks are revealing. Women plan to take more time out to care for others – their children, older relatives, partners and even to do volunteer work. Men, on the other hand, have a different set of priorities. This does not bode well for hopes of gender parity, with both parents holding the baby. However, millennials are more equal is in caring for themselves.

Women plan

Both genders aim to prioritize “me-me-me time” and leisure-related breaks. Regardless of gender, four in 10 Millennials are planning to take significant breaks for relaxation, travel or vacations. Taking time off to support a partner in their job ranks close to last place for both, reinforcing the trend towards dual-income households.

Changing Set Of Job Priorities

A Millennial mindset regarding careers is emerging. Like long-distance runners, this work-hard, play-hard generation have their eyes on the horizon about what’s next. They are planning for the long-haul and want work that increases their long-term employability.

long-term employability

Millennials prioritize three things when choosing where and how they work: money, security and time off. They want to be rewarded for their effort, feel secure in their employment and still have the freedom to stop and refuel once in a while. They also value working with great people and enjoying the time they spend on the job, together with the opportunity to work flexibly and developing new skills.

Redefined Meaning Of Job Security

Job security is critical for millennials, however, they define it differently. They are not the job hoppers some would have us believe. Given the chance, they will move on and move up, but more often than not they expect to advance with the same employer. Like the Traditionalists before them, they want the security of full-time work to ensure they can maintain their standard of living.

Job Security

This millennial mindset sees individual jobs as stepping stones to self-improvement, rather than a final destination. Millennials have redefined job security as career security – it’s the journey, not the job. Rather than one long job for life, this generation understands the need for continuous skills development to remain employable.

Ninety-three percent want lifelong learning and are willing to spend their own time and/or money on further training. Four out of five say the opportunity to learn new skills is a top factor when considering a new job and 22% intend to take an extended break from work to gain new skills and qualifications.

Rising Need For Recognition

While millennials prioritize the security of full-time employment, they also want regular change, new challenges and advancement. Growing up in a fast-paced world of sharing, rating and instant feedback, they see their careers through the same lens.

Recognition and affirmation are important. Half of Millennials would consider leaving their current job due to a lack of appreciation. Once they start to look elsewhere other issues like pay, benefits and lack of opportunities also become significant.

Half of Millennials

Employers can nip this in the bud by offering more frequent, face-to-face feedback. Maintaining a high-touch approach and finding new channels that encourage recognition and sharing from managers and peers is a low-cost, effective way to engage people in their roles.

Glacial Move Towards The Gig Economy

Gig work might dominate the media, but almost three-quarters of working Millennials are in full-time jobs. Even in the United States, where alternative forms of employment – like Uber and TaskRabbit – are emerging faster than elsewhere, only 3% of Millennials work in the gig economy.

Millennials are happy to disrupt and be disrupted. Though they favor full-time work, over half of them say that they are open to non-traditional forms of employment in the future – freelance, gig work or portfolio careers with multiple jobs. Self-employment is also a tempting future option. Their comfort with disruption and acceptability to new ways of working may put pressure on employers to adopt policies with higher flexibility and offer varied modules work as provided by alternative employment models.


A vast majority of Millennials – 93% – see ongoing skills development as an important part of their future careers. They would pay for it personally and give up their own time to do it. Only 7% of millennials have no interest in training.

Employers need to recognize this factor and reward learnability. They need to nurture it to avoid losing out or lacking critical skills in their workforce. It’s time for companies to reimagine their people practices. Progression doesn’t always have to mean promotion. Career enhancement doesn’t necessarily mean advancement.

Employers need to reinforce better workforce solutions to create a tactical environment which is demanding as well as provides ample opportunity for growth to the Generation-Y workforce. Consult our experts at Manpower for innovative ways to assimilate these solutions to your business operations. 

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