The Millennial In the Workplace

Smiling Young Businesswoman With People In BackgroundI am a millennial—I can’t deny it. I was born in 1992, right in the middle of the millennial generation range. I grew up in a world where children were showered with praise and everyone was a winner on Sports Day. I’ve lived in the shadow of September 11th and repeated recessions. Oh, and I love Pokémon Go, hash tags, and taking a good selfie! If you ask the people around me, they’ll probably tell you I have some of the stereotypical attributes of a millennial: entitled; easily sidetracked by technology; and wanting a better balance between my work life, my family life, and my hobbies.

Pew Research even has a quiz called “How millennial are you?” that shows where you fit on the scale and how you compare with others in your generation. I’m not entirely sure how scientific this is, but I scored a whopping 99 out of 100.

The definition  of a millennial varies depending on where you get your facts and figures—but the consensus seems to be that it’s a person born between 1980 and the mid-1990s. I particularly like Fortune’s definition: “those aged between 18 and 34 in 2015.”

Dan Schawbel has collated a list of some facts about millennials, if you want to do further research about this generation. Some of the facts are shocking, including their collective $1 trillion in student debts; or that only 6 out of 10 millennials have jobs—and half of those jobs are part-time. The article is a couple of years old now but it’s a good starting point for an overview.

It doesn’t take a scientist to identify that the stereotypical attributes of a millennial I outlined above could easily be interpreted to be negative traits; but millennials are getting fed up of getting a bad rap. A quick search online of the word millennial brings up a plethora of articles and blogs about how the negative view many people have of millennials is probably not deserved.

As workplaces move into the future, they’re going to need to start looking at millennials a little differently. This generation currently makes up one-third of the world’s workforce and by 2025, they will account for 75%. If business leaders continue to look at millennials with the aforementioned negative slant, they won’t be able to utilise this growing workforce to the best of their ability.

The growing proportion of millennials in business actually isn’t bad news at all. They’re set to be the most educated generation in history. Growing up in a world filled with negativity and recession has made them resilient, adaptable, and innovative when put in the right environment. They’re more determined than previous generations to prove themselves worthy in the job market because they’ve grown up without knowing job security. And, as the first generation that doesn’t remember what life was like before smart phones and the internet, they’re an excellent resource when it comes to understanding and harnessing the power of technology.

To get the best from the millennial generation it’s important to be able to understand them fully. Business leaders will need to adapt their ways of working to harness the millennial contribution.

Millennials are notable for their unwavering commitment to friends, family, and hobbies—even at the expense of face time at work. Research conducted by Bentley University found that 75% of millennials see themselves as authentic and are not willing to compromise their family and personal values. Companies on the “100 Best Workplaces for Millennials” list are more likely to offer flexible scheduling (76% vs. 63% for other companies), telecommuting options (82% vs. 74%), paid sabbaticals (15% vs. 11%) and paid volunteer days (46% vs. 39%.) More winning millennial-friendly companies offer perks like massages (65% vs. 26%) and fitness classes (70% vs. 24%) to their workforce. You would need to be living in a bubble to have missed the reports on Google’s employee perks or Virgin’s unlimited holiday policy.

The more you dig into the research behind the millennial generation, the more it seems that what they’re looking for is fairness, flexibility, and tolerance. They’ve grown up knowing insecurity. As a result, they’re inclined to work harder and they expect to be rewarded and recognised for their achievements. They are happy to look for work elsewhere if their workplace doesn’t provide a work-life balance that allows them to prioritise things that are important to them—which is not, necessarily, their work.

Millennials are a highly skilled, highly informed workforce with a lot of potential—so being an employer that stands out to them is important. If your organization can offer them:

  • a focus on the shorter term (to attract and retain those pesky job-hoppers);
  • compensation that is based on their own performance and assurance that the only bar to their success is their own ability;
  • greater flexibility for an optimal work-life balance; and
  • access to an abundance of growth and learning opportunities…

…you’ll send out a positive, inviting message. And you will harness the power and potential of this intelligent, productive generation as they become a larger and larger share of your workforce.

9 thoughts on “The Millennial In the Workplace

  1. The most desirable and laudable characteristics of millennials have been around for more than my 50 years of hiring people and many of those attributes are what we looked for in our hiring practices. It’s not about the age or the generation but rather about the qualities of the people that make them excellent colleagues and collaborators.

  2. Dear M,

    As a baby boomer and a business consultant who hires or facilitates the hiring of employees, we don’t really care about your generational needs. Until you realize the true purpose for which you are employees you are at a disadvantage and will end up costing your employer money that will not provide a return on their investment. A great employer will give you clarity of purpose, development and opportunity but your longevity and loyalty will affect your career and future employment.

  3. Every generation thinks it is special and see things differently than generations before. In some respects each is right and in other respects each has a lot to learn. Each generation thinks it has greater talent and skills than those before, yet none have knowledge and wisdom gained by failure, experience, listening and observing. Like others before, millennials will make their mark and employers will do well to adjust their mentoring style and expectations to find success. Millennials will also have a hard time breaking through their self-centered attitude, seeing it as a problem and learning to contribute in a diverse team. I see millennials having more problems with older generations than older generations with millennials. As a teacher, I foresee many talented students struggling until they look hard at that selfie and realize they are looking at the source of much of their struggle. I do wish you the best

  4. The mountains of articles on the subject of millennials, both supportive and critical, seem to have missed one major point that does not require a generational label – actually working at something you enjoy. Regardless of the year you were born, if you love the work you do, work-life balance is a lot easier to achieve. When workers of all generations recognize that, and understand it is on them and not the employer to put themselves in those positions, the whole issue evaporates.

  5. Very interesting thoughts. We definitely need more fairness, flexibility and tolerance in our work places, and in general. It’s great that millennials seem to be helping to galvanise that change! Thanks for sharing.

  6. I know Millennials get a lot of flack for being lazy and entitled. Recently read a blog post by CEO of Oracle, Mark Hurd, about getting behind this generation. They are the future- might not be such a bad idea.

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