What Motivates a Millennial?

For a person born between the late 1970’s to early 2000’s, what shapes their attitudes, preferences, work habits and aspirations? We find out eight interesting facts.

1. What is their leadership style?

Expect Millennials to ask “why” and help them to see that their efforts matter. Millennials’ leadership styles are different than the generations before them, as reflected in the table below1. A great example is billionnaire Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, who has been described as one who “expects debate” (challenging of authority), “isn’t sentimental” (pacey), and “pushes people” (ambitious).2

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2. Why are they tech-savvy?

Millennials are vocal and want to be heard via social media, on all sorts of issues including politics. They are, and will become, active citizens.3 As of 2011, 80% of Singaporeans aged 25-34 are on social network Facebook, and 70% of all Singaporean Facebook users are Millennials between 13-34 years of age.4 In addition, the 2012 Pre-U Seminar was conducted in a new interactive format, signifying a shift in methods used to engage young Singaporeans and encourage them to express their views.5

3. A positive push for the millennials?

There is a danger that Millennials may get so caught up in staying connected online that they may miss real-life lessons. Helping them develop emotional intelligence qualities such as self-awareness, introspection, empathy and empowerment may prove crucial in determining their future successes. For example, could we encourage them to set aside time to disconnect from technology, take time to meditate or reflect on the week, or perhaps take action in community service projects to build empathy and develop compassion for others?6

4. What do they look for in a job?

“Post-materialism” proponents — millennials tend to be less concerned about fulfilling basic needs as they have never had to worry about money.7 According to a 2011 Visa study, the “most endorsed life outlook” for Millennials aged 18-28 in Singapore was to enjoy the simple things in life.8

Yet, they have lofty career aspirations, often seeking overseas postings to developed countries, less so developing nations/areas. Millennials are also more likely to “choose where they want to live, then find work there”.9

5. What are some of their professional qualities?

They can be high maintenance and high risk but also produce high output. They thrive in social environments, are good team players, multi-task well, know how to employ technology productively, focus on personal development, want accelerated paths to success, do not fear authority and demand “immediate gratification of making an immediate impact by doing meaningful work immediately.”10

6. Where do they hope to work?

Millennials still aspire to work at large multi-nationals, despite nearly 80% of students thinking of starting their own businesses.11 Here are the 2012 Top 10 employers that graduates most want to work for in Singapore:12

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7. What do they rate as important in their life?

Millennials view professional and career development, personal development and work-life balance as top consideration factors when applying to jobs.13 They expect to work longer hours at their first job, but also get paid more (S$3,157/month versus S$2,933 in 2010).

8. Are they altruistic?

Millennials have “heightened awareness of world issues, even if they do not act on it.” Up to 72.5% agreed they “felt strongly” on issues such as animal welfare and poverty, but only a third (32.1%) were actually doing something about it.14

With this snapshot, how might we engage and help develop our nation’s Millennials? By knowing their preferences, attitudes, leadership styles and preferences, plus the unique challenges that will continue to face them, what new ways of thinking or leading might we as educators consider adopting to better equip Millennials as leaders? Feel free to share your thoughts with us, including approaches that you have tried and their results, by emailing [email protected]


Article by Karen Lee
1 Talent and the Generations, Roffey Park
2 http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-01-25/tech/30662019_1_mark-zuckerberg-andrew-bosworth-facebook
3 “Generation what next?” By Serene Luo, Linette Lai, Nicholas Teo, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2012
4 “Social, Digital and Mobile in Singapore,” We Are Social, December 2011.
5 “DPM Teo accepts student’s apology for blog post”, Channel NewsAsia, 8 Jun 2012.
6 Engaging the Millennials. By Bill George, Huffington Post Business, June 23, 2010. hOp://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-­–george/engaging-the-millennials_b_623108.html
7 “Generation what next?” By Serene Luo, Linette Lai, Nicholas Teo, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2012
8 Connecting with the Millennials – A Visa Study, 2011
9 “Generation what next?” By Serene Luo, Linette Lai, Nicholas Teo, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2012
10 “How will millennials manage?” By Jim Heskett, Harvard Business School, 2 Aug 2007.
11 “Nearly 80% of students think of founding their own business”, Channel NewsAsia, 22 Aug 2012.
12 Singapore’s Ideal Employers 2012 Student Survey, Universum
13 “Singapore’s Top Employers for 2011,” AsiaOne, 17 Nov 2011
14 “Generation what next?” By Serene Luo, Linette Lai, Nicholas Teo, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2012
15 Wikipedia.org

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