Pay Is Millennials’ Top Job Concern, Survey Says

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Forget the idea that Millennials would rather have flexible hours than a good salary. A recent survey by Business Insider and News to Live By found that pay came first when U.S. adults ages 18 to 36 were asked what matters most to them in a job, followed by meaningful work and a positive relationship with co-workers.

Flexibility was important, but it trailed in fourth place.

“There’s this myth that young people don’t care about money,” said Bruce Tulgan, CEO of Rainmaker Thinking and an expert on generations in the workplace. “Of course they do.” Two important factors relating to pay, Tulgan said, are how much the worker is paid compared to others doing the same job in the same city, and how much the person needs to live.

The survey, conducted with Survey Monkey Audience, found that 16 percent of Millennials were unemployed after six months in the job market. Nearly one-quarter of the 548 survey respondents said they applied to 11 or more full-time jobs before they were hired. And when they did land a job, 82 percent did not negotiate their salary, either because they didn’t feel comfortable doing so (38 percent) or didn’t realize they could (44 percent).

“They’re gun-shy,” Tulgan said. “They know how hard it is to get a job in this market. They’re competing for what used to be called entry-level jobs with people with a lot more experience. And it’s so easy for them to do online research and find out what others are paid for similar positions, that they would rather do that than negotiate.”

Terri Klass, who conducts leadership training with Terri Klass Consulting out of Westfield, N.J., was surprised about the finding that few Millennials negotiated salary. “They do think they’re worthy of a certain amount, and they might fight for it, especially if they have the right skill set,” she said. “They have a strong sense of what they’re worth.”

Once they were employed, 37 percent of the Millennials in the survey left their first full-time job within two years. Asked what would have kept them in the job longer, 26 percent said a better salary, followed by a clearer sense of how to move up within the company (17 percent) and more responsibility (11 percent).

“All those things are tied together,” said workplace consultant Alexandra Levit, author of They Don’t Teach Corporate in College (Career Press, 2009), a book for Millennials. Her recent study of working Millennial professionals found that they are entering leadership positions at a younger age than Baby Boomers or members of Generation X.

“It’s not quick enough for them, but it’s still quicker than others,” Levit said.

What does all this mean for employers and recruiters who want to hire Millennials and keep them on the job longer?

“Recruiters have to come in with a clear strategy” for young workers, Levit said. “Have them network, facilitate mentoring, offer experiential learning opportunities. They’re like other employees except they’ll demand things younger.”

The difference is, if they don’t get those opportunities, they’ll leave.

Despite the survey findings on pay, Klass said, companies must still ensure that they can offer what Millennials want: “a more open, nurturing environment that values collaboration.”

Recruitment and work environment are critical. “If you recruit a Millennial effectively, they won’t leave,” Levit said. “You can extend the time [the person stays] to five years if you’re allowing them to grow. Give them exciting opportunities, accelerate transferable skills, show you care about their careers.”

Offering flexible hours and working locations do help, even if those aren’t Millennials’ top concerns. “It’s now possible to be more flexible because you can get results anywhere,” Levit said. “People are getting great results at 10 p.m. at home. Is it really necessary to get through the door at 8:45 every morning?”

Joan Mooney is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.

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