The future of work: A reorientation guide

Case studies

The future of work: A reorientation guide

Canada, survey report, March 2015

A survey of millennial and non-millennial Canadians revealed that, contrary to popular opinion, Generations’ values about work are more alike than different. We differ, to some degree, in how we work, not why. Understanding these minor differences will help organisations adapt by creating work environments which are more social, more technological and less hierarchical. By Juliet Bourke - Consulting, Partner.

There has been much media coverage about how different Millennials are different from previous Generations, in terms of their values, expectations and communication styles, but is this really the case? The answers are important because many organisations have crafted workplace strategies to deal differently to each Generational cohort. Could it be that differences between Generations, if they do exist, are greatly exaggerated, thus leading to wasted time and attention? Not only that, could these exaggerations play into, and cement, age-based stereotypes?

In order to answer these questions, Deloitte Canada conducted a survey of almost 1,000 white collar workers, asking people about their values, expectations and communication preferences. In essence Deloitte found that millennials and non-millennials are more similar than different, sharing similar values and attitudes towards work. Where they differ relates to how they like to execute their work, and this insight offers ideas about how workplaces can adapt to their more recent entrants.


The goal of the research was to test assumptions about millennial professionals and provide a fact-base on which to help shape thinking about the workplace of the future – both at Deloitte and with clients.

An online survey was conducted in August 2014, drawing in 502 respondents who were representative of Canada’s workforce in addition to 493 Deloitte millennials. Survey respondents met the following qualifying criteria: Millennial (18-34 yrs.), Generation X (35-49 yrs.) and Boomers (50-60 yrs.). They were also full-time, salaried, white-collar employees from a mix of industries, company sizes and provinces/territories. Deloitte respondents were all millennials (18-34 yrs.) employed by the firm; their results were not included in the published report.

Overall Deloitte found that millennials and non-millennials were more similar than expected, with minor differences in relation to communication preferences and work/life boundaries. The findings were categorised in terms of:

  1. Who we were/who we are: What work is and why we work
  2. How we work
  3. The future of work - a re-orientation guide: Technology immersion; Communications; Time and place.

1. Who we were/who we are: What work is and why we work

Deloitte found that millennials and non-millennials have similar attitudes towards the workplace. In particular both groups seek to add value (70% millennials, 76% non-millennials), be part of a great organisation (69% millennials, 69% non-millennials) and connect with colleagues (65% millennials, 64% non-millennials). Both groups believe that they work at places where “their employer can make a difference (58% millennials, 60% non-millennials), but question the social conscience of their organisations (37% millennials and 36% non-millennials) and value of its outputs. In sum, millennials and non-millennials shared views about why they worked and their satisfaction levels with organisational purpose and outputs.

2. How we work

Both millennials and non-millennials preferred face-to-face interactions over virtual forms of communication (i.e. this mode was ranked first by millennials and non-millennials) and office based over non-office based interactions. Notwithstanding these broad similarities, intriguing differences emerged between both groups. In particular, non-millennials preferred face-to-face interactions even more than millennials (43% vs 31%), and non-millennials preferred communicating in formal scheduled meetings much more than millennials (55% vs 34%).

3. The future of work - a re-orientation guide: Technology immersion; Communications; Time and place 

By far the largest differences between the Generations lay in technology usage and the content of online and office communications. In particular, millennials were much more likely to use the internet for research (58% vs 36%) and to check their phone constantly (41% vs 24%). In relation to online communications, non-millennials were much more cautious about online posts, with two-thirds agreeing “I do not post anything on social media that is not appropriate for my colleagues to see” compared with half of millennials. Moreover, fewer non-millennials would discuss weekend plans with colleagues (26% vs 37%), relationships (5% vs 15%) or restaurants (7% vs 14%). Given this context it is somewhat surprising that non-millennials were more likely to have Facebook friends who were work colleagues (57% vs 37%).

Notwithstanding these differences in relation to technology usage and disclosure, both millennials and non-millennials agreed that they would prefer to work in an office with a door (54% millennials, 62% non-millennials), rather than in a cubicle or open plan. Similarly only 1 in 10, millennial or non-millennial, would prefer to work from home.

Conclusion and implications

Deloitte concluded, “As our study shows, contrary to popular wisdom, most of us already share the same values. Loyalty and commitment are not going out of style. The rising generation of workers and leaders today is not that different from previous ones. Millennial respondents to our survey want the same things as their older counterparts in the work force. They just go about it a little bit differently”.

Where this study adds value to current discussions about the expectations of the millennial workforce is to define “a little bit differently” and reject broad-sweeping generalizations that pitch millennials and non-millennials as having completely different needs. Those differences relate more to how work is undertaken and some of the blurred boundaries between work and socializing.

To read the full report, The future of work: A reorientation guide see The future of work or email Karen Pastakia, Human Capital Partner, Deloitte

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