HR teams might have it all wrong Merrill Corporation survey provides unique insights

New professionals who are currently in their first jobs, and young professionals looking to make their next career moves, find themselves in one of the hottest job markets in recent memory. In this job-seeker friendly environment, candidates are looking at factors beyond salary and benefits when making decisions about their next move.

Earlier this year, Merrill Corporation queried several hundred junior associates working across the financial services industry to gather perspective on the key factors these next-generation leaders consider when evaluating employers and planning their personal career trajectories.

Their opinions and experiences provide rich data regarding what young professionals consider most important for themselves right now – and for the workplaces of the future – offering human resources professionals and talent recruiters some clear guidance as they seek to transform the way they do business in an increasingly competitive hiring environment.

The headlines matter

When considering a job offer, company reputation and cultural fit were the top concerns among young professionals when considering an employer.  Most respondents (58 percent) noted that a company’s reputation was a critical factor when accepting or declining a job offer, while more than half indicated culture fit is just as significant.

For corporations, this insight is confirmation that the youngest professional generation, often maligned as the “smart-phone generation” with limited attention spans, is keenly aware of the news. If your company finds itself in the news for the wrong reasons, the people you hope to hire will notice.

Additionally, location (43 percent), compensation (38 percent) and work-life balance (30 percent) were notable key factors in their decision-making-process.

Interestingly, there were variations across the employer spectrum. Employer reputation was a major factor for young professionals working at law firms (68 percent) and banks (64 percent). Cultural fit was the single most important factor (64 percent) for respondents working at banks and in private equity.

Moving beyond location

Location and compensation are important factors for young professionals when making major career decisions.

Male respondents indicated they are more likely than women to consider both location (46 percent to 37 percent) and compensation (42 percent to 29 percent) when determining an employer, while female respondents are more likely to take work-life flexibility into account (34 percent to 27 percent) when plotting their career moves.

With more than half of respondents listing cultural fit as an important factor, it is evident that work-life flexibility is becoming increasingly important as organizations look to recruit new talent.

A boss should be more than a boss

Young professionals are increasingly seeking bosses and supervisors who go beyond giving orders and task-mastering; they are seeking leadership that helps them grow professionally. This trend was particularly evident among capital markets respondents, who indicated they wish their boss was a better mentor (46 percent) or a better manager (36 percent).

Fifty-eight percent of very new professionals – those who are less than two years into their careers – indicated a strong desire to have better overall mentorship throughout the workplace.

These results highlight that the youngest members of the workforce are hungry for more knowledge and clearer guidance to help them build careers that include both professional success and personal fulfillment.

More than a paycheck

When it comes to employer spending, capital markets employees are also seeking environments that emphasize investments beyond simply handing out paychecks. More than half (53 percent) of respondents noted a desire to see companies spend more on performance bonuses. Additionally, 45 percent would like to see more spending on training and 38 percent see a need for increased spending on benefits.

Digging deeper, research revealed critical data about employer spending preferences. Strong percentages of men (55 percent) and women (49 percent) were in favor of more spending on bonuses.

Additionally, those in the private equity industry (59 percent) were in favor of employers dedicating funds toward employee bonuses, while respondents who work in banking placed value on increased training (55 percent), more investments in benefits (45 percent) and more spending on facilities (39 percent).

Stay put or move on?

It’s natural for any professional to wonder where their career might be years, or even decades, down the road. Only 40 percent of survey-takers expect their professional futures to be with their current type of employer.

When envisioning their future career steps, men and women have different trajectories. Thirty-nine percent of men and 20 percent of women are eyeing careers in private equity. In the realm of entrepreneurial ventures, 28 percent of men and 21 percent of women indicated interest. Meanwhile, investment banking held appeal for 19 percent of men, but only five percent of women.

Notably, those who already work in private equity (67 percent) were the most likely to predict that they will stay with the same type of employer, emphasizing the strong job satisfaction of those within this industry.

What does the future hold?

This critical insight from young professionals working in financial services debunks much of the conventional wisdom that we’ve heard about Millennials. Instead, it lends clear credibility to the drive, engagement and forward-thinking perspective that this generation brings to the workforce. Purpose-driven and thoughtful, they are looking at their paths with unique goals and a clear sense of how they want their careers to unfold. To recruit and retain the best young talent, organizations across all industries will need to embrace these changing workforce dynamics in order to benefit from the skills and perspectives of today’s emerging talent.


Jackie Olson is vice president, Human Resources, for Merrill Corporation. Merrill is the leading SaaS provider for professionals in the deal-making community, helping power secure, intelligent due diligence for thousands of deals in more than 170 countries.