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"Millennial" MBAs Choose Work-Life Balance Over Cash And Careers


Thu Nov 13 2014

“Millennials” value work-life balance and personal development over money and status: that is the key finding of research published this week by INSEAD, the global business school.

Millennials – those born between the early 1980s and late 1990s – make up the bulk of most MBA classes, and will become the dominant workforce of the future.

The INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute (EMI), the HEAD Foundation and Universum surveyed 16,000 people in 42 countries.

Of those, 73% chose work-life balance over a higher salary, and 82% value work-life balance over their position in a company. Unlike generations before them, 42% of millennials agree or strongly agree they would rather have no job than one they hate.

However, the study found that they are still ambitious and believe in their own ability to steer their careers.

Yet these attitudes are one reason why there has been a shift in MBA’s career focus to more socially impactful roles, and away from banking. Today, innovative technology companies and entrepreneurs are business students’ role models.

At Wharton School, 50% more MBAs are starting businesses or are self-employed than five years ago. At London Business School, the percentage of MBA graduates going into financial services fell from to 28% from 46% between 2007 and last year. And the percentage going into tech companies more than tripled in that time, from 6% to 20%.

Petter Nylander, Universum CEO, said that companies that cater to the needs of millennials will lead in attracting, recruiting and retaining them.

“In the near future, millennials will occupy every consequential leadership position in the world, be it in business, academia, government or in the non-profit sector,” said Henrik Bresman, associate professor of organisational behaviour at INSEAD.

But Vinika Rao, executive director of INSEAD EMI, said that the availability of trained talent is one of the impediments to doing business in some countries.

 She added that it’s imperative to understand what influences the career decisions and leadership behaviour of this generation.

Although work-life balance is now more important to MBAs, becoming a leader or manager is a key career driver for millennials, with 41% of those surveyed saying it is “very” important to them.

The primary drivers for becoming a leader are money, influence and the opportunity to have a strategic role, according to the research.

The findings echo a similar study carried out earlier this year by QS, which surveyed more than 5,500 MBA applicants and found that 55% of respondents want to take up a leadership position – but just 33% are studying an MBA to boost their salaries.

According to INSEAD’s survey, only 24% of millennials “strongly” want a fast-track career with constant promotions. Most millennials’ aims are to grow and learn new things – 45% – the second most important goal in their life, after work-life balance.

The friendliness of the people is the most important criterion of a future employers’ culture, chosen by 64% of respondents.

The biggest fear for 40% of respondents globally is to get stuck in a job with no development opportunities.

However, this group wants to lead in different ways. There are stark differences between regions in how they view a perfect manager.

Empowerment is valued in North America, western Europe and in Africa, whereas fairness and expertise are key in central and eastern Europe, according to the research.

Millennials also expect a high-touch approach to management. When asked how often they expect to receive feedback on their performance from managers, an average of 26% expects weekly feedback. This climbs to 35% in central and eastern Europe, 31% in North America and 30% in the Middle East.

Vinika said that by reaching out to people in these economies, the data show why over-simplified generalizations about them can prove dangerous to businesses and policy-makers.

But for this generation of MBAs, many sectors have already begun to lose some of their lustre.