The great Millennial myth about work

I recently posted on LinkedIn about how I was fed up of being labelled as a ‘Millennial’ by journalists and marketers. How has it suddenly become the norm to stereotype a particular group of people based on a rough estimation of their birth date?

Whilst I’m not generally gratified by large numbers of people agreeing with me, it was a relief to discover that I wasn’t alone in being peeved about being labelled.

But what about if the label was right? Could the Generation Y be pigeon-holed into having a particular attitude? Like any good Millennial, I ironically decided to turn to the internet to find out.

Here are some of the headlines that grabbed my attention:

“Millennials are spoilt, full of themselves, averse to hard work and expect ‘success on a plate’, so what does that mean for society?” Says the Daily Mail.

“Own stuff? They can’t afford to.” Says the Financial Times.

“Millennials don’t trust anyone. That’s a big deal.” Says the Washington Post.


According to global research by Ipsos Mori, Millennials - are, on the whole, largely the same as older generations. The research questioned 35,000 employees across the world and found that, in general, those born between 1980-1995 were absolutely no different to any other age or cohort.

Perhaps the worst area for myths and lazy assumptions about Millennials is around the topic of work. They come from all angles - some fuelled by wider-generalisations about ‘millennial’ character traits (entitled, lazy and so on), some by their levels of education and some by their economic situation. It’s a shame that so much of the journalism is poorly defined and evidenced, as it obscures some important differences. Here are some of the worst culprits, which have been bandied about:

Millennials are lazy workers

A common misconception of the Gen Y generation is one of indolence. Whilst it is true that US Millennials are likely to work a shorter working week (39.7 hours against an average of 41.8) than their elder counterparts, in Britain, Millennials actually work slightly longer (39.3 versus 37.8 overall).

In Germany, there is no difference whatsoever.

This stereotype is a largely a worthless statistic anyway, since the number of hours worked per week is gradually decreasing over time for workers of all ages, reflecting differing types of employment and massive increases in productivity. So those ‘Baby Boomers’ and ‘Generation Xers’ decrying the Millennial work ethic would be just as harshly criticised by previous generations.

Millennials job hop more

A 2016 LinkedIn study suggested that the average Millennial would change job four times by age 32, meaning an average job tenure of 2.5 years during a Millennial’s first decade out of university. Around the same time, Gallup released a poll suggesting that Millennials were the most likely generation to switch jobs, with 60% “open to a new job opportunity”

The median time American young people are employed at an individual employer has not changed notably between 1983 and 2014.
— US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Both reports have their limitations, and neither looked back to see if Generation X were similarly minded when they were younger.

But the idea that Millennials are chopping and changing jobs at an unprecedented rate isn’t borne out by the evidence. Figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the median time American young people are employed at an individual employer has not changed notably between 1983 and 2014 – for instance.

Indeed, in the UK we can see the exact opposite of the myth; Millennials are staying longer in jobs than older generations did when they were that age, according to new analysis by the Resolution Foundation. At age 30, those born in the early 1980s (the oldest Millennials) are more likely to have stayed with one employer for five years or more than those born in the early 1970s. The difference (47% versus 43%) is small but notable – especially in a time in the UK where loyalty to one employer is not rewarded in salary increases as well as it was in the past.

The widespread talk of flighty Millennials and the growing ‘gig economy’ is also misleading – it’s dwarfed by the counter-trend that, in tough economic times, people try to hang on to the jobs they have.

Millennials are not motivated to work

There has been a widespread and growing narrative accusing the Millennial generation of having an ‘anti-work attitude’, working only their contracted hours and expecting their employers to bend over backwards to accommodate their outside interests in microbreweries, Netflix and gamification.

But the suggestion that Millennials are less motivated at work also seems to be untrue. The Edenred Ipsos Barometer of workplaces (a survey of employees of all ages in 15 countries) shows that those aged under 30 across a number of countries are more likely than older people to say their enthusiasm for their work is increasing.

The same old story

The assertion that Millennials are a new breed, presenting employers with new challenges – and usually the sole focus is on challenges – has spawned an industry whose lifeblood appears to be offering all sorts of content and listicles of the best way to ‘manage Millennials’.

However, any serious study in the area suggests that there are very limited differences in attitude, motivation, and loyalty in the workplace between Millennials and the rest of us. The differences that do exist can be more clearly assigned to life stage – Millennials are young, and they behave like all young people in work did before them.

The key point is that Millennials don’t need to be treated differently to previous generations at the same stage in their careers. They are looking for the same things – reward for their efforts, the opportunity for personal growth, and management that cares about staff – and are just as motivated to work as Generation X were at the same point.

The implication for employers is that they shouldn’t use damaging ‘work-shy’ stereotypes to hide bad practice. If a firm is experiencing high churn in their junior paygrades (where, currently, Millennials are concentrated) it is much more likely to be due to broader issues. Employers should review their own practice, rather than looking to blame Millennials.

At the end of the day, there’s no substitute for simply being a good employer.

Alex Perrins is the Marketing Manager for ESA Group. Find me on LinkedIn or Twitter to hear more.

3 ways to give your employees incentives that they actually want

Photo courtesy of Social Chain
Photo courtesy of Social Chain

Employee incentives often sound like a failsafe method of motivating your workforce - particularly the younger ones who might have friends who are reaping the benefits of free gym memberships or a giant slide and ball pool.

However, not all benefits are as beneficial as they seem. The team at ESA Group speak to many HR managers who have used perk programs, which are too complicated, or are simply a waste of money.

Make them relevant

It seems, the key to engaging your employees into using their incentives, is to make sure they care about them.

Whilst it could be a barrier for larger companies to find a recognition programs that are all things to all people; smaller companies have the benefit of being able to ask their employees what kind of perks they’d like. Using an employee survey, for instance, could reveal what benefits would be the most important to your team. For the younger members, discounts on health insurance is likely to be less interesting than a yearly subscription to Netflix.

Consider low cost perks:

Research suggest that three quarters of companies are planning to expand their recognition programs within the next year. The most influential of these perks are performance awards, service anniversary awards and personal awards, such as ‘employee of the month’.

However, none of these necessarily have to be financially disruptive. Some of the most popular rewards with employees include early work day finishes or extra holiday. A little extra cash can always help though. Some simple, low cost perks could include:

  • Gift cards
  • Restaurant vouchers
  • Entertainment vouchers
  • Subscription services, such as Netflix or Spotify

Make them accessible:

There has been an abundance of employee ‘perks’ companies popping up all over the internet, such as Perk Box and The Work Perk, offering to manage your employee recognition for you.

Whilst these can certainly work, a recent SheerID survey revealed that only 22% of workers regularly use their discount programs, however 46% of staff said that they would use their perks more if they were easier to access or manage.

So, if your employees have to logon to a complex website every time they need to search for a discount, and if that website is difficult to use, chances are that they’ll give up before they find that 10%- off holiday voucher (that was probably already available elsewhere).

Want to work with the best of Generation Y? Here’s how to attract the top talent.


Retaining and attracting the best talent in any business is difficult and it’s even more important for a growing company in a competitive marketplace.

Smart companies know that they're only as good as their most gifted workers, and will therefore prioritize seeking out the best of the best for their organizations.

As technology continues to evolve, it will play an increasingly important role in the way companies and HR teams approach the talent search and the hiring process. So, what's on the horizon for this important area of business operations?

The future is digital

When LinkedIn and online job applications first emerged, they were seen as supplements to the traditional paper résumé and in-person interview. Today, the world of recruiting is nearly 100% digital.

CVs are starting to be displaced by evolving digital representations of an individual’s experience, skills, and aptitudes. Innovative tools that use social media, big data and other tech will give hiring managers detailed insights into a person’s aptitude that was never possible before.

Not even twenty years ago, the résumé was just a piece of paper. And most people would struggle to verify that even half of it was true. Now, recruiters can assess whether a person will ‘fit’ with the personality of their business, and accurately learn whether they have the right skills for the job by using a wide array of digital tools.

Want to hire somebody from another country? Now there’s no need to fly them in at great expense. Simply use a video based interview over Skype or similar, along with a variety online assessments, and you can quantify your candidates just as efficiently as if you met them in person.

Streamlined applications

Today's job seekers know their worth and are aware of the competitive landscape. They see opportunities everywhere, and if one employer takes too long to respond or makes it difficult to apply, they'll quickly pass it up for another job opening.

Talent acquisition has suddenly become a seller’s market. One way to address this is by using recruitment marketing technologies such as candidate job portals, employee onboarding and specialty tools that foster employee referrals.

Although some small employers can’t afford sophisticated tech, they can still use the basics. Even by posting a job ad on their own website, together with a campaign on any existing social media networks, they can still reach job hunters with an engaging and simple process.

Maximise your employment brand

Savvy candidates will evaluate company brands before applying to or accepting a job, much in the same way they evaluate consumer brands when shopping. They’ll be researching you just as much as you are them, so it’s important your public facing brand meets their expectations.

A poor website or inactive social feeds will soon turn a potential employee off. They’ll want to be actively engaged with you company before they apply, or they’ll be unlikely to understand whether their personality will work with yours.

Similarly, don’t forget that there are even digital hubs out there that are starting to review how good your employees perceive you as a business. Sites such as Glassdoor are becoming increasingly important when it comes to looking after your brand.

Focus on passive candidates

As the number of Generation Y — and soon, Gen Z — workers continue to increase, recruiters are learning that these employees' expectations about the hiring process differ from those of older generations.

Those who’ve been raised on technology don’t really accept the legacy concepts of recruiting and many are used to head hunters coming to them, rather than vice versa. This is even starting to become true for junior roles too.

It’s becoming more and more important for a recruiter to be proactive when finding candidates, such as through LinkedIn and other social profiles. Today’s professionals take their online positioning very seriously and many even have their own website to showcase their work.

Whilst digital tools will never fully replace the human instinct necessary for identifying the right candidates, an ability to stay on top of technological trends could be a company’s biggest advantage going forward.

Taking advantage of tools which go beyond paper will help you ensure you make the right hire and ultimately save your business time, headaches and cash.

To find out how ESA Group can use digital tools to find you the best candidates, contact us today for a free consultation.