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COMSTOCK: What do millennials look for in a company?

Photo+by+Matthew+Serafin%2Fmatthew.serafin%40mu.edu
Photo by Matthew Serafin/matthew.serafin@mu.edu

Photo by Matthew Serafin/matthew.serafin@mu.edu

Photo by Doug Peters

Photo by Doug Peters

Photo by Matthew Serafin/matthew.serafin@mu.edu

Caroline Comstock

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As Career Services warned me, searching for a full-time job was going to feel like an additional three credit class. I guess I didn’t take them seriously enough. What I did not realize was that the most challenging aspect would be figuring out what I’m looking for in a company. Companies seem to be advertising their  image in a way that supposedly appeals to millennials in fun and relaxed ways, but hard work and recognition are paramount to a millennials decision on where they work.

What is a good benefits plan? Is a huge training program necessarily the best training program? Why do I keep calling this my first job as though I’m going to have to switch in a year?

So I started looking at company “culture” videos on YouTube to get more of a grasp on my search. There seemed to be a common theme: young people dressed as if they were going to the gym, playing putt-putt golf, or shooting hoops in the office.

Along with more than a few impressive sport shots among cubicles were employees raving about the culture. Again. And Again. At some point, these videos started to remind me of an episode of “The Office” where Creed threw on a wig in hopes of avoiding being fired when Dunder Mifflin decided to start going for a younger vibe.

It is almost as if human resource departments around the country have decided that millennials are so adamantly opposed to the corporate world to the point where they push their chill, laid-back image in desperation as they begin to lose their aging baby boomer workforce.

Despite the impressive sales pitch, companies struggle to attract, and more importantly, retain millennial employees. Why? What is it that they think we want? Pajama Day? Company kickball tournaments?

Pricewaterhousecoopers was eager to know. By 2016, PWC expects that roughly 80 percent of their employees will be millennials. After years of mysteriously high turnover, PWC decided to invest in NextGen, which was a comprehensive study conducted on millennials in the workplace around the world. The results were surprising, and dispelled some commonly-held stereotypes of millennials who have been written off as lazy, entitled, and uninterested in working hard.

Some key takeaways from the study suggest that millennials place a higher value on personal life rather than work life, and favor work with more schedule flexibility. However, millennials do not want this flexibility any more than other age demographics.

Perhaps this suggests that millennial influences in the workplace correlate with, but are not the cause of, widespread calls in politics for increased family leave and paid time off.

A result that certainly did not surprise me was a marked interest among millennials to work abroad at some point during their career. Many of us have gotten a taste of what the world outside the U.S. is like, unlike preceding generations.

Many millennials have figured out that the U.S. isn’t necessarily the greatest place on earth, and we want out. Promoting an employee’s ability to do an internal transfer overseas is a good company tactic for appealing to millennials. It’s always one of the first questions I ask in an interview.

The most prevalent differences between millennials and other demographics were found in evaluation and recognition systems. This is where the whole “trophy for everyone” phrase comes into play. Millennials are less likely to leave a job for pay reasons, but leave if they felt their work was not appreciated or recognized appropriately. This isn’t shocking. For our sake, I hope employers don’t take advantage of this one.

PWC has become one of the most sought out companies for young college graduates because it has implemented its findings into its strategy. Popular benefits include 22 paid days off, generous maternity/paternity leave and even college tuition reimbursement programs. Maybe accounting majors are on to something – like job security.

The resounding message coming from the PWC study and similar studies like IBM’s “Myths, Exaggerations, and Uncomfortable Truths,” seems to be that millennials want flexibility, and they will go elsewhere if they don’t get it. However, millennials do not want flexibility more than any other demographic.

As crazy as it might seem, maybe it’s time to consider how the work itself has changed. Gone are the days when people can clock out of work and be completely done. As recent Marquette alumni explained in a recent panel discussion, we are expected to be reachable when the work day ends, and even on the weekend. Work is no longer confined to a cubicle – work is always at hand.

So perhaps there’s some merit to some of those cliché job interview phrases. I want a place I can grow. I want a place that is willing to recognize my individual strengths. Most importantly, I want a company that recognizes the changing nature of work life as it relates to technology and comes up with a plan to truly achieve the infamous work-life balance.

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