Millennial IT Worker Survey: How to Manage “Generation Why?”

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Green House Data finds young tech workers strongly driven by compensation and the big picture, will not wait for gatekeepers

Millennials described themselves as less motivated by perks. Grappling with heavy debt loads and little to no nest egg, many are not in a position to take less money in order to work at more socially or environmentally conscious employers.

Green House Data, a national provider of managed IT infrastructure platforms including cloud hosting and colocation, and a leader in hybrid cloud services, today announced results from its millennial IT worker survey. The survey compiled responses from 565 IT professionals from executive to contract level workers within Millennial, Boomer, and Generation X age groups. Millennials surveyed clearly wanted to work on their terms, preferred open-ended leadership giving them agency, were more likely to leave a job for a better opportunity elsewhere, and were strongly driven by compensation.

“It was the trailblazing computer scientist Grace Hopper who said ‘It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission,’ and we hear this in tech circles all the time,” said Green House Data CEO Shawn Mills. “Millennials, for their part, seem to embody this spirit more fully than any other generation and if that's what entitlement looks like, I'm all for it.”


  • Millennials look for the "Why?" and theory behind tasks. This can come off as refusal or disobedience to non-millennials, but they just want context so they can think outside of the box.
  • Millennials are very task-driven. E.g., they do not care about being at work for 8 hours, they care how much they get done, and much like entrepreneurs, they prefer to ask for forgiveness, not permission.
  • Millennial entitlement in the workplace actually seems a myth. While millennials simply don't wait on gatekeepers (again, forgiveness), and they don’t seem to really care about seniority (again, tech, merit-based work), they aren’t asking for more benefits or more PTO than older workers.
  • Millennials mostly follow the money, whereas Boomers and Gen X all want more vacation time and more flex work.

Boomers and Xers have lots in common with Millennials

62% of millennials and 91% of BXers (Boomer and Gen X) said they would stay at a job six years or more if they were generally content with the work and culture. Both BX and Millennials ranked lack of opportunity and advancement as the top two reasons to leave a job they actually liked.

When given a choice between a job that pays $10K more annually or a job at an altruistic company (defined by strong commitment to sustainability, transparency, and community), Millennials go where the money is, in an almost mirror image split with older workers (Millennials 62% money, 38% altruistic vs. BXY 39%, 61%).

Millennials described themselves as less motivated by perks. Grappling with heavy debt loads and little to no nest egg, many are not in a position to take less money in order to work at more socially or environmentally conscious employers. This point ties back to the need for advancement, which would ostensibly translate into higher salaries.

Perhaps one of our most surprising finds was that when asked about job benefits, 43% of Millennials identified retirement funds as an essential component. Comparatively, 64% of BXY workers overwhelmingly insisted that paid time off (PTO) was the benefit they care about the most.

Managing Millennials

When we asked which kind of manager they preferred, Millennials were much more likely to choose attributes like self-direction, leading by example, long-term vision, and clear persuasion and feedback relating to tasks. Older generations, on the other hand, preferred team effort, professional development, and harmony.

Millennials are looking for a manager who is a pacesetter, leading by example with self-driven work and motivation. That doesn’t mean that you can leave them completely to their own devices, but rather that once they understand how their work supports the long-term direction, they are better able to work towards those goals. Specific task feedback is still highly valued. Older generations tended to prefer a coach type of manager, someone who gives them what they need to succeed. They were more likely to choose a leader who rewarded team efforts rather than individual initiative.

Millennials and BXers interestingly preferred the same leadership style, “Coaching,” most often and the same style, “Directive,” least often, as defined by Daniel Coleman in Leadership That Gets Results. 42% of BXers and 24% of Millennials chose the “Coaching” leadership style which focuses on the long-term development of employees and a “what do you need to succeed?" approach that motivates through opportunities for professional development.

On the flip side, only 2% of BXers and zero Millennials chose the “Directive” style that focuses on compliance. A "Do it the way I tell you," approach is meant to motivate via discipline and threats and also rewards successfully completing tasks as requested.

Entitlement, Optimism and Conclusions

In the course of compiling this data, we had to go back through it all and ask about entitlement, since that is the Millennial pink elephant in the room. While we certainly see that Millennials are more willing to leave jobs, the reasons that they do this are not tied to entitled reasons like office perks, flex work, or vacation. If anything, it's BXers who demand these types of perks.

It's true that Millennials do need reinforcement that their contributions are valued, and they do need to be shown the big picture. Ultimately the generation that was told they can do anything and be anything truly believes this, though they still have to figure out a way to pay their rent. Even though the oldest Millennials are by now in their mid-30’s, it's still an optimistic group. With a better handle on technology than any other generation and extreme comfort with rapid technology change, our data show that much like entrepreneurs, Millennials don't eschew hard work, but they absolutely do reject gatekeepers.

Green House Data is a managed services provider that helps organizations choose the IT platforms that will best enable their business, delivered from highly energy efficient, green data centers located across the country and paired with an industry-leading 15 Minute Hear from a Human℠ customer support SLA. The company is a certified VMware provider, HIPAA compliant, as well as a B-Corp and EPA Green Power Partner. Visit to learn more.

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Wendy Fox
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