What do millennials want (and expect to get) from work?

A CES 2020 panel looked into what drives younger professionals, and the answers won't surprise you but find out why stereotypes exist.

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As baby boomers age out and Gen Xers age up, more and more millennials are entering the workforce. Stereotypes abound, but one thing is for certain: Millennials are bringing plenty of changes to the workplace. 

A panel at CES 2020 called "So, You Hired a Millennial" discussed those very issues. 

Chaired by the Wall Street Journal's John D. Stoll, it was clear in the first few minutes how millennial employees see work: They want fulfillment, a good and honest work culture, opportunity for advancement, flexibility, and they're willing to job hop to find the right place.

That sounds like nothing new, and it's because it isn't. "Millennials get bashed a lot,"  Stoll said. 

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Stereotypes abound and, if the panelists are correct, are in large part true. Digging into the why of those stereotypes is where the panel dove deeper.

What do millennials want from work?

Everyone on the panel agreed that millennials are driving a lot of transformation in the workplace. Common themes regarding what they want sound like a refrain: They want a lot of flexibility (like being able to work remotely), they want their employer to invest in their professional future, they want lots of feedback, and they want to feel valued.

While those workplace desires seem repetitive, there's a core that runs through them that dominated a lot of the discussion: Millennials want their jobs to mean something.

They don't separate themselves from their jobs as much as older generations do, which shows in the recurring theme of finding meaning. The value this age group derives from their work means they want the company to share their values, but most of all to view them as partners and not just employees.

When asked about how to recruit millennials the key theme was reciprocity, and it permeates multiple levels of the cohort's working style. 

Reciprocity comes up on the way employee and employer invest time in each other: Millennials don't feel the need to be loyal to an employer who doesn't invest time in them through benefits, career advancement, and the like.

It also comes up in terms of feedback: They want to be told when they're doing a good job, but want that feedback to come informally and casually so work feels more like a partnership.

Crafting a new kind of work experience

Leaders looking for clear, actionable items got one from panelist Charles Kergaravat, international marketing head at Klaxoon: Businesses need to start thinking about purposefully crafting a new kind of "employee experience." 

"Treat employees like potential customers," Kergaravat said, just like businesses used to think of when crafting a retail experience. 

"Millennials don't want ping-pong tables and free soda," said panelist Gerald Kierce, chief of staff at FiscalNote. "They want to feel like employers want to make their lives better through good benefits and opportunity to grow." 

When trying to craft a good work environment for millennials there's no need to look for anything new: The things they want are well-known. Working to incorporate those things into the workplace, and doing so honestly, could be the key to keeping the largest working demographic happy. 

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