Three Things Millennials Value More Than a High Salary

Study explores why the generation job-hops and what could persuade them to stick around

3 min read
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THE INSTITUTEMillennials often are categorized as impulsive and driven by instant gratification, with a tendency to job-hop. Many stay at a company for two years at the most before moving on. A recent study by strategy firm Department26 reveals what motivates millennials to stay in one spot—as well as what drives them away.

Workers ages 21 to 35 are influenced by a number of factors, according to the study, which surveyed 1,000 millennials in the United States. As part of the study, Department26 conducted more than two dozen in-depth interviews. The researchers assessed concerns about finances and the future as well as what millennials are looking for from employers.

It turns out high wages are not necessarily their top priority, despite the fact that many entering the workforce are saddled with student loans.

Here are three ways to make millennials more invested in your organization.


Millennials are making significant contributions, especially to technology (see MIT’s annual 35 Innovators Under 35 list, for example). But many are restless in their role. According to the survey, more than half of respondents expect to be promoted within the first two years of being hired. Many say they plan to leave the company if that doesn’t happen.

To help manage employees’ expectations, recruiters and managers should be prepared to explain what’s required to move up the ranks, the report says. Managers should provide regular feedback to help them see the bigger picture and fully understand what’s expected in order to advance. Annual reviews aren’t enough, according to the report. With well-established goals and better communication with supervisors, millennials can manage their own expectations.


When asked what’s important, many of the millennials mentioned freedom. When millennials are productive, they expect flexibility with their schedule in return. One respondent, an IT manager for a large bank, said she resented the fact that, despite her hard work and excellent standing at the company, she wasn’t granted permission to leave work early on a Friday.

For millennials, productivity is more important than adhering to a 9-to-5 schedule. That might mean working a few hours in the evening or over the weekend with the option to take a few hours off during the workweek to attend to personal matters.

Another option is to allow employees to work remotely. An article by the Society for Human Resource Management noted that many millennials ask about telecommuting options during job interviews. Communication tools such as Google Hangouts, Slack, and Skype have enabled a number of companies to let their employees work from home. And a study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business suggests that telecommuters are actually more productive than colleagues who regularly commute to the office.


A study by Virtuali and WorkplaceTrends revealed that 91 percent of millennials aspire to be leaders. And many of them already have traits that make them effective leaders, a Forbes article says, such as the desire for open communication and transparency, a tendency to challenge the status quo, and an unwillingness to compromise core values.

Although the instincts might be there, though, it could take years of experience to become an effective leader. Continuing education is essential. According to a Forbes op-ed, on-the-job training should help employees build skills they’ve expressed interest in strengthening, such as project management.

And because they tend to be more focused on short-term goals, according to the Department26 survey, millennials want training that lets them learn quickly so they can apply their new skills immediately.

That might include a weeklong boot camp to master new software, a seminar on time management, or a workshop on how to handle interpersonal conflicts at the office. When an employer invests resources in millennials’ careers, they in turn feel more invested in the company.

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