Dear Millennials: I owe you an apology

According to population estimates released in April by the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation. Defined as those ages 18-34 in 2015 and now 75.4 million strong, they have surpassed the 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 51-69).

As a “Gen X-er”, I admit I found myself caught up in rhetoric and stereotypes for a time. In fact, like many, I was driven by a list real or imagined traits that were meant to define nearly 80 million people and put them in a neat, narcissistic little box. Now with time to reflect and remember that generations are analytical constructs, and in many ways reflect nothing more than a complex but less than precise mathematical algorithm, created as means of deriving a socially acceptable consensus delineating the border between one group and another, I would like to share my ideas and hopefully gain greater insights from your ensuing comments.

At a time in history when so much attention is focused on breaking down socio-economic and political boundaries, and trying to better understand how to address racial inequities in an effort to find solutions that transcend the traditional resolution, that of violence. Why do we continue to deem it acceptable to deconstruct an entire generation into a series of shortsighted descriptions that are often dismissive if not categorically negative?

As a means of better understanding Millennials, I took some time with my good friend Google and comprised what appears to be common threads and beliefs about this group. I have come to realize they exemplify many qualities that are necessary for all of us to note as we face an uncertain future.

1. Millennials are driven by significance:

Millennials seem to be driven professionally to seek out jobs that offer “significance”. What does this mean? It appears they want their work to matter, to make a difference, and be a part of the change process. They do not value work simply as an obtuse construct. Instead, they want it to have worth that transcends simply a duty to provide for family and/or financial gain.

2. Millennials find no status in the status quo”

Opposing an outdated hierarchy is certainly not a quality created by Millennials, yet it seems to reflect poorly on them. Challenging the chain of command with this group does not appear to manifest from contempt, but rather from a hope that new ideas will generate new outcomes and act a springboard to move all of society forward rather than hold it back.

3. Millennials are Technophiles:

53% of Millennials said they would rather lose their sense of smell than their digital devices! While on the surface this might seem an odd choice, when placed contextually in the society to which they were born, one where social media redefined time-management and productivity models, their understanding of how to build genuine relationships across the continuum of the digital highway should be seen as less suspect and more ripe for potential in the areas of team building, crowdsourcing, qualitative research methods, data mining, and real time quantitative analysis. All of which have, for decades, been seen as a new means and methods in both the hard and soft sciences, but until now have not had the workforce to be integrated into a reliable business model with the proper management of the data once extrapolated.

4. Millennials want to change it up

“That’s the way it has always been done…” is not a phrase that resonates well with a Millennial. They seem to have a keen sensitivity that takes in the sociopolitical topography with a desire to change the landscape based on an acute awareness that it will change despite any effort to stave off the inevitable, that of transformation. This has historically led to a misunderstanding that they have disdain for the status quo. This is simply an incorrect assumption, rather they should be seen as embracing change as a natural state of being.

5. Millennials value the task not the time it takes to complete it

69% of Millennials say they believe office attendance on a regular basis is unnecessary and 89% prefer to choose when and where they work. This is because they do not measure productivity in “face time” but by task completion, thus devaluing the “where” work is done and placing a higher importance on the “how” and “how well” it is accomplished.

6. Millennials live to learn while learning to live

College is just one stop on the learning train and not the final destination. Millennials are committed to increasing their skill sets and amassing knowledge, yet intellect is not only seen to be realized in a university setting, as experiential learning holds equal status with them. This desire to learn by example fits statistically with the reality that when polled, Millennials want to know why”. 95% said that they are motivated to work harder when they understand the importance of a particular task within the context of the their lives and how it fits into the world around them.

7. Millennials welcome feedback

80% of Millennials said they want to receive regular feedback from their managers. The model of the Annual Review doesn’t work for them as they thrive on real time feedback as the benchmark to measure success. Clarity is integral to their decision making process and they don’t enjoy making decisions based on lagging indicators.

8. Millennials want to be recognized for their accomplishments

Much like feedback, Millennials do expect recognition for a job well done in the context of when the task was completed, with 89% saying a reward should be given for a job well done at the time it was accomplished.

9. Millennials value a good time but also have a good sense of how valuable time is

Millennials don’t corner the market on a good time – but they do endeavor to experience it both in and outside of the workplace. As a result, it stands to reason that 90% of Millennials want their workplace to be social and fun, and 88% say that a supportive, light and “fun” culture and climate at work is a large slice of the dream job pie.

10. Millennials are full of surprises so like them this list is ever evolving.

*Note: The statistics included in this article are an amalgamation of various sources utilized to find a statistically relevant outcome.

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