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The Millennials Have Arrived!

Posted By: Brookwoods Group on May 14, 2011

Who:
Individuals born between 1980 and 2000
 
Also known as:
Generation Y, Gen Y,
Generation Why, Generation Next, Gen I (Generation Internet), Generation Tech, the MyPod Generation, Digital Natives, Boomerang Generation, Adultolescents, Echo
Boomers
 
How many:
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Demographic
and Housing Estimates for 2009, there are 105 million people ages 10-34, roughly one-third of the total U.S. population of 307 million.

Chances are high and growing that the colleague sitting next to you in the adjacent cubicle or the candidate I am about to send out on an interview are members of the newest generation to enter the workforce -- the Millennials. Also referred to as Generation Next or Generation Y, these individuals were born between 1980 and 2000 (think graduating high school classes of 1999-2019 and people ages 11-31), and they constitute the largest generation to enter the workforce since the Baby Boomers.

Like other generations, the Millennials bring to the workforce their own set of skills, experiences and perspectives -- as well as new challenges for their managers, many of whom are Baby Boomers. I believe that a company will realize greater productivity once  both generations understand and accept one another.

Traits, skills

While the Millennial clients I work with at Brookwoods Group possess varying traits, I believe generally they share the following characteristics:

  1. Highly educated

    Millennials are well-educated. They were raised to achieve --- from the grade school classroom to the soccer field to summer jobs that provide the material for winning college application essays. College is always on the map for Millennials.

  2. Ethnically and racially diverse

    This generation is the most ethnically and racially diverse group of youth in U.S. history. Of those ages 13-29, 18.5% are Hispanic, 14.2% are black, 4.3% are Asian, 3.2% are mixed race or other, and 59.8%  are white, according to the Pew Research Center. http://people-press.org/.  Whereas former generations embraced people’s similarities, Millennials embrace and accept people’s differences. And this generation perceives these differences as learning opportunities.

  3. Tech-savvy, peer-oriented

    Millennials are the most tech-savvy generation to date, having been exposed to communications, media and digital technologies from a very early age onward.Due to their heavy use of instant communication technologies such as email, texting and IM , YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, they are highly peer-oriented and value tight friendships and bonds. To many, a job is an opportunity to make more friends and be included in after-hour social events. They also value maintaining a healthy balance between work and “having a life.” For more on this, view the 2007 National Public Radio broadcast Generation Next at www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6718024.

    Millennials also value expression.  "We've grown up surrounded by technology and are comfortable expressing ourselves in a multitude of ways," said Janis Gorton, 30, a staff attorney with Berg & Androphy law firm in Houston. "Technology makes it easier than ever to express ourselves, and we embrace that."

  4. In the know, socially conscious

    Millennials closely follow what is going on in the world through the Internet and TV, and care deeply about current events. (Remember, they have grown up with instantaneous news coverage of major events such as 9/11, the Iraq war and Mideast tensions, the Enron debacle, the dot-come bubble and the resulting financial crisis.)They also have been described as “living search engines” who want to know what, why and how as soon as possible or even sooner.  "We are armed with more facts than previous generations," Gorton said.

    Perhaps because they are so aware, Millennials have a genuine desire and strong will to give back and change things for the better. They tend to seek work that is meaningful and will improve people's lives. Many are attracted to jobs in the arts, social services and green industries, or to companies with strong social consciences.  "We don't follow the money," said Travis Fowler, 28, a training specialist with Austin-based Alliance Work Partners http://www.alliancewp.com/. “A job is not an identity, but something we can get excited about."

    In addition, they are more politically engaged, trending more democratic.

  5. Idealistic, motivated team players

    Fowler said Millennials desire challenges, solutions and growth opportunities. He added that they are idealistic and highly motivated, and easily commit to a team vision or collective action. "They seek fun, diversity and challenges -- and a more efficient way to do things, which is why they also are referred to as "Generation Why?" I believe they are more laid back and less formal than prior generations, and are eager to accomplish tasks, receive promotions and move up the career ladder -- as fast as they can. To this end, they are eager to build their skills and thus their employability.  Millennials are also considered fast and great multi-taskers who can easily manage several projects at once. They desire open communication and a mentoring relationship with their superiors.

Not without some negatives

On the downside, I have noticed that some members of the Millennial generation generally believe they deserve a job, promotions and advancement.

Furthermore, I believe their level of humility is less than those of my parents’ and grandparents' generations, for example, who lived through the Great Depression and World War I and II. The Millennials’ drive to achieve can fuel this sense of entitlement, I believe.

Fowler added that many Millennials may perceive dead-end tasks as something to outsource or employ robots to accomplish. When faced with administrative or bureaucratic red tape, they are likely to ask,  "Is this really necessary?" and then devise and present to management a "quicker and dirtier way to solve problems."

While some managers might be offended by this, some productivity specialists believe that the Millennials’ solution orientation will lead many business out of the recession. To read more on this, visit Rebecca Ryan, founder of Next Generation Consulting, at http://www.studyofwork.com/tag/rebecca-ryan/.

While considered super multi-taskers, when Millennials are confronted with a task that they believe is not part of their job description, they are more likely to think, “Hey, that’s not my responsibility.”

Unlike Baby Boomers who have stayed in jobs for long periods of time, Millennials generally desire to broaden their skills set to improve their employability and keep their options open to pursue the next perceived growth opportunity. According to Fowler, his generation values skills over length of experience, which may be perceived by some managers as a lack of loyalty and by potential employers as a short-term career perspective.

Because Millennials access information 24 hours a day from any location, they are more inclined to work away from a desk using laptops and smartphones. A 40-hour work week and punching a time clock are harsh realities for Millennials.

From the research I have done and the experiences I have gained in the workplace, I’m going to be so bold as to offer the following tips for both Millennials and their managers. My hope is that I will push both groups to give this phenomenon more of their time and attention and thus accelerate what I perceive to be a natural evolution.

Tips for Millennials

  • Adjust your attitude and be thankful for the job you have.
  • Don’t feel you deserve what is coming to you.
  • Dress accordingly for your workplace, taking your cues as to what is appropriate from colleagues who have been employed there longer than you have.

Tips for management

  • Do your research to understand Millennials --- how they think; what they want and need --- and how they differ from older employees and managers. Consider role-playing exercises and engaging outside consultants.
  • Consider updating your reward strategies. Unlike their Baby Boomer parents who sought retirements and pensions from a job --- and who later experienced massive layoffs and high unemployment ---- Millennials value increased flex time and vacation hours.
  • Consider upgrading your management style to one that is more mentoring-based and goal-oriented. Avoid “boss relationships.”
  • Consider adopting a Results-Only Work Environment. This management philosophy is based on the premise that giving employees complete control over their time is the best way to increase productivity in the workplace. (Read BNET CBS Business Network’s What is a Results Only Work Environment? http://www.bnet.com/article/what-is-a-results-only-work-environment/237128).
  • Continue to invest in personal development, continuing education, peer group and training initiatives. Consider expanding mentoring programs. Tailor existing training programs to be more interactive. Consider using downloadable cell-phone applications for more mobile employees.
  • Clearly define your social responsibility efforts, including volunteerism, community involvement, charitable giving and environmental best practices, and clearly communicate them to employees. Millennials are attracted to companies that are committed to improving communities and society at large.
  • Use technology such as avatars and internal networking sites to engage employees.
  • Endeavor to provide ongoing challenges and variety in the workplace.
  • Maintain a strategy for diversity and consider collaborative efforts with other cultures.

Does any of this align with your experience?  Would you make different suggestions?  Post your comments below!

Kyle Fake contributed to this article.