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millennials at work

What Do Millennials Want at Work? 7 Things They Want & 3 Employer Dealbreakers

As a key part of today’s workforce, millennials have been the source of many work memes, although Gen Z is quickly giving them some competition. Unfortunately, both groups have been characterized as job-hoppers and entitled, but this is far from a complete depiction of the millennial and Gen Z workforce. To motivate millennials and Gen Z, it’s important to know what these new workers are looking for in an employer — specifically, opportunities for growth, quality management, and work that interests them.

Understanding the workforce’s changing dynamics is crucial for businesses to stay competitive. As millennials and Gen Z become the majority in the labor market, organizations must adapt to meet their unique needs and expectations. So let’s talk about seven things millennials want from work before we expand on the three dealbreakers.

1. Want: Work-Life Balance

Millennials and Gen Z highly value work-life balance. According to a 2020 survey by Gallup, nearly 53% of workers indicated that work-life balance and personal well-being are very important to them when considering whether to take a job with a different organization. These generations don’t see work and life as separate entities but instead as integrated parts of their day.


Companies like Slack have implemented flexible work policies allowing employees to work when they feel most productive. This level of autonomy not only provides balance but also boosts employee morale and productivity.

2. Want: Career Development Opportunities

Millennials and Gen Z are ambitious. They crave learning opportunities and career growth. In a 2019 Deloitte survey, 49% of millennials reported leaving their last job due to a lack of advancement opportunities.


Salesforce offers its employees numerous learning and development programs, such as Trailhead. Such programs equip employees with skills necessary for advancement, illustrating that the company values their career progression.

Related: How to Nurture Innovation, Strengthen Retention (Use Professional Development)

3. Want: Purpose and Impact

Millennials and Gen Z want to work for organizations that have a strong purpose and make a positive impact on society. The 2020 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that 63% of millennials and Gen Z said they would consider leaving their employers if they focused solely on financial goals rather than balancing purpose and profit.


Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company, has positioned itself as a strong advocate for environmental issues. Their dedication to a cause resonates strongly with younger generations and attracts talent that aligns with these values.

Related: Are you messaging your “Employer Value Propropositions” (or Unique Value Propositions, UVPs) effectively? If you could use some help, check out this eBook for startups and SMBs and this eBook for larger enterprises.

4. Want: Technological Innovation

Both generations have grown up with technology at their fingertips. They are not only comfortable with rapid technological changes, but they also expect their employers to be at the forefront of innovation.


Companies like Google constantly innovate, providing employees with opportunities to work on cutting-edge technology. This commitment to innovation can attract top millennial and Gen Z talent.

5. Want: Inclusive and Diverse Culture

Millennials and Gen Z are the most diverse generations in history. They value inclusivity and diversity in their workplaces. A 2018 study by Deloitte found that 69% of millennials believe their company’s leaders are committed to creating an inclusive culture, a sentiment mirrored by Gen Z.


IBM’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion, from gender diversity to neurodiversity, attracts these generations. It illustrates a company’s commitment to creating a workspace where everyone feels they belong.

6. Want: Transparency and Open Communication

Both generations value open communication and transparency. They want leaders who are approachable and honest about the company’s direction. A 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer showed that 76% of millennials and Gen Z trust their employers to do what is right, compared to only 65% for the general population.


The CEO of T-Mobile, John Legere, is known for his open and direct communication style. His active presence on social media and regular company updates contribute to a culture of transparency appreciated by younger workers.

7. Want: Competitive Compensation and Benefits

While purpose and values are important, competitive compensation and benefits remain key attractors. According to a 2019 Glassdoor survey, about 67% of job seekers consider salary and benefits as their top consideration before applying for a job.


Netflix’s unique approach to benefits, including unlimited vacation time and a competitive parental leave policy, sets a high standard in the tech industry.

Understanding the expectations and values of millennials and Gen Z is a critical step towards attracting, recruiting, and hiring these talented individuals. Companies need to adapt and evolve to create an environment that not only attracts this new generation of tech workers but also retains them.

Offering flexible work schedules, opportunities for growth, a strong company purpose, and competitive compensation are excellent starting points. To truly stand out, companies should strive to maintain a culture of openness, diversity, and continual innovation.

Related: 2022 Survey Results: Top 3 Benefits Ranked by Engineers (Besides Salary)

Dealbreaker #1: No Opportunities for Growth

Millennials have a reputation for valuing creativity and informality in the workplace, but data suggests that they’re even more interested in opportunities for growth and learning. According to a Gallup poll, a staggering 87% of millennials believe development is important in a job. This preference challenges the stereotypical image of millennials as seekers of merely fun and creative workplaces. Instead, they are career-driven individuals who view their current roles in the broader context of their future aspirations.

However, despite this high value placed on development, less than half of the millennials surveyed agreed that their jobs offered satisfactory growth and learning opportunities over the past year. Unsurprisingly, lack of career growth and better opportunities elsewhere are the top reasons for job change, as per LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report. This mismatch between what millennials want and what they’re getting has significant implications for employers.

What Employers Can Do

To retain talented millennials and help them achieve their career goals, employers need to consciously create room for growth within their organizations. This involves more than just providing challenging work—it’s about supporting millennials as they acquire new skills and competencies, helping them to see a path to progression in their roles, and cultivating a culture that values and promotes continuous learning and development.

For example, employers can provide structured professional development programs, offering courses and training in areas that align with employees’ career goals. This not only imparts valuable skills but also demonstrates a commitment to employees’ career progression.

Google’s “20% project,” where employees can spend 20% of their time working on any project they choose, is a prime example of this approach. This innovative program has led to the creation of some of Google’s most famous products, like Gmail and Google News, while providing a platform for employees to learn, innovate, and see the impact of their work directly.

Mentorship programs are another powerful tool for growth. Matching younger employees with more experienced mentors can provide millennials with invaluable insights, guidance, and networking opportunities within their field. At General Electric, for instance, they have an established mentorship program where experienced employees guide younger employees through their professional journey.

What Else?

Rotational programs, which allow employees to experience different roles within the company, can also be effective. They offer employees a broad perspective of the organization and help them understand where they could fit in the long term. Johnson & Johnson offers such a program, allowing new hires to rotate through different departments, thereby gaining a holistic view of the company.

Providing regular feedback is another crucial element. Constructive feedback helps millennials understand their strengths and areas of improvement, and it shows that the company is invested in their growth. Companies like Adobe have moved away from traditional annual reviews to more frequent check-ins, resulting in increased employee satisfaction and productivity.

By creating a workplace environment that actively supports learning and growth, employers can cater to the aspirational mindset of millennials. This not only leads to higher job satisfaction and retention but also fosters a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. As millennials continue to dominate the workforce, prioritizing employee development isn’t just a nice-to-have—it’s a business imperative.

Millennials Work

Dealbreaker #2: Lack of Quality Management

When it comes to job satisfaction, millennial workers place a high value on management. This isn’t surprising, as the quality of management can greatly impact an employee’s day-to-day experience and overall career trajectory. According to a 2020 Gallup poll, millennials are particularly drawn to managers who embody certain key traits:

  1. Integrity
  2. Effective decision-making and execution
  3. Effective communication
  4. Embracing of diversity.

1. Integrity

Millennial workers highly value managers who demonstrate honesty and strong moral principles. In fact, according to a 2020 Brunswick Group survey, 86% of employees agreed that CEO integrity was a critical factor in building their trust in a company. Managers with integrity foster a sense of security and trust among their team members, encouraging open communication and facilitating a more cohesive and productive team.

2. Effective Decision-making and Execution

The ability to make smart decisions and follow through on them is another trait that millennials admire in their managers. They appreciate leaders who can navigate complex situations, make informed decisions, and take action to execute those decisions effectively. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders like Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International, had to make tough decisions quickly while communicating transparently to maintain trust within the organization.

3. Effective Communication

Clear and open communication is another critical aspect of effective management, according to millennials. They value managers who can articulate their expectations clearly, provide constructive feedback, and are open to hearing their team’s ideas and concerns. According to a study by Quantum Workplace, nearly 97% of employees consider communication to be an essential part of effective teamwork.

4. Embracing Diversity

Millennials also appreciate managers who not only accept but embrace diversity. As the most diverse generations in the workforce, millennials and Gen Z highly value inclusion and diversity. They expect their leaders to foster a culture where everyone, regardless of their background, is respected, valued, and has an equal opportunity to succeed.

These insights provide valuable guidance for companies looking to attract and retain millennial talent. Companies that can offer management that aligns with these values are more likely to win millennial loyalty and engagement. Conversely, organizations that lack these management qualities risk turning their millennial employees into job seekers.

For example, Accenture, one of the world’s largest consulting firms, is renowned for its leadership in diversity and inclusion. They’ve established clear diversity goals and communicate regularly about their progress. This kind of transparency and commitment to diversity and inclusion is attractive to millennial workers, leading to higher engagement and loyalty.

Similarly, managers at Microsoft are encouraged to demonstrate integrity, make decisions effectively, and communicate transparently with their teams. Microsoft’s focus on these qualities in their leadership has contributed to their reputation as an attractive employer for millennials.

So, companies eager to engage millennial workers should ensure their management styles align with these core values. A focus on integrity, decision-making, communication, and diversity in management will not only attract millennial workers but also foster an environment where they can thrive and grow.

Dealbreaker #3: No Interesting Work

For millennials, a paycheck isn’t enough — they are seeking work that is interesting, fulfilling, and makes a tangible impact. They want to invest their time and talent into something meaningful, a job that fuels their sense of purpose and makes them feel important.

Interesting work goes beyond just having a variety of tasks to complete. It’s about feeling challenged, being able to use one’s unique skills, and having a genuine impact. When the work aligns with a millennial’s interests and passions, it’s more than a job — it’s a calling.

According to a Gallup report, millennials are three times more likely to stay with their current employer if they report high levels of job satisfaction, which is often tied to finding their work interesting and meaningful. A report from PwC confirms this, noting that millennials value the opportunity to make a difference at work above all other benefits.

What Employers Can Do

This doesn’t mean that every task needs to be exciting or groundbreaking. Rather, it’s about providing opportunities for meaningful contributions, showing how their work contributes to the larger organizational goals, and giving them autonomy and creative freedom.

For example, SpaceX, the aerospace manufacturer and space transportation company, regularly takes on ambitious, industry-changing projects, such as the goal to colonize Mars. This bold vision, combined with the opportunity to work on groundbreaking technology, makes SpaceX an attractive employer for millennials who are seeking interesting and meaningful work.

Similarly, Atlassian, a software company, offers “ShipIt Days” where employees can spend 24 hours working on any project of their choosing. This practice not only fosters creativity and innovation but also allows employees to pursue work that they find particularly interesting.

A company doesn’t need to be building rockets or pioneering software to offer interesting work, however. It can be as simple as providing employees with opportunities to learn new skills, work on diverse teams, or contribute to projects with visible impacts.

Fulfillment Matters to Gen Z and Millenial Workers

Employers who understand this, and make an effort to provide meaningful, engaging work, will stand out in the competitive labor market. Understanding and offering these qualities is indeed crucial for companies that aim to attract and retain the best millennial and Gen Z workers. Providing work that not only pays the bills but also fuels passion and purpose will likely result in higher job satisfaction, improved productivity, and increased loyalty among millennial and Gen Z employees.

From opportunities for growth to quality management and interesting work, younger talent have distinct priorities when it comes to where they want to work. Understanding and offering these qualities will put employers ahead when it comes to attracting and keeping the best workers.

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Originally published in Dec. 2016, Updated in June, 2023