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Human Capital Matters 2013/9: Millennials

Editor’s Note to Readers

Welcome to the ninth edition of Human Capital Matters for 2013—the digest for leaders and practitioners with an interest in human capital and organisational capability. This edition focuses on the Millennials (also called Generation Y).

As baby boomers start to leave the work force to retire, increasing attention is being given to the recruitment and retention of the generation that is known as ‘the Millennials’ (those born between 1982 and 2004). Much research about this generation has been undertaken similar to what initially occurred with increasing interest in the traits of Generation X.

This edition explores the values and preferences of the Millennials that has emerged through research undertaken when this generation was starting to enter the workforce.

The digest commences with something a bit more visual with a snapshot summary of Viacom’s research results of their global study of 15,000 Millennials released in November 2012 ‘The Next Normal, An Unprecedented Look at Millennials world-wide’.

Paul Dannar argues that a mentoring leadership approach coupled with delegation of employment-related duties should be utilized so Millennials can experience high levels of responsibility, meaningfulness, and a sense of personal fulfilment.

The Millennial Survey 2013 sponsored by Deloitte found that this generation believes that innovation is fostered by leadership encouraging idea sharing regardless of seniority and in Australia pinpointed that the public sector was one of the industries most in need of innovation.

Research undertaken by the Bush School of Government & Public Service indicates that graduates students from public policy, administration, and management programs across the United States in 2009 had a preference for public sector employment over working for the non-profit sector. The same survey found that traditional benefits such as salary and health insurance ranked most important among Millennials’ job considerations, while other intrinsic values, such as telecommuting and training opportunities, ranked less important.

The journal article by Karen Myers and Kamyab Sadaghiani thoughtfully explores the territory of generational conflict in the workplace with suggestions of how the differing values of the Millennial generation may influence a shift in organisational culture.

The final article reviewed in this edition, canvassing research undertaken by the Pew Research Centre supports many of the traits expressed in other articles that are attributed to the Millennial generation.

While this demonstrates the breadth of research conducted on this particular segment of the workforce to date, it is perhaps timely to consider the value of new research on this generation now that they are a few years older and have experienced first-hand things such as the effects of the global financial crisis.


About Human Capital Matters

Human Capital Matters seeks to provide APS leaders and practitioners with easy access to the issues of contemporary importance in public and private sector human capital and organisational capability. It has been designed to provide interested readers with a monthly guide to the national and international ideas that are shaping human capital thinking and practice.

Comments and Suggestions Welcome

Thank you to those who took the time to provide feedback on earlier editions of Human Capital Matters. Comments, suggestions or questions regarding this publication are always welcome and should be addressed to humancapitalmatters [at] apsc.gov.au. Readers can also subscribe to the mailing list through this email address.


VIACOM International Media networks, The Next Normal, An Unprecedented Look at Millennials world-wide, pdf 2013 Conference University of Sydney

At the University of Sydney conference for careers advisers and teachers held in March 2013, Ms Kirsty Bloore, Head of Research at MTV, presented the findings of ‘The Next Normal’, MTV’s global survey of ‘Millennials’. This was a global survey of ‘Millennials’ (those born between 1982 and 2004), including factors affecting this generation and how Millennials see the world and relationships. The research spanned 24 countries across every continent, tapping into the minds of Millennials through 15,000 interviews, in-depth explorations and expert commentary.

Some sentiments heard over and over in the research include the following:

  • “Technology doesn’t make me who I am, it lets me be who I am”
  • “I still want to land the job of my dreams, but right now it’s more important to get a job at all”
  • “My age group has the potential to change the world for the better”
  • “It is great to have people from other countries coming to live [in my country]”
  • “Having access to the internet makes me curious and changes the way I think about the world”
  • “We can learn from global trends and ideas to push for improvements and change here in our country”
  • “Sharing and connecting, it isn’t just about Facebook and Twitter – it’s about maintaining a meaningful connection with friends and family”

For readers who are visually inclined, the hyperlink in the title will take you to a visual power point (pdf) summarising the presentation of the findings including a range of graphics. The full presentation is available here. (34 minutes You Tube video—please allow for metered content of about 5 mb per minute for standard quality viewing).

Viacom Inc., short for "Video & Audio Communications", is an American global mass media company with interests primarily in, but not limited to, cinema and cable television.


Dannar, Paul R. (2013) "Millennials: What They Offer Our Organizations and How Leaders Can Make Sure They Deliver", The Journal of Values-Based Leadership: Vol. 6: Iss. 1, Article 3.

Public and private organizations have begun, and must continue, to address the mass exodus of experience and knowledge that is departing on a daily basis as Boomers leave the workforce in large numbers. With the focus on mitigating the loss of corporate knowledge and years of honed expertise, one significant area of emphasis that may have eluded many is the effect these departures will have on an organization’s values and culture when those who created and embody the current culture depart in such vast numbers.

Millennials have an inherent trust in organizations and a strong preference for the structures and systems that support them. Research shows they are more confident in businesses, financial institutions, and governmental agencies than previous generations were at the same age. The article notes they prefer a structured environment with clear rules which seems to be contradictory to their espoused value of unrepressed self-expression. Surprisingly, this suggests this generation would be comfortable in a hierarchical organization despite the apparent contradiction.

While the initial evidence suggests that internally-oriented cultures would be preferable for Millennials, there is still the matter of two external values that must be addressed: ambition and developing friendships. Close companionship and friendship are quite important for Millennials and thus, they are repulsed by a 50-60 hour work week as experienced by previous generations. Instead, they would rather spend more time with family and friends. Since Millennials desire close relationships, an organizational culture emphasizing teamwork and collaboration with an eye towards external innovation would satisfy both their ambitious and team-oriented nature. Thus, if they spend time with their friends at work, then they might feel wholly privy to that organization’s culture. This suggests that an adhocracy culture emphasizing innovation through team-oriented activities might be a solid fit for this generation.

Although there is no real way to predict the perfect organizational culture that might best fit the Millennial generation, this article has provided a linkage between an organization with many of their most sacred values: health, freedom, responsibility, self-respect, work-life integration, family security, honesty, true friendship, and independence, with a specific type of organizational culture.

As Millennials were brought up on technology, they have every reason to assume that all necessary information can be gathered instantaneously. Millennials are not satisfied with only acquiring and utilizing information; they seek to create it through blogs, interactive media, Twitter, and other social networks. Leaders must be aware that their concept of information gathering is one of sharing—not restricting—access. Hence, cultural modifications may be warranted and matters of confidentiality and privacy protection are likely to surface.

Because Millennials are motivated by accomplishment, independence, close companionship, and a desire to be treated with respect, a mentoring approach to leadership that emphasizes a trusting reciprocal relationship will serve this generation well. In addition, delegation of employment-related duties should be utilized so Millennials can experience high levels of responsibility, meaningfulness, and a sense of personal fulfillment.

Paul R Dannar is a freelance writer and researcher. Skilled at directing and implementing growth and transformational change for large and pivotal teams. He has broad global experience including three years in Europe, three years in Asia and 14 months in East Asia.


Deloitte, The Millennial Survey 2013

As part of Deloitte’s activities for the World Economic Forum at Davos held in January 2013, Deloitte used a survey of Millennials to get their view on the importance of innovation in business. The research findings are based on a study conducted by Millward Brown. A total of 4,982 interviews were conducted online between 19 November and 19 December 2012. Approximately 300 interviews were conducted in each of 16 markets: USA, Canada, South Africa, Brazil, the Netherlands, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Russia, South Korea, India, Australia, Japan, China, Southeast Asia (Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia). Screening questions at the recruitment stage ensured that all respondents were Millennials—born January 1982 onwards, were degree educated, and were currently in full-time employment. Interviews lasted approximately 15 minutes.

Despite Australia’s superior economic performance, the Australian survey results were disappointing with only 58% of the Millennials interviewed in Australia, believing they work for an innovative company.

Conditions the global Millennials believe are required to foster innovation also differed markedly from the reality and include:

  •  leadership encouraging idea sharing regardless of seniority (42%) with only 26% saying their current organisation operates in this way
  •  a clear vision for the future (41%)
  •  encouraging and rewarding idea generation and creativity (39%)with only 20% saying their current organisation operates in this way
  •  commitment to successfully advancing innovative ideas (39%) with only 25% saying their current organization operates this way

Two-thirds of the Millennials surveyed say innovation is a key factor in making an organisation an employer of choice. This is particularly relevant to many companies, attracting the ever-growing number of Millennials, who are forecasted to make up 75% of the world’s workforce by 2025.

The survey highlighted that Millennials felt that Technology and Media, Consumer Business and Manufacturing were the most innovative sectors, with Australia, Spain, the Netherlands and Canada also pinpointing Energy and Resources, and that Public Sector was most in need of innovation.

Millward Brown is a global research agency specialising in advertising, marketing communications, media and brand equity research.


The Bush School of Government & Public Service, Texas A & M University, A Capstone project for Congressional Research Service, Generation Y in the Workplace

The recruitment and retention of Generation Y (also known as Millennials), individuals born between 1977 and 2002, concern the federal government and the Congressional Research Service particularly, as the retirement rate among Baby Boomers increases. A clear understanding of this generation’s perceptions and expectations about work and career-related issues will assist the federal government in formulating its recruitment and retention strategies. Thus, this study identified and examined career choice factors and public service perceptions among members of Generation Y.

Some characteristics mentioned consistently throughout the literature indicate Generation Y is culturally accepting and technologically savvy. There is less of a consensus on whether Millennials hold a sense of entitlement regarding their work expectations. In terms of workplace attitudes, literature indicates Millennials prefer flexibility in their work schedules and positions as well as the ability to maintain a substantial work-life balance. Millennials desire constant feedback from their superiors and seek knowledge from older generations in the workplace. When it comes to team work, Millennials prefer to use the strengths of team members to accomplish individual tasks.

Using a confidential web-based tool, the researchers surveyed graduate students from public policy, administration, and management programs across the United States regarding their workplace attitudes, sector preferences, technology usage, and demographics. They sent the survey link to school program directors and requested they forward it to their graduate students. On March 30, 2009, the survey went live and remained in the field for three-and-a-half weeks, closing April 23, 2009. They received 575 student responses representing 76 schools. Nearly 68 per cent of respondents were members of Generation Y and the remaining 32 per cent represented other generations.

Survey results both supported and refuted literature regarding some of Millennials’ workplace attitudes. Traditional benefits, salary and health insurance ranked most important among Millennials’ job considerations, while other intrinsic values, such as telecommuting and training opportunities, ranked less important. Results supported the literature’s claim regarding career fluidity among members of Generation Y, as the vast majority believed they would be in their initial position less than three years and anticipated switching sectors during their career. Additionally, survey results were mixed regarding whether Millennials hold a sense of entitlement.

Survey results indicated, although the non-profit sector may be an emerging competitor, among public administration, policy, and management graduate students, the public sector is the preferred place to work.

Two-thirds of non-Generation Y and over one-half of Generation Y respondents ranked the public sector first over the non-profit and private sectors as their preferred sector of work. Additionally, when asked which sector they expected to work in following graduation, 70 per cent of non-Generation Y and 60 per cent of Generation Y respondents indicated the public sector. The high preference for and expectation toward working in the public sector directly resulted from intentional survey design and population selection. Students enrolled in public policy, administration, and management programs have already shown a preference for work in the public sector.

The majority of all respondents perceived the public sector as being the sector best able to deliver services on the public’s behalf. Of non-Generation Y respondents, nearly two-thirds reported they had the most confidence in the public sector to deliver services, compared with just over half of Generation Y respondents. Additionally, approximately 8 per cent more Generation Y than non-Generation Y respondents had the most confidence in the non-profit sector to deliver public services. Survey respondents perceived benefits, job security, and societal impact as almost exclusive strengths of the public sector.

Survey results confirmed literature stating that employers should consider social networks a viable recruitment tool, especially among Generation Y. While all respondents generally preferred electronic methods of job application and recruitment, results indicated Generation Y respondents use social networking websites more often than non-Generation Y respondents.

The Bush School of Government and Public Service is a public and international affairs graduate school at Texas A&M University located in College Station, Texas. Capstone projects at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University are integrative, team-based, applied research projects required of all students. Led by a faculty member on behalf of a client agency, these projects require students to think independently, frame and analyse issues, and apply their academic knowledge and skills. The Congregational Research Service was the client for this project. Dr Domonic Bearfield was the supervising instructor.


Myers, Karen K. and Sadaghiani Kamyab, Millennials in the Workplace: A Communication Perspective on Millennials’ Organizational Relationships and Performance, Journal of Business and Psychology. 2010 June; 25(2): 225–238

Stereotypes about Millennials, born between 1979 and 1994, depict them as self-centered, unmotivated, disrespectful, and disloyal, contributing to widespread concern about how communication with Millennials will affect organizations and how they will develop relationships with other organizational members. The researchers review these purported characteristics, as well as Millennials’ more positive qualities—they work well in teams, are motivated to have an impact on their organizations, favor open and frequent communication with their supervisors, and are at ease with communication technologies and that they may be more accepting of diversity than were past generations.

The authors discuss Millennials’ communicated values and expectations and their potential effect on coworkers, as well as how workplace interaction may change Millennials.

Trade journals and blogs claim that differences in values between Millennials and older generations of workers are affecting Millennials acceptance by incumbent workers.

According to empirical and popular press sources, more senior workers’ believe that millennial newcomers should have to “pay their dues” as they did when they were young workers. In contrast, millennial workers are likely to communicate an interest in flexible career paths because their priority is work-life balance. Many Millennials may remain somewhat marginalized by their older and more senior coworkers, making it more difficult for Millennials to earn workplace respect and credibility. However, Millennials may be a source of change within their organizations. Engagement with Millennial workers who spend more time with their families and friends, and have diverse personal interests outside the workplace, may cause more senior workers to reconsider their own values.

Popular literature and empirical research indicate that three Millennial preferences are likely to be especially significant for workplace interaction and the development of work relationships. First, Millennials expect close relationships and frequent feedback from supervisors. Second, they expect open communication from their supervisors and managers, even about matters normally reserved for more senior employees. Third, Millennials prefer to work in teams, in part because they perceive group-based work to be more fun, but also because they like to avoid risk.

Boomers may resent Millennials’ implicit and explicit requests for communication and information. What Millennials may not fully understand is that increased communication and knowledge is associated with increased responsibility.

Organizations are beginning to encourage Millennials to accomplish part of their work outside work group boundaries. Millennials find excessive comfort in team-based direction, oversight, and decision making. If they can work as members of a team, they can avoid the risk associated with independent thinking and decisions. A group-reliant mentality does not foster individual decision-making confidence, nor does it enable individuals to demonstrate their own creativity and ability.

Millennials are the first generation to have been born into households with computers and to have grown up surrounded by digital media. Popular press and literature indicate that they are more comfortable with new interactive and networked media than are older workers. Millennials’ comfort with new media technologies suggests that they bring to the workplace potentially beneficial characteristics related to the use of communication and information technologies (CITs), such as the Web and instant messaging.

At the same time, Millennials desire high levels of supportive supervision and structure at work, both of which may be difficult to obtain in geographically distributed and technologically mediated settings.

Millennials are likely to be acutely affected by globalization, communication and information technologies, economics, and socialization by very involved parents. They are likely to have different, often broader, perspectives about the world marketplace, supervisor–subordinate relationships, cultural diversity, performance of tasks, and ways that communication and information technologies can be used to enhance organizational performance and to maximize productivity. Many of these Millennial stances and behaviors can be viewed by organizations as opportunities rather than obstacles. The key for coworkers from older generations—especially those in positions of formal and informal power in organizations—will be interacting with Millennials with a desire to understand, rather than with the aim of criticizing how Millennials are different. Trust and supportiveness between Millennials and coworkers will encourage them to become more involved, committed, and better performing in their organizations.

Karen K. Myers (Ph.D., Arizona State University) is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Myers researches membership negotiation (socialization, assimilation); vocational socialization; organizational identification; and workplace generational cohorts. Her work has appeared in Human Communication Research, Communication Monographs, Communication Theory, Management Communication Quarterly, and Journal of Business and Psychology.

Pew Research Center, Paul Taylor and Scott Keeter, editors Millennials—A portrait of generation next (February 2010) pp. 140

The report is based on results for the January 2010 Millennial Survey which in turn are based on telephone interviews conducted under the direction of Abt SRBI Inc. among a national sample of 2,020 adults living in the continental United States, 18 years of age and older, from Jan. 14 to 27, 2010 (851 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 1,169 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 538 who had no landline telephone). Both the landline and cell phone samples were provided by Survey Sampling International. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. These interviews were supplemented with two call back samples (landline and cellular) to obtain additional interviews with 18 to 29 year olds.

The surveys found that Millennials are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history.

Their entry into careers and first jobs has been badly set back by the Great Recession, but they are more upbeat than their elders about their own economic futures as well as about the overall state of the nation (See chapter 4).

They embrace multiple modes of self-expression. Three-quarters have created a profile on a social networking site. One-in-five have posted a video of themselves online. Nearly four-in-ten have a tattoo (and for most that do, one is not enough: about half of those with tattoos have two to five and 18% have six or more).

Nearly one-in-four have a piercing in some place other than an earlobe—about six times the share of older adults who’ve done this. But their look-at-me tendencies are not without limits. Most Millennials have placed privacy boundaries on their social media profiles. And 70% say their tattoos are hidden beneath clothing. (See chapters 4 and 7).

Despite struggling (and often failing) to find jobs in the recession, about nine-in-ten either say that they currently have enough money or that they will eventually meet their long-term financial goals. But at the moment, fully 37% of 18- to 29-year-olds are unemployed or out of the workforce, the highest share among this age group in more than three decades. Research shows that young people who graduate from college in a bad economy typically suffer long-term effects on their careers and earnings that linger as long as 15 years. (See chapter 5).

Whether as a by-product of protective parents, the age of terrorism or a media culture that focuses on dangers, they cast a wary eye on human nature. Two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” when dealing with people. Yet they are less skeptical than their elders of government. More so than other generations, they believe government should do more to solve problems. (See chapter 8).

They are the least overtly religious American generation in modern times. One-in-four are unaffiliated with any religion, far more than the share of older adults when they were ages 18 to 29. Yet not belonging does not necessarily mean not believing. Millennials pray about as often as their elders did in their own youth. (See chapter 9)

Only about six-in-ten were raised by both parents—a smaller share than was the case with older generations. In weighing their own life priorities, Millennials (like older adults) place parenthood and marriage far above career and financial success.

Millennials are on course to become the most educated generation in American history, a trend driven largely by the demands of a modern knowledge-based economy, but most likely accelerated in recent years by the millions of ‘20-somethings’ enrolling in graduate schools, colleges or community colleges in part because they can’t find a job. (See chapter 5).

Millennials also identified their use of technology as a factor that made them distinctive from other generations. In contrast Boomers’ feelings of distinctiveness coalesce mainly around work ethic. Of the four generations, Millennials are the only one that doesn’t cite “work ethic” as one of their principal claims to distinctiveness.

Millennials are more receptive to immigrants than are their elders. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) say immigrants strengthen the country, according to a 2009 Pew Research survey; just 43% of adults ages 30 and older agree.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does so by conducting public opinion polling and social science research, by analysing news coverage, and by holding forums and briefings. It does not take positions on policy issues.

Last reviewed: 
8 June 2018