Are the youngest generation entering the workforce--millennials--rejecting the traditional climb up the corporate ladder with a desire to catapult to the top, or are they rejecting altogether the traditional paradigm of a slow and steady career climb?
According to a University of Guelph, Ontario study, conducted by Professor Sean Lyons, and published in the Journal of Business Psychology, a majority of Canadian undergraduate students about to enter the workforce presume they will be promoted in the first 18 months of starting a job and be handed a 63% increase in their salary within the first five years. These conclusions were based on a study of 24,000 undergraduates ages 18-27.
Lyons says that "the traditional idea of getting a job at the bottom rung, paying your dues and working your way up doesn't exist anymore," and millennials are a "generation with high self-esteem and a sense of entitlement and that can lead to unrealistic expectations."
Lyons and other generational experts have noted that the millennials have both very different career expectations and values that the current dominant baby boom generation. Lyons concluded that there is a direct correlation between what he called millennials "unrealistic expectations and the fact that they have never been told they can't achieve whatever they want." The study also shows that these expectations are not based on school or university grade performance, with students with lower grades having the same assumptions about salary increases and promotions.
What about job loyalty? Lyons concludes that millennials have "no sense of job loyalty," with 50% of the students surveyed not wanting or were not sure if they wanted to find an organization where they could stay for a long term. The study also showed millennials rated good people to work with as the leading workplace attribute along with the opportunities to learn and grow. Lyons concludes that organization desiring to recruit top millennials might be wise to use the same strategies as the millennial parents---provide lots of support and give them a sense of belonging, and be up front about the potential for promotion.
In my National Post article entitled, What Generation Y Can Teach Us, I said, "Gen Y workers don't measure success by the same benchmarks as previous generations. Success in the digital age will require businesses to adopt many of the same benchmarks of the multi-tasking, social networking people who dominate them:" in my National Post article entitled Generation Y Will Evolve Leadership, I argued that "Gen Y will change traditional views of career management. In the old model, people put in their time, paid their dues, worked hard and were promoted and compensated. That pattern no longer exists. It is estimated that the typical Gen Y knowledge worker will have 10-14 jobs by the time they retire, if they do retire. The annual performance appraisal will not sit well with Gen Y workers. They want more input and feedback, and honest appraisal along with intelligent advice from respected leaders and mentors. Gen Y workers don't want just financial compensation; they want a piece of the action, a piece of the company;" and in my National Post article entitled Why Aren't You More Like Me? The Generational Gap in the Workplace, I said millennials "celebrate diversity; they are optimistic, inventive and individualistic; they rewrite the rules; they enjoy a pleasurable lifestyle; they don't see the relevance of most institutions; they are masters of technology and social media; were nurtured by their parents; see friends as family; like a collaborative supportive work environment and interactive work relationships; have high demands and expectations; want to work for companies that are socially responsible and they want a balanced life."
Joanne Sujansky, of the Pittsburgh-based consulting firm KEY Group has studied employment trends almost three decades, has concluded that many millennials are in fact turning their collective backs on traditional corporate careers, choosing to become entrepreneurs instead. One report in the Boston Globe indicated that between 30-40% of graduates from a selection of top schools, including Harvard and Carnegie-Mellon, are by-passing corporate America and starting their own businesses. Entrepreneurs between 18 and 24 are now starting up businesses faster than their counterparts in the 35-44 age range.
Sujansky argues that for organizations to attract the brightest and best millennials, they should embrace millennials' entrepreneurial qualities by making room in the workplace for new ways of thinking about both work and compensation. That might take the form of "virtual hires," creative career ladders, or project-based employment. It can also mean nontraditional salary and benefit packages that are more clearly tied to performance and measurable outcomes. Finally, employers need to fundamentally rethinking the employer-employee relationship in significant ways.
So like it our not, the current leaders in our organizations, most of whom are baby boomers, better be prepared for a younger generation of workers who don't share their same work values and attitudes towards work, loyalty and compensation, and may be more creative and entrepreneurial than previous generations.
Ray B. Williams is Co-Founder of Success IQ University and President of Ray Williams Associates, companies located in Phoenix and Vancouver, providing leadership training, personal growth and executive coaching services.