Survey Findings

Finding Two: Millennials Want Achievable, Short-Term Goals

Many Millennials have spent a lifetime focused on quizzes, test scores, letter grades, specialized credentials, and résumés overflowing with bulleted accomplishments—and they are now bringing this notch-in-my-belt achievement ethic to the workplace. They want explicit directions. They want immediate targets. They want constant reviews. Our survey found that 74 percent of Millennials liked their supervisors to set “specific, short-term goals that I know I can achieve”—versus 58 percent of older Gen Xers and only 51 percent of older Boomers.

This workplace preference reflects the Millennials’ generational persona. They have been raised to believe that achievements should be assessed frequently according to objective, institutional benchmarks. Forty years ago, young Boomers launched a growing resistance to being ranked and sorted by “the system.” Today, Millennials find themselves again yearning to achieve and find a place within the system. Making the system work means avoiding any unnecessary risks. And to avoid risks, Millennials need to know exactly what they are expected to accomplish, and by when, so they can tell immediately if they are not on the right track.

Employers can harness this new kind of achievement ethic to their benefit. True, Millennials may not be at their best with long-term, vaguely defined independent projects. But in settings with clear and frequent achievement benchmarks, today’s young people are using disciplined preparation to perform at a level far beyond what was ever expected of today’s older workplace generations when they were young.