You have heard it so often that it may seem cliché. What Millennials want at work is not more money. They want a higher quality of work/life balance. That means more flexibility… to work from home in pajamas, to take time to flesh out their new ideas, or to be given an opportunity to be in charge. The increase for ranking wealth as very important by college freshman, from 40% for Boomers to 70% for Millennials indicates that Millennials really do want money more than prior generations. So why is more pay not as much of a lure for them to switch jobs as more flexibility and authority?
When I consider my early work experience I recall that perks – such as driving a company car, taking days off for numerous “community” events, or attending a team building retreat in Sedona – were the privileges of that divided management from those of us that had to show up at the office and work from eight hours, five days a week. Such privileges conferred status; the less necessary it was for you to be at the office on a daily basis, the more clout you had. Flexibility and authority went hand in hand with higher pay. This is something that millennials observed as they grew up. They understand that the reputation for importance at work is a key to obtaining both status and more lucrative work.
Millennials are viewing their career from the perspective of someone beginning a journey. The top thing they look for in a new position is opportunity to learn and grow. This is closely followed by quality of the manager and management, which is often based on the reputation of the company. They understand that creating a reputation for themselves is the key to both more status and more lucrative work. But in the current economy, businesses aren’t prospering as much and money is tight. So if millennials can’t have a higher salary, they might as well look like they do. More responsibility coupled with more authority and the ability to work from home, or take off as they see fit has the appearance of a higher salary. These appearances may actually translate into more money next time they hop to another new job.
Boomers are viewing their career from the perspective of someone ending a journey. They have seen enough opportunity for growth and learning. Often “new” learning is simply relearning a procedure using a new software application. In my field, training and education, the new concept to learn is often the recycling of a theory that became the rage and then went out of vogue 50 years ago. They are also aware of the stresses of positions of responsibility. Boomers seek high quality managers and management first. They know how hard these are to find. They also understand that quality in these areas lead to higher job security and less uncertainty about the future of their job. Like the millennials they also seek the type of work that interests them, but opportunity to cash in on future advancement is not as likely. The fourth most important characteristic of work, for Boomers in tight economic times, is a good compensation package. With a short term future in their sights they want to avoid working until they are no longer able to without a drastic drop in their standard of living.
What this boils down to is the millennials versus the boomer ranking of the importance of a high salary (compared to others qualities of a job) is largely based on how much longer they expect to be working.