The Millennial Workforce – Money, Power or None of the Above?

If you were given the choice between an increase in salary and a better job title with no pay increase, which would you choose? Ten years ago, the majority of candidates would choose a salary increase without hesitation. It seems that it has always been about making a better wage…until recently. Now, more often than not, the answer is “a better title” or even indifference, “whichever choice at that time in my life would make me the happiest.” Employees are less focused on the bottom dollar today and, in general, are focusing more and more on overall happiness. In the living paycheck-to-paycheck world we’ve found ourselves in, younger employees are not as concerned about their yearly salary as they are about other job factors. Who would’ve thought?!

Elite Daily suggests that job fulfillment, over other factors (such as salary, benefits and job security) is the priority for Millennial workers. The findings from an iOpener Institute study conclude that Gen Y workers are more likely to stay with and actively recommend their employer to friends if they are happy working there.

In generations past, employees valued job security and wages over personal fulfillment. These results illustrate a divergence in professional values brought about by the digital age. They suggest that management hoping to cultivate and retain young talent should be more mindful of establishing a work environment that fosters “feelings of engagement, empowerment, purpose and future development.”

Generation-Y places more emphasis on the economic and social impact of its work, valuing these intrinsic returns above financial rewards. The study suggests that incremental pay hikes serve little value in motivating Millennials in the workplace. “Generation Y views a job not just as a means to pay the rent, rather a route to exploring their passions, hobbies and philosophies,” recent graduate and social entrepreneur Arthur Kay said in an interview with The Guardian.

Part of the new generation’s focus on making a difference in the world is credited to the digital nature of their upbringing. Gen Y was given an opportunity during childhood and beyond to see the link between local and global. The internet has made world events and causes much more readily available, and thus increased awareness overall. This worldwide connection makes Millennials more likely to have international friends, support international causes, to move away from their communities and to champion charitable causes. They pride themselves on being “big picture” people.

Others argue that the Millennials’ emphasis on intrinsic returns goes beyond greater exposure and insight into the world’s problems learned through digital platforms. Rather, they argue that Millennials have simply become conditioned to believe that there are fewer and fewer institutions that merit their trust.

“Millennials are growing up in a world where they learn early on not to expect loyalty from their jobs or permanence from their family relationships,” wrote Jennifer Silva in the Boston Globe.

“When jobs are short-term, families are fragile, and trust in institutions is in short supply, focusing on one’s own happiness — and taking sole responsibility for achieving it — lends a sense of control and meaning to Millennials’ coming-of-age journeys.”

That journey has inspired this neophyte professional class to take charge of changing the employment landscape by emphasizing the pursuit of shared accomplishment over personal wealth, which they believe helped foment the current employment crisis.

Bethan Vincent, who founded an ethically-sourced coffee shop called Vincent’s Coffee, told The Guardian that she sees social enterprises as a solution to the challenging job market.

“I believe facing an environment with reduced economic opportunities has provided our generation with the drive to seek positive change through business,” said Vincent. “Older generations have gained greatly from the pursuit of wealth and this has left many young people wondering if there is more to life than getting rich quick.”

In the end, the answer is none of the above. It is not solely money or power that motivates and engages the new generation as did generations before them. As mentioned in previous articles, Millennials are said to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. Find a way to support the personal initiatives of Generation Y or you may find yourself in a difficult hiring situation within the next 10 years.

Traci Kingery, PHR is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in immigration and talent management. When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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