Demystifying the Aspirations of Millennials

Wait, Have We Arrived Already?

Those born in the late 1990s are the demographic cohort after Gen Y. While institutions are still reeling from the impact of the previous generational shift, there is another bracket of youngsters ready to take the corporate world head-on. An individual born in 1995 is capable of completing three years of undergrad, two years of professional educational (MBA) and finding his/her calling in a corporate environment for over a year in 2018 — let that sink in.

We are here and we are here to stay.

Loosely put, the post baby boomer generation is starkly different in their attitude, aspirations and sense of awareness towards their social and professional lives. As a member of the generation branded as the ‘most entitled and self absorbed’ in human history, I took it upon myself to probe and perhaps, understand what makes us stand out

We conducted a survey with millennials (on an online platform, we were born staring at screens!) ranging from 18 to 26 years in two differentiated categories — currently enrolled in a university program and employed for >6 months – to unravel how expectations change in and out of campus.

All respondents in the former category identify themselves as entrepreneurial with 82.35% rating themselves 3 and above on a scale of 5. Further, they unequivocally mentioned that it is important for them to be a part of the decision-making process that is likely to directly impact their work or team.

When asked of the one non-negotiable expectation they have from their first employer – being a partner in their professional journey by guiding, directing and giving them the time and space to adjust to a working lifestyle was the most popular opinion, followed by the ability to allow them to bring their own uniqueness and channelize it for greater organization goals.

Autonomy emerges as a clear theme against the non-confrontational, passive image millennials carry. This bunch that will walk to their Uber instead of calling the driver and coordinating locations is also a bunch that aspires to be in control and actively contribute, not afraid to color the white walls of traditional organizations.

In terms of preferred industries for their first jobs – Consulting, Financial Institutions and FMCG emerge as top choices. 76% of the respondents admit that it is important for them to be in a meaningful workplace as a part of their first job: one that satisfies their will to contribute to the society. For the remaining 23%, this does not emerge as a crucial factor while deciding their career options. Interestingly, a majority of the respondents agree to working with a firm that doesn’t align with their purpose but adds great value to their resume, for a short while.

On their perception of Financial Institutions, while a majority of them acknowledge Financial Institutions as good pay masters with solid job profiles, the apprehension kicks in the form of repetitive work assignments, restricted creative freedom and intimidation of regulated work norms. MNCs and New Age Banks in India are trying to transform this image by introducing community work tables, open break out spaces, board games and tech-enabled infrastructure starting with pockets of employee population in digital, analytics and IT functions. Young talent is often lost to “cooler” workplaces e.g., Fintech startups that offer flexible work schedules, informal environment and better suited rewards.

Contrasted with the somewhat hopeful students still awaiting their tryst with corporate life, those with upwards of six months of work experience have a different story to tell. 47% of young professionals feel that their secondary education/graduation major is misaligned with their current line of work. While this is not out of the ordinary and diversity in thought and skills can be an asset for any team, 53% of the respondents feel that formal training programs before the onset of a job is an enabler not being communicated efficiently by their current employers. 35% of the survey takers believe that employee benefit policies were not clearly highlighted to them while hiring and 11% feel that the job on-ground is starkly different from the job description explained to them in the pre-hiring stage. There seems to be a gap between business expectations, HR communication and finally, the descriptions handed out to job takers.

Most millennials surveyed believe it is okay to place less weight on seniority in judging the readiness of employees for advancement so that high performers can move ahead regardless of age. Fast track career paths and young leaders programs for Hi-Pos is critical in retaining and nurturing this talent.

35% of young professionals admit that they would take up a job with financial services firms owing to the fact that they are noted for compensation structures that are, overall, much more generous than other sectors of the economy. Highly differentiated rewards structures are a compelling factor while choosing an employer as is the ability to customize benefits to one’s preference.

On their general perception towards financial services firms in India, the top responses paint a weary picture of work-life balance and the culture prevalent in organizations. On the brighter side, more than half of the respondents feel that diversity in gender, thought and skill sets is prevalent in financial institutions across levels of management. Further 64% believe that the industry is doing impactful work in financial inclusion and sustainability in the country and would like to contribute and learn more in this segment. 100% respondents vehemently voice that they expect employers to support incumbents through certifications, specialization and executive education programs relevant to their job role. 95% of the respondents also look for sabbatical and time off options to pursue their personal aspirations.

While employee demographics are changing, so are customers and ‘Know Your Customer’ is an integral component of an effective business strategy. Organizations championing the cause of differentiated Total Rewards have introduced programs such as reverse mentoring to provide a voice to ‘Gen-Next’ employees and help management stay up-to-date with their biggest consumer base. In financial services, for example, the traditional methodology to assess customer credit portfolios may undergo a face lift owing to the change in customer base, and a millennial workforce can be their biggest asset in understanding consumer behavior and preferences.

Appetite of risk is fundamentally a quality intrinsic to an individual, millennials however, are torn apart on the topic; they are either privileged and unconcerned with repercussions due to plethora of options or they are extremely risk averse having grown up in shielded environments. Most millennials have grown up with a sense of certainty and accessibility – non-spillable sippy cups, GPS for directions, Google for answers, Shazam to identify music and Tinder to explore prospective partners. They have seen their parents ride through recession, terrorism and aspirations of maintaining a certain quality of life. The risks this generation is willing to take may be considered somewhat uncalculated (read: reckless) but our ability to imbibe the consequences is far higher than the generations preceding us. What for Gen X may seem like privilege, is a necessity and expected investment into the individual and the organization’s future for millennials.

Sumati Joshi
Associate Consultant, Performance, Rewards &

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