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3 Things Employers Should Understand About Singaporean Millennials’ Attitudes at Work

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Joanne Poh

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It’s pretty safe to say that baby boomer bosses in Singapore hate having to hire millennials, other than for the reason that they’re cheap.

This is, after all, the strawberry generation filled with entitled pricks, the irresponsible little assholes who quit jobs at a moments’ notice, want to get promoted on their second day on the job and have this curious obsession with flexibility.

But are Singapore millennials really that different from their older counterparts? The results of the Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision survey conducted by ManpowerGroup Singapore suggests that millennials and their bosses actually do have some common ground. Here are some key findings.

 

Many millennials expect to work past retirement

While millennials may sound like a pretty airy fairy bunch who’d rather be on an eternal, Instagrammable vacation than put in the grunt work to build a career, the survey found that the average young Singaporean is actually prepared to work for a long time—perhaps all his life.

39% of the millennials surveyed said they expected to work past the age of 65. 22% expected to still be working past 80, while 14% said they would work until the day they died.

While that may indicate a lack of confidence in retirement-readiness, it also explains a lot about why millennials are often quick to take a year off to go on sabbatical, or seem more open to dabbling in different fields and roles than their older counterparts.

To millennials, there’s a long road of work ahead of them. Many still expect to be working 30 or 40 years from now. So what’s the rush?

To them, a career is a marathon, not a sprint. 87% of Singaporean millennials expect to take breaks of over four weeks during their careers, while 48% plan to take breaks just to relax or travel. And considering the fact that 95% of millennials work over 40 hours a week, and 28% work over 50 hours, who can blame them?

 

Millennials do not want to be job hoppers, but will leave if unsatisfied

Singaporean millennials have been getting a lot of flak for being job hoppers. To a certain degree, this is to be expected given the current labour market. On the other hand, the survey found that most millennials do not set out to be job hoppers at all.

In fact, 50% of the millennials surveyed said they intended to stay with their current employer for the next few years or longer. This corroborates the results of a 2015 survey which found that 59% of Singaporeans believed in job loyalty and intended to stay in their jobs more than five years.

This indicates that millennials do not actually want to job hop. They do it only when presented with a reason, poor work life balance, lack of career progression, unreasonable bosses or not liking the company culture being some examples of why they leave.

It is likely that the mismatch between what millennials are looking for in an employer and what employers are willing to offer is causing the high turnover rates Singapore companies suffer from.

And let’s be very honest—how many local SMEs really bother to create a positive working environment and provide career progression opportunities for their employees? If you’ve worked in a typical local company, you’ll know that there’s a lot that can be done to improve.

In fact, if we’re perfectly honest, lots of baby boomers complain just as much about their jobs as millennials do. The main difference is that many older workers can’t afford to leave due to financial commitments.  SME bosses can see a high turnover rate as a warning that they should rethink their HR policies and the working conditions they provide their employees with.

 

Screw passion, money is still important

While millennials in other developed countries might be known for their idealism, those in Singapore are still a pretty pragmatic bunch.

Money is still the number one priority when it comes to what Singaporean millennials look for in a job, according to the survey. Promotion opportunities and holidays / time off tied for second place.

In fact, the number one factor that the surveyed millennials said would convince them to change jobs or stay in a current one was a pay increase or bonus, followed by new challenges and promotion. Work-life balance came in third.

This sends a signal to employers that money is still important to a great many millennials, and if they’re undercut they’ll simply go elsewhere. Employers will need to think about whether it’s more worthwhile to train their millennials employees extensively and then reward those who perform with the aim of retaining them, or to try and cut costs by paying less and then have to constantly replace their hires.

Furthermore, considering how highly ranked career progression and work-life balance are to millennials, employers who really cannot afford to pay them well should consider boosting their offerings in these two categories.

On the other hand, those who pay peanuts, don’t bother grooming their employees for better things and on top of that expect them to work long hours will have to accept that their millennial employees are going to keep quitting on them. Let’s hope they have better luck with Generation Z.

What do you think employers can do to appeal to millennial employees? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.