The Millennial Compass: The Millennial Generation In The Workplace

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“The Millennial Compass” reveals workplace dynamics across the globe, with insights from millennials in Brazil, China, France, India, the UK and the USA. It seeks to shed light on what is most important to today’s younger workers, what they want in their relationships with managers and their expectations of career progression. Importantly, ‘The Millennial Compass’ compares responses across these six geographies and picks up emerging trends in the form of Five Truths About Millennials And Work, outlined here: Truth #1: Millennials are Ambitious and Believe Their Work Ethic is Strong Truth #2: Millennials Are On Their Way Up – and Out. Truth #3: Millennials Consider International Experience a Low Priority Truth #4: Millennials See the Boss as a Friend. Truth #5: Millennials with Younger Bosses Feel More Engaged More insights from this study will be shared by Olivier Fleurot, CEO, MSLGROUP, at a SXSW panel “Generation Mash-up: Y Bother?” alongside Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable Inc., on March 10th. Click here to learn more.

Text of The Millennial Compass: The Millennial Generation In The Workplace

  • The Millennial CompassTruths about the 30-and-Under Millennial Generation in the Workplace

  • Foreword 4

    Chapter1:Millennials 5

    Who Are They and What Matters to Them? 6

    Chapter2:FiveTruthsAboutMillennialsandWork 7

    Truth #1: Millennials are Ambitious and Believe Their Work Ethic is Strong 8

    Truth #2: Millennials Are On Their Way Up and Out 10

    Truth #3: Millennials Consider International Experience a Low Priority 12

    Truth #4: Millennials See the Boss as a Friend 15

    Truth #5: Millennials with Younger Bosses Feel More Engaged 18

    Chapter3:ClosingThoughts 20

    The MSLGROUP Perspective 21

    Methodology 22

    About This Report

    In February 2014, MSLGROUP teamed with Dr. Carina Paine Schofield,

    Research Fellow, and Sue Honor, Research Consultant, of Ashridge

    Business School* in the UK, to conduct global research on the Millennial

    generations attitudes and expectations in the workplace.

    The study, called The Millennial Compass, reveals workplace dynamics that

    employers must be aware of as they build their teams, especially across

    international borders. Some results including what is most important

    to todays younger workers, what they want in their relationships with

    managers and their expectations of career progression are startling.

    Importantly, The Millennial Compass compares responses across

    geographies to provide valuable insights to global organizations.

    *Established in 1959, Ashridge is a leading business school for working professionals, with an international reputation for

    leadership development. It is in the 1% of business schools globally to be accredited by the Association of MBAs (AMBA), the

    European Foundation for Management Development Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) and the Association to Advance

    Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) the UK, European and American accreditation bodies.

    Table of Contents

  • For nearly a quarter century, the Millennial generation has been written about and discussed at length in management books, blogs, articles and conferences. Much of the publicity focused on character traits that, frankly, tend to cast them in a negative light. Consequently, organizations around the world are keen to learn more about Millennials and understand their apparent high expectations of work and low loyalty to their employers.

    Although there are widely varying views on who actually belongs to the Millennial generation (we define them as people born between 1984 and 1996), one thing is clear: Millennials grew up in a world vastly different from that of previous generations. Theirs is a global village where social media and the Web erase geographic boundaries, resulting in a group of people who undoubtedly share perceptions, attitudes and beliefs. Historically, younger generations have always stirred new ideas into the corporate world, causing some expected irritation for older generations, says Erica Dhawan, a writer, speaker and consultant on next generation leadership. Yet this time its not an attitude problem, its a transition in business where globalization and technology have radically changed the game.

    Now that Millennials have been working for 10 years or so, its interesting to see the trends that have emerged. Among other things, The Millennial Compass shows they are focused on achieving through personal networks and technology, having a good work-life balance and getting high levels of support from their managers. They dont want to be tied to an organization, a timetable or a hierarchy, and theyd rather avoid the stress they see their senior leaders shouldering. They may lack some of their predecessors relationship, communication and analysis skills, but theyre confident in their abilities to run business in a new way.

    The Millennial Compass also reveals how common these trends are or arent around the world. Does a 25-year-old working for a company in Beijing feel the same way about work as his or her counterpart in London, So Paulo or Atlanta? The article identifies which traits can indeed be considered universal and which ones vary with geography, politics and economic factors.

    I thInk the biggest challenge facing businesses is the need for older managers to accept new ways of working. Its not just about technology, its about a hunger to change things.

    - JAMES, London, UK

    Chapter 1:




    Brian Burgess Global Co-Director, Employee Practice

    Jason Frank Global Co-Director, Employee Practice

  • As with other generation groups, Millennials are known by many different names (Gen Y and Generation Next, for example). There is limited consensus on who actually belongs to this generation, but for our research purposes, we describe them as people aged 30 years and younger, born between 1984 and 1996.

    Its not hard to imagine how the Millennial mindset would be dramatically different from that of generations who came before them. They grew up amid globalization, light-speed changes in technology and communication, and unprecedented shifts in business, political and cultural norms. The Millennial Compass study found whats important to them in their working lives varies somewhat by country, but several key findings emerged.

    Millennials: the Big Picture Theyre ambitious and not necessarily loyal to an organization. They want to move on, up and out quickly. They want managers who respect and trust them, provide coaching and mentoring and are trusting and trustworthy. They need lots of support and positive feedback. They look to a manager who is a friend or a peer. They seek bosses who share their knowledge and experience, and they respect experience over job titles or positions. They dont believe they need a good boss in order to be successful. They admire managers with higher levels of social self-awareness, self-confidence, cultural alignment to the organization and feedback-giving compared to their own personal capabilities. Work-life balance is important to them, and they believe they have a strong work ethic. Millennials in BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries see international assignments and experience as far more important than Millennials in the Western world.

    Who Are They and What Matters to Them?

    Whats Important in Millennials WorkIng lives

    1Sum of important and very important responses

    Chapter 2:

    Five Truths



    and Work


    Sense of achievement in work 94 94 84 82 88 90

    Good work-life balance 93 93 83 85 89 92

    Feel valued/treated with respect 90 94 87 86 90 93

    Pleasant physical environment 92 92 82 76 86 92

    Job security 95 87 83 87 84 89

    Good manager/leaders 88 88 86 79 88 89

    Career advancement 94 87 80 78 81 91

    Opportunity to be creative/innovative 91 88 71 54 76 90

    Job status 89 81 74 73 77 91

    Location 83 77 81 73 84 83

    Independence in work 90 84 78 71 81 88

    Influence in organization 84 85 63 54 64 85

    Have new ideas implemented 87 83 70 65 71 87

    Working in a multi-cultural environment 77 71 52 45 55 70

    International experience 70 61 49 40 44 67




  • the ambition to Move upThe Millennial generation is often cited as demanding work-life balance, which for them means working to live versus living to work, as the previous two generations were raised to do. Even so, the majority of Millennials surveyed in all countries describe themselves as more ambitious than not.

    Millennials in India are the most ambitious for promotion, with 37% believing they should be in a management position within one year of graduating. The highest proportion of Millennials in Brazil, the USA and the UK also believe this, at 24%, 23% and 21% respectively. China peaks at two years and France lags behind with only a cumulative total of 43% expecting to be managers within three years. Overall, more than 40% of this generation expect to be in a management position within two years.

    Not only do Millennials from India expect rapid promotion soon after graduating, 25% of them expect to be in a senior management position or running their own business within two years. Those in other countries also show leadership ambition, with 28% in Brazil and 22% in the USA expecting a senior role in two years. In the UK and France, the horizon is closer to five years.

    Truth #1 Millennials are Ambitious and Believe Their Work Ethic is Strong

    redeFining a strong Work ethicContrary to what managers may think, Millennials say they have a strong work ethic rather than a relaxed attitude toward work, especially in the USA (34%). The reason for the disconnect? A 2009 Ashridge Business School study showed the two groups see the world of work through very different lenses. Millennials view themselves as working hard, doing their best to achieve and, compared to their peers, doing more than their fair share. They also believe they have the right to a good work-life balance and have no problem demanding it.

    im a classic People pleaser. I want to keep gettIng raises and move up and It will likely never be fast enough.

    - STEPH, Washington DC, USA

    there absolutely has to Be a clear-cut line Between work and personal life. If there Isnt, it hamPers your creatIvity full stoP.

    - RASHI, Mumbai, India

    Managers, on the other hand, see Millennials expecting a lot of time and attention, but vanishing when the pressure is on to achieve team goals that conflict with personal goals. Not surprisingly, managers think Millennials have a very