Being the Boss Not a Career Priority for Millennials

By Kathy Gurchiek Dec 9, 2016

​Making money is a top career priority for Millennials, but being the boss? Not so much, according to a new ManpowerGroup survey released in November. Working for employers that are socially responsible and in line with their own values is more important to them, along with working with great people.

Only 1 in 5 people born between 1982 and 1996 said they were interested in climbing the corporate ladder, according to the survey of Millennials conducted February to April. Respondents included 11,000 employed male and female Millennials in 18 countries, 8,000 ManpowerGroup associate employees, and more than 1,500 ManpowerGroup hiring managers in 25 countries, including the U.S.

When asked to rank a list of their career priorities, being in charge was not at the top of their list: 14 percent want to be seen as an expert in their field, 12 percent want to own their own company, 6 percent want a leadership position and only 4 percent want to manage others.  

Only respondents in Mexico indicated that owning their own company was a top career aspiration, with 31 percent ranking this a priority. In 24 of 25 countries, men were more interested than women in rising to the top of an organization or owning their own company. France was the only country in which men and women were equally interested in landing leadership roles.

Sixty-eight percent of Millennials overall were interested in gaining skills in areas such as information technology, communication, teamwork, and adaptability. They want to develop those skills in the next year. By contrast, 32 percent were interested in developing managerial skills, the survey found. 

Low pay coupled with no or few opportunities to develop skills will likely lead to Millennial employees looking for a new employer. In fact, 4 out of 5 respondents said they would change jobs for a position with the same pay and more skills-training opportunities.

Millennials are projected to make up nearly one-third of the workforce by 2020, so what can employers do to stoke an interest in taking up the managerial reins?

Reimagine What Managing Means

Stacey Force, vice president of global marketing and center of excellence for Right Management, which is part of the ManpowerGroup brand, suggests reimagining what managing means for these employees.

Millennials are driven by an organization's mission and finding employers whose values mirror their own passions, Force noted. 

[SHRM members-only resource: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders]

"Help them understand how taking on managerial roles aligns with their long-term goals" by reframing "leadership" as a way in which they can drive their organization's purpose, she said.

This is especially important when considering that one-third of Millennials surveyed expect to work to age 69, 15 percent expect to work beyond age 70, and 12 percent expect to work until they die, according to the report Millennials: A Career for Me, which is based on findings from the 2016 ManpowerGroup survey.

For this generation, a career is akin to an ultramarathon, Force said. With that in mind, 84 percent anticipate taking breaks from work beyond the traditional week or two of vacation, she pointed out. 

"Millennials believe that two years is the right amount of time to be in a role," Force told SHRM Online. She advised employers to think of ways to help Millennials get the skills and experience they need to develop and grow.

The average Millennial changes jobs four times before he or she turns 32 years old, according to an April 12 CNN report. 

Experts at San Jose, Calif.-based RiseSmart, a Randstad company that provides career-transition services, suggest encouraging moves within an organization to keep employees. This can provide the job shift that Millennials may be looking for without the need to change employers.

Transitions can be beneficial for employees who want to move to a new area of the organization or for those whose skills are better suited elsewhere in the organization, said Lindsay Witcher, RiseSmart's director of practice strategy.

It starts with an organization creating and supporting a culture of mobility. 

HR professionals should champion the concept of internal mobility. By providing mobility programs, training and resources, they can show managers and leadership how mobility can help an organization's bottom line, Witcher said. 

Additionally, employers can provide incentives to encourage mobility and evaluate managers on their efforts to offer that mobility.

"A lot of companies say they support it, but, in reality, managers hoard talent; they don't want that [valued employee] to go to another team and there are various consequences" when that happens, she told SHRM Online

Helping an employee move to another part of the organization requires an investment in the employee's career—something the employee's manager may not always want to make, she noted.

That investment starts with ongoing conversations that may include pointing the employee to assessment, coaching and mentoring programs as career development resources. The career discussion may lead to talk about an internal move to a role where he or she is likely to have even greater success within the organization.

"As a manager, you may have some insight where this person might be a good fit," Witcher said. An employee who works in operations, for example, may be better suited to marketing. In that instance, find out if marketing needs someone with the skills the employee has. If so, consider setting up a meeting between the employee and the marketing department manager, she suggested.  

Internal mobility should be an option for employees, not a requirement, Witcher said, noting that workers who choose to remain in the same job for years—and are successful in their jobs—should still receive training so they continue to cultivate their skills.

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