Millennials Speak Out About the Workplace

By Association Adviser staff • September 9, 2015

A recent report in Sales and Marketing by Dustin Grosse, COO of ClearSlide, reported by the Center for Media Research, claims that retaining and motivating the millennial generation in the workforce greatly depends on company culture. Furthermore, holding on to a millennial sales professional or marketer requires a company to be innovative, flexible with work setups, show appreciation often, and give constant feedback about job performance.

Association Adviser spoke with a handful of millennials in our workplace to find out if the workplace values that Grosse, as reported by the Center for Media Research, hold true:

According to ClearSlide: Let millennials be the radical shift. They are looking for purpose at work, and they want a job that not only advances their career, but is also fulfilling on a day-to-day basis … An environment that encourages continuous innovation, and a space that allows for the implementation of new ideas, is what they seek.

Kent Agramonte
Kent Agramonte, Naylor Association Solutions

Kent Agramonte, marketing and research manager: Unlike previous generations, millennials expect to be heard. They respect experience and wisdom, but they feel they are highly educated and highly intelligent, and they want to contribute as much as possible. They want to make their job their own and leave their mark.

Brianna Lawson, Naylor Association Solutions
Brianna Lawson, Naylor Association Solutions

Brianna Lawson, online marketing specialist: I feel most accomplished in my career when, at the end of the day, I’m able to think of a moment when I provided my thoughts or ideas on a project and they were taken into account. When I think about moments like this, I see my career moving onward and upward with my company. I agree this is what all millennials are seeking when they research the company they plan to spend a majority — if not all — of their career with. Millennials don’t like to be singled out. That’s why you’ll find that they look for opportunities to implement their ideas alongside older generations. Millennials feel they are just as valued when they have the chance to execute their ideas.

On giving millennials wider latitude to do their work: The more millennials are in the know, the more they are engaged and satisfied. Keep millennials engaged with tight connections with sales managers who assign tasks and their employees, and make sales performance metrics accessible to all team members.

Kent: Millennials want to know what they are working for, and in my experience, they value input and fulfillment over monetary compensation. Putting them in the know and giving them a voice in what they do is the key. Millennials derive satisfaction from having a stake and being heard.

Daniel Membrillo
Daniel Membrillo

Daniel Membrillo, sales coach and training manager: We do want purpose at work. The days of the manager/low-level employee relationship is over. More than innovation, relationship building is at the forefront for millennials. If a company wants to attract millennials, it needs a great training program and a consistent feedback loop. We need to break through the threshold and the old way of looking at up-and-coming employees. Let’s build relationships, let’s give consistent feedback, and let’s keep everyone on a level playing field. The best management structures I’ve worked with are so flat, everyone is bonused off of everyone else, and anyone is willing to help. It’s not a perfect setup (is any setup completely perfect?), but it attracts the younger crowd when they learn everyone is on a team. That is the key.

Brianna: I agree completely that younger generations are seeking the opportunity to fulfill their tasks in a manner most comfortable to them. When I was fresh out of college almost two years ago and searching for my dream job, I took into account the flexibility offered by the company and how closely I would be able to work with the manager(s). It’s an important factor for me when determining whether or not I can see myself being successful with this company and even more proud of what I do. I sought the opportunity to provide the more creative side I wasn’t able to show while working part-time during school. I feel like I contribute my ideas now more than ever using the skills I obtained through my studies. I enjoy being consulted with on projects that will impact both the clients and the company.

On “job jumping:” Millennials tend to approach their jobs with a “grass is greener” approach, so they are unlikely to stick around if they don’t feel appreciated: reward with benefits and perks to make them feel valued; inspire a culture of public recognition.

Daniel: There is a large stigma regarding millennials and the idea that we feel entitled. How far from the truth! From an early age, we’ve been told “Follow your dreams” and “You can achieve anything you want.” Here so many of us sit with master’s degrees, buried in a ton of student loan debt and working in a job not in our desired field. We have wizened up to the falsehood of the American dream more than any generation before us. Using the term “grass is greener” is a poor choice of words to describe our outlook on careers.

Kent: I don’t feel this way and I have not found this to be accurate. Everyone wants to feel appreciated, and the narrative that millennials feel this way more than previous generations has been overstated. Millennials know that they spend more time awake at work then they do awake at home, so it is more important to make the work environment comfortable, engaging and fun. If an employee feels that their employer is working to give them the best environment to succeed, then they will appreciate that and be loyal. Many millennials graduated and joined the work force during the Great Recession and appreciate how difficult it is to find work and won’t leave at the drop of a hat.

Kelly Donovan Clark
Kelly Donovan Clark, Naylor Association Solutions

Kelly Clark, manager for online marketing: While many think millennials are the generation that lives and dies by participation trophies and “character counts” badges, when it comes to feeling appreciated, we are much the same as older generations. We want our hard work to be known and appreciated where it counts. Sometimes this means public recognition, but not always; public recognition beyond the person or persons who decide my salary isn’t as important to me as it might be to other individuals. You will find people in each generation who like being recognized publicly and others who prefer to stay private.

On similarities between millennial workers and their older counterparts: Millennials fundamentally have the same long-term objectives as baby boomers and GenX-ers, seeking continuous feedback and progress. They value being part of an important cause and to work in a transparent and innovative culture that supports their self-improvement and upward mobility.

Kent: I would agree with this sentiment with one caveat. Millennials understand how to work as a group better than any generation before them. They grew up with social media, are arguably more engaged with sports, and have been raised to work as a team. They have to believe in what they are working for in order to find fulfillment. I would order what they are looking for as follows: One, am I making an impact? Two, can this help me? Three, does this help my career?

Kelly: I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. If we are going to spend a majority of our lives in the workforce (and based on the somewhat dire reports about the unsustainability of Social Security coming out of the Social Security Administration, it’s looking like 40 or more years at work is a conservative estimate for my generation), we want our life’s work to amount to something more important than a paycheck. We do need that paycheck to live, but when we look back on our careers, we want to feel satisfied that our time was spent on something that improved life for ourselves and those we served. In past generations, it seems that a premium was placed upon creating a good home and raising a family, and work outside the home was simply a way to finance those goals.

However, families and households look much different today than they did 60 years ago, and many from my generation are looking to work to find the fulfillment that hasn’t happened for them within the boundaries of a traditional nuclear family unit. This shift in calling, while it can result in some challenges for those who still want some parts of traditional family life (see: Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”), can result and has resulted in some fantastic innovations and projects that allow self-improvement and upward mobility for more than just the individual innovators behind the solution.

Daniel: I think we are hardened and humbled by the fact that the job market is tough nowadays. You can’t get a degree and expect to have a job anymore, which is why so many millennials are forced to get sales jobs or jobs that aren’t in their field/major. That is why I started in sales with the ultimate goal of being a manager. We know we have to work our way up. Many others have come to the realization that there is no more American dream and if you want to succeed, the work must be put in. However, I know my generation is certainly willing to work and put the effort forth to become successful. We strive to support positive causes, to give back to society, and to create mutual respect among all.