Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs
Any business that wants to compete in the 21st century should pay attention to how job preferences are shifting as younger generations enter the work force. It’s extremely important to adapt to these preferences and adjust recruiting efforts accordingly in order to lead an industry in attracting top talent.
Why is this relevant?
Employers constantly seek a competitive advantage and in no area is this more evident (and important) than attracting and motivating top talent. Therefore, it is vital that businesses stay up to date with employee preferences, especially as millennials (those born between 1980 and 1999) enter the workforce. Salary, which in the past may have been considered the most appealing aspect of a job, is no longer the most important factor that persuades the new workforce to accept a position. According to a recent Deloitte article, the millennial generation is shifting its job focus from monetary wealth to community wealth. These future business leaders now prioritize a positive, enjoyable work environment and making the world a better place over personal income and wealth.
I conducted an informal survey to confirm the results.
I recently conducted a survey, asking dozens of high school and college students their preferences to test the results of the Deloitte study. This survey asked participants to rank what they considered the most important priorities when applying for and/or accepting a job (If they already held a job, they had the option to rank their priorities based on how they chose their current position.) There were eleven options I gave the participants to rank in order of importance:
- Work environment
- Personal interest, enjoyment, and passion
- Employee benefits
- Paid leave/vacation
- Amount of travel
- Job title
- Job responsibilities
What were the results?
The top five priorities when applying for and/or accepting a job were:
- Personal interest, enjoyment, and passion
- Work environment
- Employee benefits
The data clearly showed that the category of personal interest, enjoyment, and passion was the most important factor for job search and acceptance. Almost 82% of the respondents ranked this as their number one job priority, and none ranked it below their third spot. Work environment responses varied, but it had the largest number of second place rankings at just over 31% (Salary was a close 25%). I did not find it surprising that salary held several “first place” votes as well as the most “third place” votes (nearly 44%), because it still remains a very important factor when new generations are seeking jobs. The location of the job and employee benefits followed as the fourth and fifth job priorities, respectively.
What makes us tick?
As mentioned, the millennial generation (also known as Generation Y) holds new, and sometimes surprising preferences when it comes to finding a job. Personally, I prefer a job that I enjoy and am passionate about; it seems as if a similar message resonates across the grounds at the University of Virginia. As a student, I noticed that this past year, teachers and students frequently encouraged peers to pursue their interests, stating that job happiness is more important than income. Even as the underlying theme of following one’s passion seems to emerge, it can be a scary thought for those who have passions in less lucrative fields. However, I believe it boils down to a simple mentality – if I am working for 8 hours or more each day, why not make it something that I enjoy?
I received career advice from an English tour guide in Denmark!
When I recently studied in Copenhagen, Denmark (top on the United Nation’s World Happiness Report in both 2013 and 2014), I met a tour guide who exemplified this ‘follow your passion’ mentality.
She was in her mid twenties and as she described all that she had accomplished academically, I began to wonder how and why she decided to become a guide. She studied and traveled all around the world, acquiring degrees in history and business. She studied economics and business in London, and attended the Copenhagen Business School. Because of her passion and enthusiasm, it didn’t surprise me that she was a tour guide. What did surprise me, however, was that she gave the tours for free (working solely for tips) as a full time job. When she concluded the tour, she thanked the group for allowing her to do what she loves most, leading walking tours. Her words resonated throughout the crowd, and they encouraged me to continue to follow my passion.
This recent experience shows the millennial shift towards preferring enjoyable work versus always following the money. The tour guide sets an encouraging precedent for both her peers and her tour groups; she does something that many people wish they could do. She lives her dream.
Does the money matter?
Salaries and employee benefits are still very important factors when applying for a job. Unfortunately, people often establish certain lifestyles they wish to have, and then subsequently have to pursue jobs with income levels that support these lifestyles. This is especially true for millennials, given the amount of student debt many of them carry.
Where do I stand?
Seeking an enjoyable job that interests me and about which I am passionate is my number one priority. Besides having an enjoyable job, work environment and job location are also more important to me than earning additional income.
That being said, I still wish to pursue a career that would provide me with a salary that allows me to live a safe, healthy, and happy lifestyle. (I’m not talking about having enough money to purchase a brand new apartment in Manhattan, but rather, enough to live comfortably within my means.) Even though everyone’s definition of a “comfortable” lifestyle may differ, monetary comfort and income are still important factors to consider. I also feel that job responsibilities and employee benefits are very important because job responsibilities go hand-in-hand with enjoying a job, and the employee benefits can play a large role in increasing happiness, comfort, and providing a sense of security.
What can businesses due to address these shifting priorities?
Whatever people’s motives may be, a shift is definitely happening from preferring higher salaries to preferring a good working environment and enjoyable career experience. For those seeking to attract recent college graduates, businesses should focus more towards providing an enjoyable and passionate working environment, rather than just marginally increasing salaries. Businesses should strive to create better personal relationships with employees through enhancing their work experience and providing opportunities to make a difference.
To start, businesses should provide a spacious, clean, and organized working environment. It sounds simple, but it’s surprising how many businesses fail to do so. I have worked both at a cramped and disorganized office, as well as one that was clean, spacious, and well organized. Surprisingly, it makes a noticeable difference in how the employees interact; I found my work much more productive and enjoyable when working in the latter environment.
Employers should also seek ways to engage with their employees on a personal level. It is important employees feel connected, communicate with each other, and work as a team. Lunch breaks can help create these positive environments that encourage people to bond and form relationships with one another. An interesting Forbes article stated that only 1 in 5 Americans take a lunch break. Doing so however, can increase health, productivity, networking, and work enjoyment. Other examples that can create a better work culture include organizing after-work socials such as attending group dinners, baseball games, or forming a local sports team. Businesses do not realize that these simple fixes to the work environment and organizing “after hours” activities can be extremely important in attracting, motivating, and retaining workers.
Google, Fortune’s top ranked company to work for in both 2014 and 2015, implements many great ideas that create an enjoyable workplace. They provide lunch breaks with free meals and booths for employees to interact with one another while they eat. Google also keeps treadmill desks to encourage movement during work and promote exercise and physical fitness. There are also bikes for exercise and transportation throughout the campus, as well as outdoor gardening spaces for employees to grow their own plants and vegetables. Although many of these examples are expensive employee benefits that are not feasible for all businesses, sometimes a little goes a long way. Business should look for their own unique ways to improve the working environment and engage their workforce in order to attract and maintain the best employees, which in turn helps make them better and more productive companies.
I’m Jake Gore, currently a rising third year at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce. I am planning on concentrating in management and accounting or finance. Outside of class, I am involved in Greek life, club tennis, and I am a member of the ‘Hoo Crew’ (student fan section) Committee, where I will help organize promotional sporting events between the student fans and the athletics department next year. I am a huge UVa sports fan, and I dedicate most of my free time towards attending sporting events. This summer, I am interning at an accounting training and consulting firm, GAAP Dynamics, where I am learning a lot about the business’s operations and development. Go Hoos!
The following sources inspired this blog post: