As part of our series on Employee Experience we look at the ways society has changed and what impact that has on those joining the workforce today.

This article is part of a series on Employee Experience.

Uncomfortable with many of the assumptions we hear about employees, we interviewed a mix of young frontline and knowledge workers, with degrees and without, and from a wide range of backgrounds. We sought to understand how they feel about work, where the differences lie and whether anything we think we know about them is true.

The influence of parents on the life choices of their offspring is huge. They are our first role-models and their behaviour directly influences our own. We grow up believing what they believe, and valuing what they value.

But it’s important for young people to recognise the different context in which they live and update their expectations accordingly. In the late 90s it took the average person three years to save enough money for a house deposit, today it takes twenty-two. Today, young people join the labour force burdened by student debt from earning a degree that no longer distinguishes them in a market where 42% have graduated from higher education.

And still young people place pressure on themselves to live up to the expectations of life’s milestones. A twenty-three-year-old told us: “I have high expectations of myself. Am I working hard enough, fast enough to get where [my parents] are?” and another, “I feel pressure to make sure that I am where I should be in terms of where I’m headed, career wise and other aspects of life. That I’m on the right track to buying a house and other milestones.”

In the US, there is only a 50% chance that you’ll earn more than your parents did at the same age. In the 50s it was almost a given. Fewer millennials own their own home than previous generations at the same age and fewer are employed at all. Is it any wonder 18-21 year olds today report the highest levels of stress and anxiety?

Rather than believe the accepted wisdom that young workers are entitled job-hoppers who don’t want to speak to their colleagues, employers should recognise these fundamental shifts and use that knowledge to better attract and, crucially, support their employees.

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