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Attack of the Millennials!

Millennials get a lot of negative publicity from news and business media outlets for being (pick one…or more): lazy, uncommitted, self-centered, entitled, being socially awkward, disloyal, transient, etc. etc.
I’m a baby boomer, old enough to remember when the ‘old guard’ was saying the same thing about us.  The good news for millennials (who take the long view) is that they too, will be able to write disparaging remarks about whatever-term-is-used to describe those unfortunate souls who are born in, say, 2020-2040.  In fact, maybe we should start that baby generation naming contest now?
According the US Census Bureau, millennials (born 1982-2000) now outnumber baby boomers: 83 vs. 75 million.1

b7e5e6dc-f048-4563-80f4-c35fea8536bfThis dominant group also gets a lot of (more than their fair share of?) negative publicity:

• Why Millennials in the Workplace ‘Don’t Care,’ and 4 Things You Can Do
SNL skit

Even anecdotally, I hear a lot of company leaders/HR-executives lament dealing with this group of younger employees.  When I do public speaking engagements, I’m often asked about millennials during Q/A sessions.  It is a topic on a lot of people’s minds.
If we step back from the ledge a bit and look at the research data, the truth is that they are not very different from you/me….at least as when we were at that age.
PwC did a nice international study a couple of years ago with a lot of people/data and came to these conclusions:2

  • Many Millennial employees are unconvinced that excessive work demands are worth the sacrifices to their personal life.
  • Millennial employees are not alone in wanting greater flexibility at work.  More senior workers want this as well.
  • Millennials say that creating a strong cohesive, team-oriented culture at work and providing opportunities for interesting work are important – even more so than their non-Millennial counterparts.
  • Many, but not all, stereotypes about millennials are untrue.  They are just as committed to work as their counterparts.
  • Millennials place a greater emphasis on being supported and appreciated than their counterparts.

Forbes recently talked about millennials being job-hoppers since their average tenure is 2 years (vs. 5 years of Gen X and 7 years for baby boomers).3

The article also pointed out that millennials want a ‘coach’ and not a boss.

I have interviewed/tested thousands of job applicants for 25 years and younger employees ALWAYS job-hop—in part because they are trying to find their lot in life.  This is one reason why many companies have abandoned the old entry-level, ‘management trainee’ programs – because younger employees typically leave the employer before returning an adequate ROI.

My take-away from the above research – it is that we may need to provide millennials with greater autonomy/flexibility in terms of how they do their job and show them greater appreciation (perhaps more than we feel is justified) for jobs well-done.

We also need to recognize that we were once in their shoes.

1. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-113.html
2. http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/hr-management-services/publications/assets/pwc-nextgen.pdf
3. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jefffromm/2015/11/06/millennials-in-the-workplace-they-dont-need-trophies-but-they-want-reinforcement/#336d54b95127