What Millennials Want

by Kirsten Avison and Ashley Burgess

In 1925 Sigmund Freud famously asked: “What do women want?” We’re not sure if he ever got his answer, but we do know that in 2015, intelligent managers and executives should be asking themselves what millennials want.

That’s because millennials are the future. In 10 years’ time, this generation will make up 75 percent of the North American workforce. If you want your business to succeed in the long term, you’re going to need to learn how to attract and retain us.

While some might think that we are a lazy, entitled generation with tattoos and man buns, millennials are technically the generation born between 1980 and 1997 (currently between 18 to 34 years old). The children of baby boomers, we are the first generation truly brought up in the digital age.

Why you need to retain millennials

According to experts, the number one challenge employers are facing is hanging on to top talent. This is a huge concern with millennials who, on average, stay in any job for less than three years.

It’s costing you, big time—between $15,000 and $25,000 each time you replace one of us.

If that’s not reason enough to make the effort to create a culture where millennials want to stay a while, consider that with an aging workforce, your company’s accumulated knowledge storehouse is headed for the door. If you want to capture and capitalize on that valuable wisdom, skills, and experience, then you’re going to need a solid base of loyal up-and-comers.

It’s not all about the perks

How can you encourage us to stay? As two well-educated, hard-working, career-focused millennials ourselves, here’s a few of our thoughts on what our generation is looking for in the work world.

Lots of high-profile, high-tech and new-age companies get attention for the perks they offer employees, such as never-ending food and booze, gym memberships, nap pods, massages and even onsite doggy daycare. The extras these organizations provide make work seem like an all-inclusive holiday.

Don’t worry. You don’t need to add a ping-pong table to your boardroom or hire a chef for your office kitchen to compete. Our generation is not all about playtime and unlimited buffets—although a good espresso machine goes a long way.

It’s not all about the paycheque either (don’t get us wrong: We do want fair compensation).

What we’re really after, and what will keep us from searching LinkedInGlassdoor or monster.ca for our next gig, are items such as:

1.     Trust

2.     Autonomy

3.     Work/life balance.

If you can offer us those, you will gain yourself a loyal employee who contributes to your bottom line for the long term.

It’s why Netflix’s Culture Manifesto, “Freedom with Responsibility” is one of the most popular documents on the internet, with more than 11 million views and counting. 

Four things you can do to create a culture that values millennials

If you want to keep us interested in your business, what you need to do boils down to these four basics:

  1. Help us build our skills through professional development.
  2. Show us a future with opportunities for advancement.
  3. Share the spoils of our efforts through bonuses, profit sharing or employee-ownership opportunities.
  4. Let us prove that we can do our jobs on our terms, preferably with flexible hours and extra vacation breaks from time to time.

What’s holding you back?

Many employers are reluctant to put this kind of trust in their millennial employees for fear of being taken for a ride. That’s what probationary periods are for—you may as well weed out those employees (of any generation) before getting stuck babysitting them for their entire career.

Despite our reputation, not all of us are lazy or entitled, but we do tend to check out when we feel like we’re not making a contribution.

We are already the biggest segment of the workforce and the most populous generation the world has seen. Take a chance on us! Your bottom line and your corporate culture will thank you. Just ask our bosses at Wazuku.


Ashley Burgess is a Senior Business Analyst at Wazuku Advisory Group. With an MBA from the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University, she manages Wazuku’s business operations and business development. She also provides analytical support and project management for clients.

Kirsten Avison is a Senior Business Analyst at Wazuku Advisory Group and a key member of the strategic advisory team. She has made herself invaluable at Wazuku thanks to her ability to manage projects, conduct thorough strategic analysis and develop strong and lasting relationships with clients.