Millennials will make up 50% of the global workforce by 2020, and are already the largest group in employment in the U.S., so they are probably already a part of your company. But what is the best way to recruit and retain them to benefit your business? How can you make sure that millennials work for you?

Deloitte’s 2016 millennial survey attempts to answer just that question, by giving an insight into what its respondents consider most important in the workplace. So let’s take a look at the top 3…

deloitte table2

Good work/life balance

Although all employees strive for a good work/life balance, the millennial focus on this goal does differentiate them from previous generations. Millennials are very aware of the importance of working to live rather than living to work, which means they will start on time and leave on time when they are finished for the day. They might not put in the long hours of a senior director, but they will work hard during the time they are in the office. Millennials are also keen to take on a variety of tasks to broaden their experience and improve their skills – their ideal work week would include 4.6 hours of discussing new ideas/ways of working, 4.5 hours of leadership skills development, and 3.6 hours of coaching and mentoring. The millennial priority is demonstrated by the fact that the actual figures for these tasks are 3.3, 2.7, and 2.4 hours, respectively.

So is the survey suggesting that millennials are less diligent or committed to their jobs…?

Opportunities to progress/be leaders

Not necessarily… in fact, millennials are an ambitious generation, actively seeking career success and increased responsibility. They are also well aware of their own limitations, with just 24% feeling they had strong leadership skills upon leaving university, demonstrating their awareness of the need for further development. An overarching aim among these employees is to rise up in the ranks of their organisation, so what is the best way to enable them to stay with your company to achieve their career progression?

Well, one thing which the report did demonstrate is that this aspect of millennial development may need further consideration: 6 in 10 respondents (63%) feel that their leadership abilities are not being sufficiently developed. It seems this discrepancy also affects millennial retention, since 71% of respondents hoping to leave their employer in the next two years were dissatisfied with the lack of leadership development they received. So, by developing leadership skills, companies should be able to create and retain ambitious future leaders within their business.


Technology continues to provide more and more opportunities to work differently to how Gen X did before us, but it may not work for everyone, and is not yet common practice; 75% of survey respondents stated a desire to take advantage of the opportunities technology provides for flexible working, but just 43% of respondents were allowed to work from home, and 67% could work flexible hours within limits.

Although 51% of respondents believed that productivity and satisfaction would increase if increased flexibility were permitted, this figure does not take into account which companies they work for. Flexibility can undoubtedly improve employee engagement and productivity when managed well, but there may be some fields or roles where it just is not possible.

77% of millennials stated a desire for increased connectivity outside of work hours, which could represent a helpful compromise for some companies, although the health risks of being ‘permanently connected to work’ also require consideration – as with so many things, making flexible working work for everyone involved is a bit of a balancing act! Given Gen Y’s ‘people-focused’ approach, which was revealed by the survey, the key to this issue could be simple: effective communication.

The importance of communication

A critical factor in millennial job satisfaction is a culture of open and honest communication throughout the organisation they work for. Free-flowing communication throughout an organisation was the most popular attribute of company culture in the Deloitte survey, and 47% of those planning to stay with their employer for more than 5 years cited it as a factor in their job satisfaction. An open company culture will allow you to get the most from your millennials, who want to share ideas, contribute to projects, and understand their role within the organisation.

This focus on communication makes a lot of sense when you consider how eager this generation is to learn from their colleagues – although only 61% of organisations implemented a mentoring system, 94% of mentees believe their mentors give good advice, and 91% are encouraged by the interest shown in their development. Mentoring doesn’t have to be overly formal; it just needs to be a conscious, regular decision on the part of line managers and other senior staff.

Values are valuable

Although millennials are keen to contribute towards the overall corporate goal of creating profit, the survey suggests that alignment between company and personal values also plays a huge role in both attraction and retention of these employees. Indeed, the survey found that a staggering 56% of millennials globally have absolutely ruled out working for at least one organisation on the basis of its values. Clearly, this is a generation with strongly-held beliefs; when asked to rank influences on their workplace behaviour, “my personal values/morals” ranked first.

Furthermore, 82% of those who planned to stay in their company five years or longer stated that they felt the organisation shared their values. A strong employer brand and clear corporate values are an important way in which you can both attract and retain emerging talent for the future of your business.

Why do we need to understand millennials in so much detail?

It can sometimes seem as if the generational differences between Gen Y and their predecessors can be made too much of in the workplace. However, for companies who are planning for their futures, understanding millennial values, expectations and working styles can play a key role in attracting, developing and retaining the best young talent. It is never too early to start thinking about how younger generations can help you to sustain your talent pipeline – after all, as the survey says, Generation Y ‘are no longer leaders of tomorrow, but increasingly, leaders of today’…

– Florence Sturt-Hammond