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These 3 Statistics Explain What Millennials Want at Work

Blog posts | 19.05.2021

Steve Lowenthal

CEO - Kineo US at Kineo US

Statistics can sometimes overwhelm us – even mislead us, especially if we look at them without proper context.  One oft-repeated quote, attributed to Britons’ war-time hero prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill highlights exactly that point.

However, when framed in perspective, and used in proper context, we can also learn a lot about a given challenge or problem from statistics. One such challenge is around employee expectations, and how best to engage and motivate the workforce through learning and development, as part of a broader employee experience initiative.

What the Data Tells Us

Based on results from their 2019 “Future of Jobs Survey”, a report by the World Economic Forum states:

“All industries expect sizable skills gaps, stating that at least 50% of their workforce will require reskilling of some duration (…page 17)”.

That’s a broad statement, but when we look at other corresponding data points (i.e., “stats”), it’s easy to comprehend how the Forum arrived at its conclusion. But what about employees?  Are they sitting passively by waiting to be “fixed” or “reskilled”.  No way!

There’s not only a generational workforce skills evolution in progress –there’s also a workplace skills review and realignment taking place: What millennials want at work is far different from what Boomers needed!

While employers begin retooling and reskilling their workforces, here are three statistics that tell them more about what participants in a global workforce are looking for, as part of their employee experience at work:

1)     Professional development and career growth

The Statistic

Here’s an impressive stat from Gallup, based on a poll for their report “How Millennials Want to Work and Live”:

When it comes to understanding what millennials want at work, compared to 69% of non-millennial workers, 87% of millennials rated “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as one of their top priorities.

What the Stat Means?

It’s clear from the sheer numbers - 87% - that Millennials emphasise  learning and development when looking for jobs. Even in their existing roles, they’re concerned about the lack of opportunities to learn more and grow. And, while that’s a good thing (it shows eagerness and initiative in an employee), it also sheds light on employee expectations of employer behaviour.

If you don’t engage your employees as part of their experience and motivate them with clear career paths, complete with mapping to growth and learning opportunities, you’ll likely lose them to your competitors. This is an important stat if you want to boost employee retention. Since career growth and development are high on their list of job motivators, if they don’t find it within your organisation, they’ll look elsewhere.


2)     Social Learning and Knowledge-sharing

The Statistic

Social learning is about learning through interactions with peers on social platforms. As the workforce transforms into a socially savvy one, experts predict that employees will likely shun traditional methods of learning – manuals, classrooms, Instructor-led sessions – and gravitate away from “top-down” learning to socially-driven learning models.

 A global survey of 10,000 Human Resource professionals across 140 countries, conducted by Deloitte[MA1] , confirmed that workforces world over have become increasingly reliant on social media. Tech-savvy workers want immediate answers, and they find social interactions are more likely to provide that to them – versus the “silos” of the information held in corporate databases. As a result, 32% of those surveyed are taking steps to redesign their organisations to respond to the needs of their tech-savvy employees.

These findings echoed what a similar survey, conducted by LinkedIn Learning, concluded about what employees want in an employer.

Both these surveys underline the same key trait that employees are looking for when it comes to learning on the job: The ability to experience learning as a social event rather than a rigidly structured, time-of-day regulated activity.

What the Stat Means?

As the last remaining Boomers exit, the active workforce, tech-savvy and socially-active younger workers (GenX, Millennials, and GenZ) have filled the void. These workers grew up on Facebook, Instagram, and other sharing platforms.  They value these peer-based interactions over traditional sources like newspapers and magazines, and this translates into a desire to connect with their peers in the organisation and higher value on those interactions to traditional L&D resources like off-the-shelf content. This generation has expectations that are different from their predecessors. To boost employee retention, and keep these workers engaged, satisfied, and committed to their jobs (and to the organisation), employers have to invest more time and resources in L&D strategies that make social learning the lynchpin. 


3)     Feedback, Retention, and Performance Go Hand-in-hand

The Statistic

How do employees know they are doing well? How can they know that they need to change some habits, learn new skills, and acquire greater knowledge? Without this knowledge, they’ll likely “keep doing what they’re doing” – potentially to the detriment of their performance, their job satisfaction levels, and the competitiveness of the organisation.

How are employers, managers, and supervisors managing employee expectations around that challenge? Through feedback!

A poll from Gallup, of 65,672 employees, found that organisations that provided regular feedback to employees on their strengths and learning and development needs had retention rates that were 14.9% higher than organisations where such feedback was not part of the overall employee experience.

What the Stat Means?

These numbers translate to a few undeniable facts about what employees want at work: Having a feedback loop – ideally a 2-way process – not only contributed to greater employee retention (14.9%) but also resulted in better productivity and performance (12.5% more) and increased profitability among peers (8.9% higher).

It also underscores employee expectations around the need for employers to reach out more frequently and consult them on matters that impact their roles. The numbers prove that doing so (frequent outreach to employees) boosts employee performance and increases retention rates. 

 And it all stems from keeping employees engaged, informed, and connected.

Putting L&D at The Centre of Engagement

It’s official: Employee learning and development is at the heart of employee engagement and retention. A survey (yes…more stats to think about!) by Deloitte indicated that 90% of employers are redesigning their jobs so that employees stay engaged and involved as they evolve through the organisation.

A majority of employers understand that, while managing employee expectations around workplace policies and priorities is important, it is economically better for their organisations to focus on engaging with, training, and grooming existing talent, than to hire new talent to replace existing (presumably unhappy) workers.

This approach of investing more in learning and development of the workforce as part of the overall employee experience, yields fruits for both the employee (motivation, job satisfaction, loyalty, commitment) and the employer (better performance, great staff retention, increased employee-employer engagement). And it all stems from making engagement and L&D the centre of hiring, promotion, and retention decisions.

Steve Lowenthal

CEO - Kineo US at Kineo US


Steve Lowenthal has over 15 years of experience in Learning Technologies in consultancy, sales and management roles. He's a regular speaker at US conferences and events on trends in LMS, elearning and technology.

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