As of 2015, Millennials are officially the largest generation, and the effects of this demographic shift have many concerned about what this means for the workplace. There is a lot of controversy, disagreement, and even prejudice surrounding the Millennial generation. We want to put that to rest.
We’re going to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Millennials in the workforce, but were afraid to ask. Who they are, what they want, why the want it, how to motivate them, and even how to entice them to come work for you (and why you’d want them to).
Who Are Millennials?
First, some background. Millennials are those that fall in the 18-34 year old age bracket as of 2015. This age group falls after Gen X, which itself comes after the “Baby Boomer” age group. Now of course, it’s impossible to hold every member of any group of any size to the same generalizations, but there are some things we know about this generation.
Millennials, perhaps more than any previous generation, are challenged by the rapid change in technology during their lifetime. Think about the difference in technology from even twenty years ago, and compare it to what we have now. Pretty significant, right?
This rapid shift to the digital, connected, always-online world we now live in has been the defining moment for the Millennial generation, and it has left its mark.
Millennial Myths, and Why You Shouldn’t Buy into Them
Part of the “millennial controversy”, particularly in the workplace, is the dramatic disparity between the perception of this oft-maligned generation, and the reality. For example:
Myth #1: Millennials are Lazy at Work
It’s an all too common refrain, both online and at the office. This new generation is lazy. This generation wants a participation trophy. Millennials don’t like hard work. They don’t want to put in any effort.
This is actually completely false. In fact, several studies have shown that millennials actually work harder, sacrifice more, and are more likely to put in extra effort than their older colleagues at the office. This can easily bring friction into the office if you have older employees that undervalue or even become dismissive of younger workers based on what has become a stereotype that is a ubiquitous as it is false. If you have a bit of an age gap in the office, make sure you’re embracing it as a diversity of experience, rather than letting it form a troublesome divide.
Myth #2: Millennials are Entitled
The prevailing myth that millennials are all entitled and want “participation trophies” needs to die. It’s a fairly well-acknowledged problem with our species that we tend to see the younger generations as lazy and entitled, and it’s safe to say none of us should be surprised that similar accusations have been leveled at nearly every generation. The first caveman to use a stick to hunt was probably viewed as a feckless layabout who felt he was too good to run down his dinner and catch it by hand.
In truth, while millennials may seem entitled, it’s an entitlement that’s grounded in ambition. Never before in history has there been a generation so focused on obtaining managerial and leadership roles, so much so that this generation is full of more entrepreneurs than any before it. This is a generation that is driven by dreams of management, and by a morbid fear of taking orders from anyone they feel is less qualified.
Myth #3: Millennials are Apathetic
The apathetic, couldn’t-care-less, bored teenager stereotype has been hanging around the younger generations for a while now. In truth, it too has been misapplied to millennials (are you noticing a pattern?) It turns out, millennials are actually so concerned with the world around them that rates of clinical anxiety are skyrocketing.
Why then does it seem like this generation is unconcerned? Because their priorities have shifted. It turns out, millennials are less focused on salary, and more focused on being engaged and challenged by their work. They want to learn. To grow. To do away with the work-life balance in favor of bringing work into the realm of things they’d be doing anyway. This is the first generation to take “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” as a commandment from on high, rather than a slightly cliched aphorism.
They are also more concerned with social and civic responsibility, both on a corporate level, and individually, sometimes even to the point where they won’t work for a company that they feel benefits from practices that exploit people, or the environment.
Why You Want Them
All this dovetails nicely into why you should be wanting to bring the millennial influence into the workplace if you want to be successful. As of now, they are not only the largest generation, they’re the largest part of the workforce and the largest consumer demographic. Bringing in this new perspective helps you not only leverage new ideas and methodologies, but it also brings in that much needed first-hand experience that can tell you exactly what your customers want. Millennial habits are already influencing markets in unbelievable ways. And they don’t appear to be interested in stopping to let businesses adapt, or for employers to change their practice. Instead, the new generation is becoming more and more willing to shrug off the older way of doing things. And making that switch along with them is going to be vital for the long-term success of any business.