Employer Branding

Research: Millennials Feel They Lack Control at Work

Here’s a surprise. According to a new study, millennials cite “lack of control” over their working lives.


I suppose it’s easy to dismiss reports like these, I mean who ever felt like they had control when they started out in their careers? Why are millennials so bleeding special? What about everyone else who feels like they’re just a cog in a giant hamster wheel of business?

Trouble is, millennials are critical to large companies (and small), and a whole cottage industry has been built around understanding how they think and behave. What can we do to attract, engage and retain millennial talent?

Andy Partridge, Millennial Engagement Consultant, Enviable Workplace:

“Millennials are hungry for development and want to better understand how to utilise their strengths, rather than focus on their weaknesses.

They want to understand what they do well, and what comes naturally to them, and to work out how to best achieve their goals using their strengths. They want to understand themselves so they can do great work.”

Flexibility & entrepreneurship

Nearly half (48%) of millennials feel they ‘lack control’ at work, with 18-34 year olds keen to get more flexibility in their working lives, according to new research from St. James’s Place Academy.

The prolonged squeeze on younger people’s earnings is also reflected within the research, with 17% of young people feeling that an increase in earnings would be one of the greatest benefits if they could run their own business.

The research reveals that millennials are the most entrepreneurial generation in the country, with 82% of 18-34 years olds hopeful of running their own business one day. The drive to start their own business is almost 10% higher amongst millennials than in the older generations surveyed.

Brenda Wong, Community Manager, Debut:

It is heartening to see the millennial generation take back the control they sorely crave. Young people are continually battered by their circumstances, with increasing student loans, soaring rents and an economy ruled by austerity. It is therefore unsurprising that millennials would be attracted to venturing out on their own – as they may feel there is no employer that could fulfill their work needs.

If businesses are truly interested in retaining their millennial workforce, they would do well to listen to them. Feed their entrepreneurial spirit by allowing them time for side projects. Introduce a flexible working scheme. Encourage wage transparency, and implement a clear salary structure. In reality, millennials aren’t so different from other generations. After all, who wouldn’t want financial control, autonomy, and purposeful work?

Research findings

The research also reveals some interesting insights into the thinking of young people towards entrepreneurship:

  • 16% of millennials want to set their own hours by running their own business, while 14% want the chance to work from wherever they like;
  • 49% of millennials are attracted  to the idea of running a business where they advise people on their savings and investments – significantly more than the 33% of 35-54 years olds or the 16% of 55+ year olds who were asked the same question;
  • 32% of millennials say attracting customers would be the hardest thing about running their own business, followed by managing the business finances (28%);
  • 1 in 10 (7%) millennials would be more likely to change their mind about running a business if they had an inspirational role model, whilst nearly 5 in 10 (47%) said financial certainty was the most crucial factor;
  • A quarter (25%) of millennials felt a loss of income would deter them, followed closely (21%) by fear of failure.

Adrian Batchelor, Academy Director at St. James’s Place Academy:

“Our research reveals a clear appetite amongst millennials to start their own business, partly due to the frustrations felt within the workplace. As young workers have been hardest hit by the wage squeeze since the financial crisis, it’s no surprise they yearn for greater autonomy and reward for their hard work.

“It’s never been easier to strike out on your own, and we think starting a business should be high on young people’s lists for 2017.”

By Jörgen Sundberg

Founder of Undercover Recruiter & CEO of Link Humans, home of The Employer Brand Index.