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Millennials’ work values: differences across the school to work transition

Lisa K. J. Kuron (School of Business and Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada)
Sean T. Lyons (College of Management and Economics, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada)
Linda Schweitzer (Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada)
Eddy S.W. Ng (Rowe School of Business, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 7 September 2015




The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether work values vary across different life and career stages in a sample of Millennials.


The sample for this study was comprised of 906 Canadian Millennials (born between 1980 and 1994).


Pre-career and working Millennials varied in terms of the importance they placed on five work values – interesting work, achievement, good co-workers, doing work that helped people and salary – although these differences were small in magnitude. This suggests that Millennials’ work values are relatively stable as they grow older and gain work experience.

Research limitations/implications

A large body of research citing generational differences relies upon cross-sectional studies which compares different generations of individuals at different life stages, thus making it impossible to disentangle whether the differences are a result of generational or life-cycle effects. The findings that the importance of work values shift over the life course suggest that maturation effects may explain only a small portion of these differences in the emerging adulthood phase. This finding is particularly important for researchers who rely on samples of post-secondary students as this is a period of change from both an individual and career developmental perspective.

Practical implications

This research suggests that pre-career Millennials may be attracted to organizations which emphasize a collegial work environment and socially responsible culture. Once they are in the workforce, Millennials can be attracted and retained through attractive working conditions and remuneration. All Millennials are most likely to be attracted to workplaces that provide interesting work, work-life balance, job security and the information workers need to do their jobs effectively.


Developmental psychology and career development literature suggest that transitioning from school-to-work is a major life event. Past research has shown that the importance of work values change across this transition and that this change differs among social generations (i.e. Baby Boomers and Generation Xers), but research to date has not examined this transition in the current, millennial generation (born after 1980). We answer the call for researchers to understand Millennials as they progress in their careers, demonstrate that the shift in work values is different for Millennials, and provide actionable recommendations for managers.



Kuron, L.K.J., Lyons, S.T., Schweitzer, L. and Ng, E.S.W. (2015), "Millennials’ work values: differences across the school to work transition", Personnel Review, Vol. 44 No. 6, pp. 991-1009.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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