In the workplace, a discernible shift is occurring as the Millennial generation, with their distinct work ethic and principles, take on the roles of their more traditional predecessors. This new wave of the workforce aligns remarkably well with forward-thinking organizations that prioritize sustainable growth. Millennials (generally considered individuals born between 1981 and 1997) exhibit stark differences compared to former generations when it comes to their workplace expectations and aspirations. Known as change agents, they are the generation breaking down the barriers of old conventions and paving the way for younger generations to collaborate in a more agile and digital landscape.
However, one of the general concerns leaders are disquieted by is the high level of Millennial turnover and the related disruption to the continuity of their business plans. Some consider it an active threat to the organization’s future, especially considering the current business environment in which many industries require people to do more with less. Great Place to Work® global research shows that the concern intensifies as Millennials move into management roles as Millennial managers are at twice the flight risk as Boomer managers. Organizations need to focus on communicating with Millennials to ensure they get what they need or risk losing future leaders. Therefore, the study to listen and better understand current perceptions of Millennials in the workplace and what drives them was continued.
This is the 4th consecutive annual study on Millennials by Great Place to Work® in Sri Lanka. For this study, the age group of 26 years to 34 years has been considered as ‘Millennials’ (Generation Y). This demographic is noteworthy as typically being the age group with the lowest relative perception in the study. Therefore, Great Place to Work® seeks to select organizations that buck this trend and stand out as great workplaces for Millennials as well as use data to study Millennials’ perceptions.
The study was conducted from July 2022 to June 2023. Over 67,800 employees were surveyed at an 87% response rate. The sample included 22,900 Millennials aged 26-34 years. The pool consisted of more than 160 organizations in Sri Lanka representing over 20 key industries. The study data were used to select the 15 Best WorkplacesTM for Millennials for 2023 (Refer to methodology section) and derive the insights presented in this article.
Finally, the 15 Best Workplaces were represented by 8 industries: of which 27% were from the IT-enabled service sector and 20% were from the logistics and transportation sectors. The employee cadre of the Best 15 ranged from 39 to over 2436 with a majority (53%) of the workplaces employing 101-500 employees. Millennials represented 34% to 80% of the workforce with an average of 52% among the Best 15.
The Big Picture
The average positive perception of employees for all survey statements is referred to as the Trust Index© average. Figure 2 compares the Trust Index© (TI) average and relevant benchmarks. Millennials among the Best 15 are on par with the all-employee average while Millennials among the Rest show a characteristic pattern of lower-than-average perception.
Key Focus Areas
The Trust Index© is further categorized into 5 key focus areas as shown in Figure 3: credibility, respect, fairness, pride, and camaraderie. As per the norm, fairness is the lowest scoring focus area due to lower positive perception in sub-focus areas equity and impartiality (86%) dragging down overall perception. Pride continues to be the highest perceived focus area with pride in the team scoring the highest (93%).
Positive perception has increased year on year for both the Best and the Rest across all areas except for pride, where perception among the Best 15 has marginally decreased by 1-point from the previous year due to 1-point drops in pride in the personal job and corporate image. It is notable that while the Best 15 maintained Millennial positive perception on par or higher than the all-employee average in the previous study, this study recorded a perception that was on par or marginally lower than the all-employee average.
Exploring the Generational Gaps
Figure 4 depicts the pattern of employee perception across the age groups in the workplace in the study. Gen Z are considered employees aged below 25 years, Gen X from 35 years to 55 years of age and Baby Boomers are above 55 years of age for the purpose of this study. The trendline among the Rest is typical of an organization in Sri Lanka. A declining positive perception as age increases was observed among the Best 15 selected this year.
Diving into the data unearthed that perception around training and development opportunities (-22%), avoiding politicking (-18%) and recognition for the effort to drive change (-18%) were the biggest concerns for the oldest (Baby Boomers) vs. youngest (Gen Z) among the Best 15. On the other hand, compared to Millennials, Boomers were more positive about fair pay (+8%), unique benefits (+4%) and the ability to take time off (+4%) among the Best 15. Among the Rest, the gap increased as Millennials were significantly less positive about compensation (-20%) and impartiality (-17%) in comparison to Boomers.
The biggest gap between Millennials and Gen X was relatively smaller (-2%) and centred around pride in personal jobs. The biggest concerns for Millennials vs Gen Z among both the Best 15 and the Rest were in perception around fair pay and profit share (-7%), fair promotions and unique benefits (-6%). Gen Zs showed higher positive perceptions across all areas in comparison to Millennials.
Best vs The Rest
Organizational Culture Health Indices: Figure 5 lists employee perception around key organizational health indices that are used by Great Place to Work® to differentiate the ‘Best Workplace’ culture.
It is noteworthy that the Best significantly stands out from the Rest with gaps close to 10 points for indicators of a Great Place to Work for AllTM showing them to be differentiators. While no pattern was observed among the Best, a U curve pattern was observed among the Rest for Millennial perception across tenure around daily motivation and long-term association indicating that concerns of Millennials working for more than 2 years to 15 years affected their connection with the organization.
Areas of Strength and Areas for Improvement for the Best 15: In terms of a steady high positive experience across the organization for Millennials, the Best 15 appear to excel in areas featured in Figure 6. The Rest are also close behind in most. Pride at work is the No. 1 area of consistent highest positive perception. It is known that Millennials want meaningful work. Global best workplaces have found creative ways to connect employees’ personal roles to inspiring business archetypes such as a reputation as an industry leader, work in the community, close-knit teams, a focus on serving society, an industry-disrupting vision, or other organizational strengths that help employees feel part of something significant and incorporate them into communications and employee programs.
The areas of lowest positive perception and therefore highest concerns among Millennials among the Best 15 are shown in Figure 7. Even the Best has room to improve in these aspects. These areas show that Millennials fundamentally question the level of manager reliability and fairness in their organizations based on their experience. Perceptions around fair allocation of workload, evaluation and rewards for work are relatively lower. Over the last decades, many organizations have transitioned from promoting based on clear-cut tenure to promoting based on skills and performance which may be blurrier criteria to those not involved in the decision-making.
Therefore transparency, feedback and trust in management become pivotal to alter perception. Millennials are known to be more ambitious than other generations regarding compensation and career advancement and often will change jobs to achieve status faster. However, once achieving the higher status Millennials may remain unsatisfied. This seems to be due to a mismatch between what Millennials believe leadership to be and the actual current nature of the work.
Millennial managers may feel they receive pressure from their senior management to lead according to a set of values they do not believe in, and to evaluate their people using management approaches that don’t resonate with them. For example, demanding strict presenteeism for the sake of it versus fostering flexibility, hoarding information versus leading with transparency, excluding employees versus involving them, and treating interactions with employees as transactions versus opportunities to build a stronger relationship are behaviours that are prevalent in the current workplace even though Millennials have been educated all their lives that these are not what constitute a great place to work and this creates a dissonance for Millennials. A steadfast dedication by current leaders to change ingrained personal behaviour is required to improve perception in these areas.
Biggest Gaps: Where the Best 15 Outperform the Rest: Figure 8 highlights the areas in which the Best 15 are significantly outpacing the Rest. It is noteworthy that these areas are also some of the lowest perceived areas for the study. However, the Best gained the advantage by being able to provide a more positive experience for Millennials in these areas and differentiate themselves from the Rest.
As Millennials grow into more managerial roles, organizations will need to rethink the structure and nature of these roles. Transparency and the ability to have tough conversations will be the key behaviours that will help leaders and organizations to sustain their business plans with a stable leadership team, through creating a stronger perception of fairness within their organizations.
Actionable Key Drivers for Millennials Among the Best 15
So, what is it that Millennials want? The key drivers listed in Figure 9 are areas most strongly related to Millennials trusting their workplace is a Great Workplace and one with which they want to have a long-term association. It is not surprising to observe that all areas are around management effectiveness and living by meaningful values, which are elements that contribute to creating a Great Place to Work For AllTM
As the nation’s largest living generation takes on more of the job market, high Millennial turnover poses a bigger challenge to employers. The good news is that building a great, high-trust workplace makes an enormous difference.
Millennials especially want to look up to and be inspired by their leaders’ examples. They also want leaders who try to connect with them on a personal level. Great Place to Work® global research found that Millennials who say their managers show a sincere interest in them are more likely to report behaviours linked to innovation and agility.
Millennials expect a fair workplace and have higher expectations than other generations in this regard. Millennials want to know that they and their co-workers will be treated equally, regardless of their background, gender, age, or role within the company. Businesses that commit to equity and transparency will earn more points with younger talent.
As a generation who was urged to maintain high standards and seek out meaningful work, Gen Y resulted in being the most critical of the workplace experience. It is also known as a demographic that can be easily demotivated when the culture may impede them in their ideals for role modelling values and creating a collaborative and purpose-driven environment.
Millennials might also be the most brand-aware generation yet and are closely attuned to the reputation of their employers. This means employers need to maintain and promote their workplace culture with the same zeal that they promote their brands. An employer brand is not only more important than ever for recruiting young talent but also critical for retaining current employees.
As the majority of an organization’s workforce and managers themselves, Millennials have a great influence over organizational positive perception and are a key segment that possesses valuable skills and qualities essential for Sri Lanka’s future economic revival across various sectors. Therefore, it is crucial to integrate their perspective on the workplace into the actions around organizational culture to achieve sustainable long-term growth.
Great Place to Work®’s mission is to help every place become a Great Place to Work For AllTM so that organizations can maximize human potential through a High-Trust High-Performance Culture that drives business, improves lives, and creates a better society. No matter where you are in your journey, you are invited to join in and contribute to achieving the vision of making Sri Lanka a great place to work.
To better understand your organization’s standing amongst your employees participate in the Great Place to Work recognition program. Contact Great Place to Work® in Sri Lanka via +0114545594 | email@example.com for more information. If you are ready to take the next step, then register for an assessment via the QR code given.
How the 15 Best Workplaces for Millennials Were Selected
Great Place to Work® is the globally recognized authority on studying and recognizing the Best Workplaces. Over the past 30+ years, it has studied Great Workplaces and expanded its reach to over 150 territories. Organizations utilize its services to benchmark, understand key strengths and areas to improve on and act to drive workplace culture that supports organizational performance. The Sri Lankan study is based on the global model and a rigorous methodology, which has been researched, tested, and carried out in similar studies worldwide.
The Great Place to Work® model used to assess Best WorkplacesTM was based on two lenses. Firstly, the Trust Index© employee perception survey was conducted to understand the employee workplace experience as a Great Place to Work For AllTM. Employees responded to 58 survey questions describing the extent to which employees Trust the people they work for, have Pride in the work they do and share Camaraderie among the people they work with. A 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better in survey results was maintained. Only organizations certified (for a period of 1 year) as a Great Workplace with more than a 70% minimum positive employee perception were considered for Best Workplaces studies in that year. Demographic information such as Age group was captured through the survey to obtain the perception of Millennials (26–34-year-olds). A robust approach for maintaining individual anonymity was followed so that participants had the opportunity to provide candid feedback. Results for each of the listed organizations were audited to maintain the accuracy and validity of an organization’s inclusion in the Best Workplaces List.
Secondly, the people practices put in place by the organization to drive and sustain the employee experience over the long term were evaluated through a central submission termed the Culture Audit©. In addition, the following criteria were also considered when selecting the 15 Best Workplaces for Millennials:
- Organizations with at least 20 Millennials represent a minimum of 10% or more of the workforce. (Millennials were considered those between 26 to 34 years of age.)
- Organizations having 26 to 34 years old group with a minimum 70% positive perception or more through the Trust Index© survey.
- Organizations in which Millennials were of higher positive in perception in comparison to the average Millennial in the study this year, the organization average and other age groups in the organization (Millennials were highest or 2nd highest scoring in an organization).
- Organizations in which Millennial groups were more positive in areas that Great Place to Work® research has found to have strong appeal to Millennials such as collaborating, work-life balance, non-discrimination by age, meaningful work, making a difference, pride in the organization and contributing to society.
- Organizations in which people practices such as collaboration, inclusiveness, and inspiring employees were showcased and passed the minimum average threshold score of 40% in Culture Audit©.