Start-ups and their workplace perks – like “unlimited” annual leave - might command the headlines but they apparently aren’t seen by young people as particularly attractive places to work.
New research by Infosys shows that less than one in ten young people aged between 16 and 25 would “most like to work for” a start-up – and young Australians have the lowest level of desire among any of the nine countries surveyed.
“Despite the high profile of many of the most successful global entrepreneurs today – some of whom are not much older than the respondents in this research – fast-paced change and the prospect of future disruption in the labour market are encouraging a more conservative workplace mindset among young people,” the firm said.
Such findings would no doubt be helpful for large companies like Infosys as they try to secure new, young talent.
But the study shows young people aren’t yet ready to dismiss the idea of start-ups entirely.
And more broadly, the Infosys research is challenged by an existing body of research and experience that finds the largest organisations are those least likely to effectively secure the services of young people.
While they might not be particularly enamoured to work at someone else’s start-up, 15 percent of those surveyed by Infosys globally indicate that they’d like to work for themselves.
Taken together, that’s a market of 20-plus percent of young people that favour non-traditional – and non-conservative – employment routes.
Infosys believes money – and to a lesser extent, creativity – are dominant motivating factors for young people in choosing these paths.
“The few who are interested in working for themselves show a stronger desire for personal wealth,” the firm said.
“Those who want to work for a start-up are also strongly motivated by wealth accumulation, but it is their need for creativity that dominates.”
One reason young people might be hesitant to commit themselves to start-up life – aside from risk aversion or conservatism – is that some of the glamour associated with the sector may be starting to wear off.
The latest edition of The Economist warns of the dark side of workplaces – such as those of large tech firms and start-ups – that offer a multitude of enticements to workers.
“Tech firms that offer lavish perks to their staff do not do so out of the goodness of their hearts. They offer them because they expect people to work so hard that they will not have time for such mundane things as buying lunch or popping to the dry-cleaners,” the Economist writes.
“As Gerald Ledford of the University of Southern California’s business school puts it, they are ‘golden handcuffs’ to keep people at their desks.”
The Infosys study leans more towards the idea that young people might favour “stability and progression” over start-up cool.
Big company, bigger problems?
Of course, there is plenty of research to counter the idea that young people prefer stability over start-ups.
Take this study by Accenture where only 15 percent of US college graduates said they’d “prefer” to work at large corporations.
Or this 2012 research by Payscale showing those aged 18 to 29 are “more drawn to smaller companies that offer flexibility, embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and don't restrict social media use.”
Or even this first-hand account of trying to lure young people to work at Nike.
“I had been looking for months for a project manager with less than three years of experience,” Nike senior software architect Nishant Bhajaria said.
“Once I narrowed down my search to the candidates that could do the job, something funny happened. They kept turning me down.
“What was especially frustrating was that they were not turning me down for more money or bigger brand names.
“Most of them were accepting jobs at smaller companies that were not as established; some opted for freelance work; some baulked at the commute our suburban offices.
“Finding a project manager was proving harder than finding true love.”