Millennials: true to the stereotype or true future leaders?

10 min read

Highlights from the joint M3S & Morgan McKinley report: The Workplace in 2025.

To download the full report click here.

Millennials (now aged about 18 - 36, born between 1981 and 1999) are very ambitious with high levels of workplace satisfaction, highly mobile with the potential to leave current jobs in 3-5 years and a willingness to ‘boomerang’ back to their current employer some years later.  


These are some of findings in a new report ‘The Workplace in 2025’, researched by top professional services recruiter Morgan McKinley and its talent solutions division M3S. Over 3,400 Irish professionals of all ages were surveyed in the study in February and March this year.


Millennials are possibly the most personally ambitious, demanding and mobile generation ever to enter the Irish workforce. By 2025, they will have achieved leadership positions in many organisations.  Rather than stereotyping them, as often seems to be the case, we need to transform our workplaces to reflect their values, needs and attitudes, the report says.


The vast majority of Millennials see opportunities for career progression, more workplace flexibility and salaries as key factors to greater job satisfaction.


They are quickly becoming the most influential segment of our population and workforce. As a generation born and raised in a world of ubiquitous technology and social media, they have very different expectations about jobs and careers.


The M3S and Morgan McKinley survey reveals that these younger workers aren't motivated by the same factors as previous generations, such as a job for life, but instead they value opportunity, flexibility and a good work/life balance. As these millennials begin to dominate the workforce they are bringing with them new perceptions of what office life should be like.



Clodagh Bannigan, Director of Global Service Delivery at M3S said:


“Each generation has its own values, not to mention expectations of the world around them. Nowhere are these differences more apparent than in the workplace. This survey captures the broad array of insights into the motivations, priorities and work preferences of the youngest generation now in the workforce.”


"The millennial generation is already transforming long-held management practices within the workplace. The findings of our research suggest that Workplace 2025 is likely to be very different to the one we’re familiar with today.


“The values and practices that were important to previous generations don’t matter as much to millennials. They’re much more focused on transparency, mobility, flexibility, collaboration and equality.


“Understanding these shifts will be crucial to the future success of recruiting and retaining talent. Companies who fail to embrace and adapt to these changes will find themselves behind the competition.”



Notable Trends


  1. Two-thirds of millennials express high levels of job satisfaction.  However, one third are not happy (a higher proportion than for other generations)


The 5 principal factors listed by millennials around what makes them happy with their jobs:

  • Company’s culture & transparency.
  • Relationships with colleagues.
  • Support or recognition from manager.
  • Progression and development opportunities.
  • Flexible working opportunities and work/life balance.


The same aspects were listed by millennials as reasons that cause them a low level of satisfaction with their current work situation. Those expressing low levels of satisfaction also mentioned relatively low salaries and their jobs not being challenging enough as factors.

70% of people born between 1960-80 say they are currently happy in their jobs, and this rises to 76% for people born before 1960.


  1. Seven out of every 10 millennials (72%) are going to leave their employer in the first 5 years.


Millennials are likely to change their jobs a number of times during their career. They are also open to completely changing their careers and starting from scratch.


7 out of every 10 millennials surveyed (72%), said they plan to leave their current employment within five years, and 62% of them within three years.


Even millennials who claimed to be happy in their current jobs were still expecting to leave their jobs in similar timeframes.


The reasons why millennials leave their employment aren’t always negative. It’s frequently the case that they would look to move to gain a new experience that isn’t available with their current employer. Some of the reasons for moving are as follows:

  • Wanting to change sector.
  • Trying out working for a smaller or bigger company.
  • Planning to learn new skills that can’t be acquired in their current role.
  • Not being able to use new skills they recently acquired.
  • Wanting to change working environment

(e.g., from a formal to casual working culture or the opposite).

  • Taking a career break to go travelling.
  • Relocating to a new city or country.



3. A quarter of millennials would return to their previous employer after pastures new

Employees who boomerang back to an employer are usually those who left either to travel, further their careers, try something new or perhaps they may have had personal reasons. In other words, there were no particularly negative reasons for the employee to make the move.


Boomerangs are already familiar with the company’s culture and values. They have an established employee-employer relationship and, by leaving, they gained experience and developed new connections that will benefit the organisation they return to. They are also significantly quicker to achieve high levels of productivity than first time employees, which makes boomerangs into ideal candidates.


Since millennials exhibit a high propensity to return to their previous employer, the exit process plays a significant role for both parties: employees and employers. In fact, as these career moves are now more common and even expected by organisations, the off-boarding process is starting to resemble the on-boarding process. 


A well structured exit process prepares the foundation for the potential rehiring of an employee in the future. Creating networks of alumni is also becoming common as organisations actively design hiring strategies to target former employees.


4.   A quarter of millennials say they’ll reach the most senior levels in their current jobs.


Regardless of age, just 1 in 4 Irish workers are certain they could progress to the very top of their organisations. Millennials’ expectations aren’t higher than those of any other generation in relation to the ultimate outcome. However, they might act a bit differently to get to where they want to be. They are more likely than any other generation to relocate city to progress their career, even if it means relocating to another less developed country. Acquiring new skills is the most likely step that any employee of any age would take to further their careers.


The Workplace of 2025


Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 with the first waves of millennials now moving towards their 40’s and taking on leadership positions. This will impact significantly on workplaces that will come to further reflect millennials’ values, opinions and attitudes.


By 2025 most organisations will implement some form of flexible working such as:

  • Flexible start/finish.
  • Mobile working/working from home and hot desking.
  • Reduced/compressed hours.
  • Job share arrangements.


Once an employee reaches their 5 year work anniversary, the chances of them leaving their organisation increases to 72%. Employers becoming aware of this trend will create succession plans (including a pipeline of hiring) in order to avoid a negative impact from the departure of key employees.


Employers will place a greater focus on adaptability as a skill when recruiting. Accepting that new employees will stay a maximum of 3 to 5 years with an organisation will mean having to hire candidates who can adapt quickly and make an immediate contribution to the organisation.


With talent being the foundation of every company, failing to meet the requirements of the changing landscape will negatively impact the effectiveness of numerous organisations.


Practices and strategies that can be implemented to attract the most suitable talent and achieve the highest productivity will include:


  • Flexible working - According to Morgan McKinley’s 2016 Working Hours Survey, 36% of employees currently have the option of working from home, with 44% of employees having a flexible start / finish time. Only 4% of professionals said, however, that remote working was formally offered as part of company policy. A culture of flexible working should be embedded and become a part of official policy within organisations.
  • Lateral Movements - Allowing employees to move to a different department, subsidiary or regional office creates an opportunity for Millennials to try something new or acquire skills they didn’t have before, without having to leave their organisation.  Changed responsibilities are as welcome to a millennial as increased responsibilities and greater mobility within organisations results in both increased productivity and longevity.
  • Career progression - clearly defined career progression paths linked to a development plan and recognition and remuneration systems are essential. Keeping millennials informed on the company’s plans and objectives and making sure they understand where their role fits in in the bigger picture will create a transparent environment that gives employees a sense of purpose. Setting their own goals and KPIs based on organisational plans and defining their career progression path is the next step.
  • Recruiting for cultural fit - Culture is a differentiator and driver of success for organisations. It’s essential to hire candidates who are the best fit culturally, sharing the company's values and identifying with its mission.
  • Deconstructing traditional roles - To allow for fully flexible working arrangements and to address relatively high, but natural employee turnover, organisations could reconstruct traditional roles by breaking these down into more narrow and specialised positions. This will create more opportunities for internal movements and upskilling and it will accelerate the on-boarding and initial training process.
  • Engaging alumni and targeting boomerangs - Keeping alumni engaged expands business opportunities and creates an easier way back for those who are beginning to think about returning. Launching or further developing a corporate alumni programme is advisable to strengthen the relationship between companies and employees, which is mutually beneficial.





Notes to editors:

Survey methodology

The report is based on research carried out between February and March of 2017 which looks at the attitudes and ambitions of millennials in terms of their workplace and careers and compares them with those of their predecessors: Generation X (1961-1980) and Baby Boomers (1960 and before). M3S and Morgan McKinley conducted an online survey of more than 3,400 professionals working in Ireland to collect the data for this report.

Morgan McKinley is a leading Irish owned multinational professional staffing and talent management organisation, with over 700 employees in 9 countries. M3S is Morgan McKinley’s total talent solutions division which delivers scalable, flexible outsourced programmes to find the best talent for clients.


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