Workplace Engagement and Boredom for Millennials

In my previous article, The Employer’s Guide To a Millennials’ First Day, I highlighted that Millennial interns and entry level employees might not be fully engaged on their first day(s) at work. From talking to more of my friends, I always realized that young professionals time and potential is not always fully utilized at their work place. I think it’s a problem and I decided to collect some data to verify the situation.

The Methodology

Using an online survey, students and recent graduates were asked about  their most recent internships and/or entry level positions. The Millennial survey takes were asked to give some information about their position and work and then were asked to evaluate how engaging and how boring their work is for each position. They were also asked how often did they have to go to their managers or mentors to ask for more work/assignments/projects. A variety of people took the survey including undergraduate and graduate students, and people with both Bachelors and Masters degrees. The student must have graduated in past five-years to participate in the survey.

A total of 62 job opportunities were evaluated (42 entry level jobs and 20 internships). As you can see in the plots below, we had three metrics.

  1. On a scale from 1-10, how engaging was your work experience?
  2. On a scale from 1-10, how boring was your work experience?
  3. On a scale from 1-10, how often did you have to ask your manager for work? 1 if you were being bombarded with work, 10 if you kept asking everyday for new projects

Only jobs that required a college degree or one in progress were considered. Jobs in retail or construction that did not really count as an entry level position were not considered.

The Results ( a bit science-y)

The results map an inverse correlation between how engaging vs how boring work is. The less engaging, the more boring the work was and vice versa. The important observation here is not that everyone is super engaged or that everyone is really bored at work. The problem is that there are people who are all over the range.

Wha’t significant here is that 35% of the jobs the employee was feeling 6-10 on the boredom scale which is quite high. The average boredom scale was 4.3. About 17% of jobs had an engagement score of 1-5 which is considered low. Further insights from the participants show that participants are biased (continue reading to find out more). 1

Looking at the engagement scale vs how much often did the employee have to ask for additional work, the more engaged works did not have to ask for work all the time, they were already included. We also observe the relation between asking for work vs the boredom scale of the job. We wanted to eliminate that boredom at the job is a result of laziness of the employee and not asking for more work. Because we see that the engagement and asking for work are inversely correlated we can eliminate that assumption. Jobs where the employee felt more bored, had the employee ask for work on average. Therefore we confirm assumption of the lazy employee. If anything after a certain point, we hypothesize those who are constantly bored at work and not challenged lose motivation and start asking for more challenging work eventually.
3  2 

There was no significant correlation between major field (STEM vs other), GPA (>=3.5 vs <3.5), time spent at job (<3 months vs 3+ months) and position type (Entry Level vs Internship) to how the employees evaluated their worked experience.

First we address the bias. For jobs that were described as boring, the boredom scores ranged from 2-10. 15 jobs were described as boring but the scores for boredom were not always high (6 of the scores were between 2-5). On the other hand those who described the job as engaging always gave the engagement score a high value (>5). Therefore when analyzing the data, we note that Millennial employees are observing a bias (potentially due to the negative connotation of ‘boredom at work’).

The More Interesting Results

More interesting were employees feedback about their jobs. We are very concerned with the 35% who are being bored. Participants in the survey were not required to elaborate on their jobs but many choose to do so. 50 of the 62 jobs had extra feedback that we observed in relation to the jobs scores.

We observe correlations of descriptions of positions and the scores they got. Many positions were described as boring, and a few as having a busy time and boring time.

Freedom in choosing one’s work and project’s highly correlated with high engagement scores and low boredom scores. Having no freedom at work correlated to high boredom.

Giving the employee the opportunity to learn and be challenged were the greatest driving factors for high engagement scores and low boredom scores.

The biggest contributors to boredom at the work place were not being given freedom, not having opportunity to learn and not being challenged. The first two were significantly more important in driving boredom factor up.

What’s the significance (and specifically to Millennials)

Many have already studied employee engagement in the workplace and what motivates employees. Forbes summarizes some well known trends here. There has not been much research about boredom in the workplace. Many of the articles online claim that boredom is a result of employee distraction, task repetitiveness  and not feeling challenged enough. But not much research has delved into how different generations define boredom and what this means in the workplace.

The small research experiment here shows that the most significant two factors for Millennial engagement were learning and freedom. Challenge was next but with lower significance than the previous two.

So Millennials care a lot about given the opportunity to learn news things on the job. Being given the freedom to pick their own projects and mange their success was another defining factor in lowering boredom and increasing employee job engagement in the workplace.

This widely contrasts the classic belief that boredom in the workplace arises from task repetitiveness and lack of challenge (for Millennials specifically). Though the stereotypes that older generations don’t like learning new skills might not be entirely true, it might be more true that Millennials are more willing to learn. Maybe Millennials enjoy learning more. Growing up in the information age, learning seems to be a huge factor in. Giving employees freedom to lower boredom and increase productivity matches with some research online.

Learning is important, now what

My purpose for running the small experiment, and for starting TheGhazStation and writing online is to engage in issues of the Millennials in the workplace. I want to ask new questions and help stir new discussions, bridge gaps and eventually engage everyone in really understanding how to maximize the utilization of Millennials in the workplace.

So now that we know learning is important, more research can delve into how learning is different from being challenged and how those two factors affect how Millennials feel in the workplace, and then compare that to different generational groups. Remember 35% of the Millennials felt bored more than they should so let’s fix that. If you are in a strategic management position at your company, how can you do that?

Share your thoughts

Do you agree or disagree, please feel free to share your comments below and I will try my best to get to everyone. Share this article on your social media profiles to help generate buzz and engage others to think about those questions.

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