You can’t bribe today’s younger generation with a higher salary

While a good annual salary sounds nice, today’s younger workforce don’t always immediately give in to it. In fact, a high wage is not the priority anymore.

We are at a time where America’s largest percentage of the labor force, the millennials, are shifting the way we work. Priorities have changed from higher wages and cool office perks like fun lounge areas and game rooms to flexibility and space to grow. They understand that there’s more to life than slaving away and working a high-paying job that doesn’t fill them with joy, a sense of belonging, and freedom.

What’s wrong with high salary?

Now let’s be clear – this is not a money issue because who doesn’t want a big paycheck? This is a cultural issue. Generally speaking, high salaries are offered by big companies. The same companies are known for offering the aforementioned cool office perks. They can afford it… good for them!

However, these companies are also known to not value boundaries and demand so much from their workers. Deadlines are almost always tight. There’s always a lot to do. Things shift quickly and employees are expected to adapt in a snap of a finger. Burnout happens a lot. This begs the question, “Is all of this worth it?”

There’s nothing wrong with a high pay grade. But when you look beyond the numbers, there may be something wrong with the companies offering it. Perhaps that’s why some employees don’t stick around for long.

Remote work setup, flexible hours, and shorter workweeks

When you start working, it won’t take long before you realize that the line between work and personal life is as blurry as it can get. These two get intertwined, even for those really good at compartmentalizing. That’s just how it is. And millennials know that all too well. Millennials also have a better understanding of prioritizing themselves.

More and more people settle with average salary offers if the company they’re working for also understands self-care and self-growth. Beyond the numbers, what’s more vital for today’s workers include remote work setup, flexible hours, and shorter workweeks. These things may sound ridiculous to older generations of employees but to the younger ones, it’s all about self-care just as it is about money. They need breathing room, diversity in the workplace, flexibility, and healthy work culture. They care about balance and not just the paycheck they’re expecting on a monthly basis.

The desire for this level of flexibility and freedom is also the reason why many millennials have chosen the freelancing path. When you’re a freelancer, you’re the boss. It may not be the easiest path especially for starters but it’s definitely the perfect place to find the flexibility everyone is looking for.

The importance of keeping an open mind

The good news is, companies are starting to catch up. Many companies are now open to shorter workweeks and work-from-home setups, especially after the pandemic. And the fact that these companies are still operational says a lot.

It says employees who have the option to work from home and report for three or four days a week can still be very productive. In fact, with the breathing room and the chance to step away from work, they might just be more productive now than when they had to show up at the office five days a week.

Various studies show it would cost a company 6 to 9 months’ worth of salary to replace an employee. So if an employee that makes $70,000 annually decided to quit, it would cost the company $35,000-$52,500 to replace said employee. That’s a lot.

One effective way to avoid these costs is for companies to keep an open mind when it comes to valuing their people. Gone are the days when giving out bonuses and fun perks are enough to make people stay. Today, it’s all about understanding your employees as human beings, not just as someone you pay to do the job. Know their priorities, know what they want and don’t want. Know their plans and where they want to go in life. When it comes to keeping young employees and avoiding unnecessary transition costs, it’s all about keeping an open mind.


There’s a cliche saying that goes, “The only constant thing is change,” But it couldn’t be any truer. Today, young people cannot be bribed by high salaries anymore. Because the priority has shifted from a materialistic life to a life of ease and flexibility.

Tammy Danan
Tammy Danan

Tammy Danan is a storyteller who reports on environmental and social issues. She also covers productivity, creative pursuits, and the future of work. Her words have appeared in VICE, Audubon.org, ZEKE Magazine, Shutterstock, Toggl, among others. You may find her on Instagram @SlowFreelancing.