What Millennials Really Think About Work

A new study indicates that Generation Selfie is actually not obsessed with texting, and quality time with colleagues and bosses matters.

One big stereotype about millennial workers–those under the age of 35–is that they are so absorbed in technology that they have lost the art of communicating in person. After all, to their older colleagues, millennials appear to be permanently staring at screens. Instead of face-to-face conversations, they seem to prefer emailing, gchatting, or texting at work.


But looks are deceiving: According to a recent study from Bentley University, the majority of millennials prefer talking to their colleagues in person. Of the 1,000 millennials surveyed, only 19% preferred email and 14% preferred texting as their primary mode of communication, while 51% favored one-on-one meetings.

Gloria Larson, president of Bentley University, says this recent data demonstrates that millennials have a more sophisticated approach to communication than their parents’ generation gives them credit for. To these digital natives, texting and IMing has become a way to handle inconsequential matters, but does not stand in for deeper, more intimate conversations: Different channels of communications achieve different objectives. “It makes sense that the older generation has not been able to perceive this,” says Larson. “From the outside, all they see are young people glued to their smartphones.”

Larson makes the case that while millennials grew up immersed in the web, they also tend to have extremely close relationships with their “helicopter” parents and they bring this desire for meaningful relationships with them into the workplace. This was a recurring theme in the Bentley study, which showed that millennials care about working for companies that show them respect, share their values, and allow them to be their authentic selves–qualities typically associated with family life. The authors of the report argue that millennials are looking for a “work family,” that is, workplaces that feel supportive to them. This apparently includes plenty of long in-person chats with their managers and mentors.

By 2025, millennials will constitute 75% of the global workforce. The study demonstrates that there is a different formula to retaining these millennial workers. While employers have historically held on to workers by compensating them financially, millennials care a lot more about the culture of their workplace and the mission of their company. In fact, only 30% of respondents said they were willing to endure an unpleasant work environment to achieve career success.

On the other hand, if a millennial finds an employer that provides a warm, family-like environment for them to build their career, they are likely to be very loyal. Contrary to the stereotype of the millennial job-hopper, the survey found that 80% of millennials expect to stay with four or fewer companies their entire career and a surprisingly high 16% expect to stay with their current job for the rest of their career. So it might be time to start scheduling some one-on-one time with the younger members of your team. And feel free to ping them via Gchat to set up the meeting.


About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.