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Survey: What Millennials Really Want at Work
 

Gen-Y employees have gained a reputation for being spoiled and demanding constant praise. But it's not really as bad as all that.

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When it comes to Gen Y employees, you've probably heard the stereotypes: flaky, lazy, and in need of constant praise. 

According to a new workforce survey conducted by the online freelance network oDesk and consulting firm Millennial Branding, the things that supposedly make millennials so stereotypically unappealing might actually belie their entrepreneurial strengths.

Here are four things that define the millennial mindset--and how you might just be able to use them to your advantage.

They've got attitude.

The entrepreneurial attitude, that is. Ninety percent of millennials surveyed said that a person's status as an entrepreneur depends more on their mindset than any tangible accomplishments, such as starting a company.

Instead, respondents defined entrepreneur as "a creative person with a successful drive to create something new," "a person committed to pursuing innovation within a business, industry, or social sphere," or "a person who does not follow the typical business patterns and makes his or her own way."

In other words, they view entrepreneurs as innovators--whether or not they are self-employed.

They're searching for a cause.

The number one thing that millennials want more than independence is a reason to care about their work, says Millennial Branding founder Dan Schawbel.

"Their hearts and minds aren't really in their work," he says, citing one finding from the survey that indicated 72 percent of workers want to quit their jobs--and 62 percent plan to within the next two years.

But there's a way to prevent these employees from jumping ship. Consider this: 69 percent of those surveyed said they enjoy having more freedom to work on projects that interest them. So it stands to reason that if you encourage them to follow their passions--they might just be passionate about working for you.

They leap in head first.

Millennials aren't lazy--they're eager to get to work. And they want to cut quickly through the red tape. More than one-third said they would advise peers to join a start-up and get hands-on experience over finishing college, or pursuing higher level education.

Twenty-one percent of those surveyed said they were currently enrolled in college and getting a jump on their portfolios by freelancing. 

"There is no stability in life now," says Schawbel, "The economy has changed everything." He says that millennials have learned that the only thing they can rely on is themselves. So they've gotten really good at wearing mulitple hats. By diversifying their skill sets, millennials are better prepared to fill a variety of roles, he says.

They're flexible--and think you should be, too.

Perhaps not surprisingly, millennials like the idea of calling the shots. Especially when it comes to their schedules. And they're not alone. Ninety-two percent of all freelancers surveyed--Gen X and Baby Boomers included--would rather work from wherever they want than opt for a traditional desk job. Eighty-seven percent also appreciate the flexibility to choose their hours.

So, be prepared to compromise.

"If you don't have a flexible work program, millennials won't work for you," says Schawbel. But he acknowledges that business owners have to put their feet down, too.

He says, "[Millennials] want all of these things but they have to produce, too. Employers need to set expectations for results, but flexibility on scheduling."

And there's more good news: Employees of all ages are more willing to sacrifice time off in lieu of more on-the-job travel. Sixty-eight percent said that they prefer traveling while working to taking a set number of vacation days off per year. So you might be able to eke more hours out of an empassioned millennial over time--if you're willing to compromise a bit on their day-to-day schedule.

IMAGE: ladyvee9 via Flickr
Last updated: May 15, 2013

FRANCESCA FENZI reports on entrepreneurship, technology and small business news from San Francisco. Her work has previously appeared in TIME, USA Today, Pop City and The Northside Chronicle.
@FrancescaFenzi




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