PwC’s NextGen: A global generational study

Millennial Workers Want Greater Flexibility, Work/Life Balance, Global Opportunities

How should organisations adapt their companies to fit the demands of both Millennial and non-Millennial employees? Are stereotypes of Millennials accurate?  Do Millennials and non-Millenials have anything in common?

Our study explores these questions and more. Discover what PwC employees and partners across the globe – including people from different generations, career states and cultural backgrounds – shared about their attitudes in the workplace, and how Millennials in particular factor into the big picture.

About the study:

This comprehensive and global generational study conducted by PwC, the University of Southern California and the London Business School looks into the aspirations, work styles and values of “Millennial”/”Generation Y” employees (those born between 1980 and 1995).

The study, which included more than 40,000 responses from Millennials and non-Millennials alike, captures the various forces at play that are influencing the experience of Millennials. These include: workplace culture, communication and work styles, compensation and career structure, career development and opportunities and work/life balance.

Key learnings

Many Millennial employees are unconvinced that excessive work demands are worth the sacrifices to their personal life.

Employment at professional services organisations like PwC can come with considerable work demands. While meeting such demands can have significant rewards in an employee’s future career (e.g. rapid advancement), Millennials value work/life balance, and the majority of them are unwilling to commit to making work lives an exclusive priority, even with the promise of substantial compensation later on.

Millennial employees are not alone in wanting greater flexibility at work.

Millennials want more flexibility, e.g. the opportunity to shift hours to night, if necessary. But so do non-Millennials, in equal numbers. In fact, a significant number from all generations want a flexible work schedule  so much that they would be willing to give up pay and delay promotions in order to get it.

Millennials say that a strong cohesive, team-oriented culture at work and opportunities for interesting work—including assignments around the world—are important, even more so than their non-Millennial counterparts.

Millennials place a high priority on workplace culture and desire a work environment that emphasises teamwork and a sense of community. They also value transparency (especially as it relates to decisions about their careers). They want and need the support of their supervisors, and also want the chance to explore overseas positions. Non-Millennials express similar attitudes, but not to the same degree as Millennials.

Many—but not all—stereotypes about Millennials are untrue.

Despite a reputation perhaps to the contrary, the Millennial generation have grown up not expecting their organisations to meet all of their needs, including job security. Despite a natural aptitude for electronic forms of communication, email and social media platforms are not always Millennials’ communication vehicles of choice. Also, despite a common perception that Millennials are not as committed or hard working as non-Millennials, the study effectively revealed they are as equally committed to their work

Millennial attitudes are not totally universal, although there is significant commonality between the United States/Canada and Western Europe.

For example, Millennial workers in every PwC firm around the world aspire to have greater work/life balance. However, the issue is particularly important for Millennials in the more developed economies of North America and Europe and in the East region. Additionally, we discovered in a few countries that cultural norms can ‘trump’ Millennial views that surfaced elsewhere in the world.

While the same basic drivers of retention exist for both Millennials and non-Millennials, their relative importance varies.

Millennials have a greater expectation to be supported and appreciated in return for their contributions, and to be part of a cohesive team. Flexibility in where they work and how much they work is also a key driver in Millennial satisfaction. This view differs in importance from that of the non-Millennial generation, which places greater importance on pay and development opportunities.


The NextGen study found a number of factors that drive employees’ emotional connection with PwC and, therefore, retention. These factors can be categorised into four groups:

  • Balance and workload
  • Engaging work, development and opportunities
  • People and teams—My PwC community
  • Competitive pay and job opportunities

What PwC has learned

As a result of its NextGen study, PwC is better prepared to address the challenges of the future, understanding more clearly that the Millennial generation is pushing all organisations closer to the work world many of them want. The insights gained from the study will also help us understand the key factors that drive employee engagement and retention.

By all accounts, PwC’s attention to these factors is paying dividends. In 2012, PwC once again secured its position as the world’s largest network of professional services firms, while at the same time it has received the highest marks on the annual survey from among the Big Four. Across the globe, individual firms are also accumulating similar accolades.

Most notable perhaps is the fact that PwC’s global turnover rate continues to decline while people engagement around the globe is increasing. However, it will be critically important that we continue to invest time and energy into listening to our partners and staff, and use the information collected to explore new and innovative ways to deliver an exceptional experience to our people.

What organisations can learn

There are a number of key considerations organisations should think about in light of the findings of the NextGen study. For example, organisations may wish to:

  • Create a flexible work culture
  • Fully leverage technology
  • Increase Transparency around compensation, rewards and career decisions.
  • Build a sense of community
  • Consider introducing or accelerating your global mobility program
  • Evaluate the impact that Millennials may have on the contingent workforce strategy of your organisation.
  • Invest time, resources and energy to listen and stay connected with your people.
  • Remember that one size does not fit all.