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.

Our Future: Millennials in the Workforce

millennial-statsHave you ever thought that each successive generation appears to be more lazy and selfish than the last? Some of this perception arises from the creeping conservatism that we all go through as we age.  As we get older and we transition from being the “young and beautiful” of our society to more stuffy versions of ourselves, we naturally assume the next generation has it easier, grows up faster, and works less to get what they have.  Put simply, self-supporting filtered comparisons make up a key part of human nature.  However, I think we can all agree that as relative affluence changes, so do ideas and behaviors.  In other words, the degree to which my basic as well as most developed needs are met help define who I am, how I act, and what I do.

The Millennials or Generation Y (those born between roughly between 1980 and 2000) possess the same stereotype as previous generations.  Mainstream media has spent the last several decades warning us about the Millennials. Its overblown dramatization of the stereotypical entitled, self-absorbed, and controlling Millennial seems to appear all segments of media.  As the largest age grouping in US history (80 million) and accounting for 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, getting to know them better is paramount to the success of not just our organizations, but our country and world.

So, what do some typically presented numbers say?

  • Sixty (60) percent  of employed Millennials have already changed careers at least once s and will have held an average of seven jobs by 26 years old (Intrepid Study 2010)
  • Fifty-eight (58) percent more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than 1982 (National Institutes of Health)
  • Sixty (60) percent of Millennials expect a lot of themselves by indicating they will “feel” what is right in a situation instead of deferring to another source (National Study of Youth and Religion)
  • More people 18-29 live with their parents than a spouse (Clark University)
  • Twenty-three (23) percent of companies reported having heavy contact with parents of millennial employees. (College Employment Research Institute)
  • Four (4) percent of employers involved reported parents attended their children’s job interviews(College Employment Research Institute)
  • Thirty-one (31) percent of employers involved reported parents submitted resumes on behalf of their offspring. (College Employment Research Institute)

These numbers capture the commonly presented image of spoiled and needy.  However, they only tell one side of the story.  What the above numbers leave out is some very positive characteristics:

  • Seventy-five (75) percent link who they are as a person to what they do for a living (Bersin)
  • Most committed to self-expression of recent generations (US Chamber of Commerce)
  • Eighty (80) percent want a job with more responsibility (Families and Work Institute)
  • Millennials are the most educated generation in American history (US DOL)
  • Eighty-three (83) percent feel technology make work easier (Telefonica)
  • More team-focused that other groups (Boston Consulting Group)
  • More than a quarter, 27 percent are already self-employed (US Chamber of Commerce)
  • Sixty-five (65) percent of Millennials said personal development was the most influential factor in selecting their current job (UNC)

Millennials clearly desire more flexibility, growth, and customization in their careers.  By nature, they demand more of us as coaches, managers, and leaders.  Yet, they offer more education, diversity, social awareness, technology ability, and entrepreneurial spirit than any other segment of our workforce.  I hope we would all agree that as we strive to become more competitive, that a great combination to have.

If you want to test how Millennial you are, here is a great test offered by the Pew Research Center: