Today’s talented young professionals have a different approach to their careers — and a very different attitude toward organizational loyalty — than earlier generations. Here’s what you need to know to retain and develop this generation of young managers.
The generation that started to enter the workforce a decade ago (often called Generation Y) will account for the majority of workers over the next 40 years.1 These employees have been said to differ remarkably from previous generations in work-related expectations: They attach greater importance to extrinsic values such as money or image, and also to leisure.2 They consider “additional compensation” and “additional bonuses and financial incentives” the two most effective retention strategies for employers.3 Intrinsic values such as attachment to a community appear to be less important to them. They are reported to show less concern for others,4 lower need for social approval, and higher self-esteem and even narcissism than earlier generations of employees.5
Are these early-career employees putting their values into practice in the workplace? While previous studies give a thorough picture of the values they hold, they say little about the work-related behaviors that result from these values. In an effort to cover this gap, we analyzed the work behaviors and experiences of young professionals. We first surveyed 892 young professionals, about 25% of whom represent the top 10% of their academic cohort in Germany, while the rest represent a random distribution of German professionals. Second, we surveyed 312 early-career individuals working in more than 60 countries, all alumni of a top European business school. Finally, we conducted in-depth interviews with 18 young professionals in a variety of industries such as consulting, IT, energy, publishing, and telecommunications, to see whether their experiences confirm the survey results. (See “About the Research.”)
Our surveys and interviews capture a highly skilled segment of the labor force. In one of the samples, all respondents are graduates of MBA (Master of Business Administration) programs. In the other sample, 96% have at least a master’s degree, and 88% of this group came to their first full-time job after having about three internships. Seventy-four percent of our respondents have had international exposure — either studies or an internship abroad — and one-third have had both work and educational experience abroad. On average, they had five years of work experience since completing their degrees.