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Robin Stanton Gerrow

Study Shows Millennials in the Workplace May Not Be So Different After All

Since millennials began entering the workforce, there have been many claims about how different they are when it comes to workplace performance and preferences. But, are they so different from other generations in their expectations? Turns out, it’s complicated.

That’s the subject researchers Michelle Goro and Brittani Plaisance of Infor Talent Science tackle in their poster for “Using Science to Debunk Millennial Rumors in the Workplace,” being presented in April at the 2018 Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology in Chicago, Illinois.

“Being millennials ourselves, there seem to be many misconceptions of how we are expected to work, be rewarded, or want to socialize,” Goro said. “At Infor, we have access to a platform which allows us to reach job applicants on a large scale, which we were fortunate enough to be able to use for this research. We wanted to research generational differences aligned with our company’s access to data in the hopes that we would find other answers aside from the common workplace stereotypes.”

Selection, training, and retention of millennials is increasingly important as they begin to make up the largest percentage of the workforce, as noted in SIOP’s 2018 Top 10 Workplace Trends.

Goro, a manager of HCM Data Science, and Plaisance, senior behavioral analyst, had access to large scale surveys of job applicants and current employees in a broad range of industries. The first study centered on a set of voluntary questions at the end of an application process in the summer of 2017 and had 2,265 respondents, 75 percent of whom were millennials. The second study used historical data collected from 2015 to 2017, with 529,264 participants, with 78 percent of the respondents being millennials.

“We found several findings from study one to be surprising, as the stereotypes and descriptives surrounding millennials are prevalent everywhere, even in our own lives,” Goro said. “Specifically, it was surprising to us that the millennial generation reported wanting face-to-face time with their bosses on a weekly basis. We would expect them to prefer more autonomy and hands-off style management. Perhaps more research should be done in this regard to determine what exactly is preferred here. Do they want an operational, in-person meeting where they discuss work tasks? Or, is this a preference for a hands-on approach to their personal and career development?”

Plaisance added, “Study two’s results negate the reputation of millennials to be job-hoppers and disloyal to organizations, and we found this a little surprising. We did assume and guess that older generations were more likely to stay put in one job for longer, but our results indicate that this is not necessarily a trend backed by data.”

Millennials’ reputation of being more social at work than their Gen X and Baby Boomer peers also may not hold up under scrutiny. In the first survey, results showed non-millennials more strongly agree on the importance of a positive culture and environment, and the need to have friends at work. In the same survey, millennials also reported that the opportunity for promotion is more important to them than making meaningful contributions to the organization

In the second data set, millennials showed a strong preference for working remotely, job title importance, and sacrificing compensation for being valued and doing work they enjoy.

The need to develop policies and organizational culture around the latter statements is reinforced in “Optimizing Perceived Organizational Support to Enhance Employee Engagement,” a white paper published jointly by SIOP and the Society for Human Resource Management. It stresses the need for employees to be recognized as valuable resources within the organization. “Perceived organizational support (POS)—an employee’s perception that the organization values his or her work contributions and cares about the employee’s well-being—has been shown to have important benefits for employees and employers.”

“The results of our research indicate that the differences between millennials and non-millennials are likely more complicated than the general, widely-accepted beliefs,” Goro said. “Moreover, these differences didn’t always go in the direction one would expect. Taken with previous research, our findings add information to the constantly evolving workplace and the way millennials fit into this dynamic. We think it is important to consider the individual when forming HR policy and managing people of different generations in the workplace. Forming strategy and policy based on a group and assumptions surrounding what the group prefers and wants can often be problematic, leaving members unsatisfied and unmotivated at work.”

Goro and Plaisance see these analyses as just the start of the ongoing conversation about millennials in the work place.

“As in all studies, we had a few limitations and recognize that this research alone does not answer all the generational questions,” Plaisance said. “But this research is a great body of evidence to enhance the conversation about the assumption of generational differences in workplace preferences and behaviors, but this should remain an ongoing topic of conversation with additional real data from candidates and people in the workplace.”

For more information, contact Michelle Goro at michelle.goro@infor.com.

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