Millennials Revealed

Figure 1: Generations Comparison on Risk
Figure 1: Generations Comparison on Risk

As the workforce demographics change, millennials continue to grow in importance not only as team members, but as leaders. While considerable emphasis has been placed on recruiting and retaining millennials, most organizations still struggle to attract the best and brightest of this dynamic generation. A recent meeting with executives at a client summed up the situation well: “we just want to know what we need to do to make them interested in us.”

One of the struggles underlying our efforts pertains to the fact that millennials are the most studied and analyzed generation in history, yet we still tend toward overgeneralization when describing them. The media and other “snapshot” mediums paint a very one dimensional and simple picture of a non-material, socially conscious, electronically connected, and pampered group.

A recent study of 10,000 millennials by CEB found that the typical stereotypes may be off-base. They reported the following myths and realities based on their research:

• Myth No. 1: Millennials place high value on social media.
• Reality: Millennials use social media, but they do not trust it as much as other sources.
• Myth No. 2: Millennials are motivated by money.
• Reality: Money matters, but not as much as opportunity.
• Myth No. 3: Millennials would rather collaborate than compete.
• Reality: Millennials are the most competitive generation.
• Myth No. 4: Millennials rely on their peers to get work done.
• Reality: Millennials are less trusting of their peers and many prefer to “go it alone.”
• Myth No. 5: Millennials want to jump from organization to organization.
• Reality: Millennials want different experiences, not necessarily different organizations.

What do these results tell us? Basically, millennials recognize the value of opportunity, need new challenges and experiences, seek to standout, and want the freedom to design their own path. By nature, millennials encourage organizations to be more dynamic in their internal and external operations.

A recent, 2014 survey by HCS captures the differences between millennials and other generations when considering workplace dynamism. Figure 1 summarizes the results in a sample of 80 organizations in a variety of industries. In all four categories, millennials possess more of an interest in the cumulative interest of those in other generations. The largest gap between groups appears in job sharing. The latest generation is not afraid to learn new things and to gain new experiences. Participating in high risk projects occupy a close second place in the survey results. Even the smallest difference (learning opportunities) speaks highly of millennials since the level of interest stands out as the highest of the four categories at 78 percent.

What does this tell us? We owe it to our employees and our organization to make sure we are going beyond the simple stereotypes and leveraging the values and attitudes of this key group of team members.