The Truth About Millennials

It seems like the term “Millennial” is a buzzword wherever you go these days. Everyone is talking about how Millennials are impacting the economy, their work ethics and their (often shocking) Internet-savvy. So why is this group of people so widely discussed and baffling to Corporate America? Are they really so different from Gen X and the Baby Boomers?

To clarify, Millennials are defined as people between the ages of 18 and 34. According to 2016 population estimates, Millennials number 75.4 million in the United States, making them the largest segment of the working population (Pew Research Center).

Despite their large numbers, many companies are struggling to recruit and retain Millennial talent.

It’s possible that this is due in part to gross misunderstandings of who Millennials are, what they want out of their career, and how they can best support the office environment.

Millennials Are Not Lazy

How to keep your employees engaged is a huge topic that I’ve written about several times, but it’s important to really understand one thing that many employers still don’t seem to fully grasp: Millennials are not lazy. They’re not just these young kids running around, they’re absolutely an integral part of the workforce.

Common stereotypes of the Millennial generation are that they don’t have social intelligence, that they spend way too much time online and engage with their peers solely via social media. But when you really look at the core of it, you will understand that, actually, Millennials are not that different when it comes to what they want out of life.

Like everyone else, Millennials want money, health and love – not necessarily in that order.

However, research conducted by venture capitalist Mary Meeker shows the Millennials value meaningful work more highly than managers perceive they do – 30% of Millennial workers cited meaningful work as being the most important marker of success in their career, while an overwhelming 48% of managers responded that they believed high pay to be the #1 goal of their Millennial employees. There is a gap between reality and perception of Millennials.

Millennial Work Ethic

In the old days, employees would work a few years and prove themselves until they finally earned responsibilities within the company. However, Millennials are used to a more flat organization that doesn’t operate so much as a pyramid.

This means that Millennials don’t expect a waiting period for working their way up. They don’t feel as though they have to wait a few years to prove themselves, and they are not hesitant to say they want that high-level responsibility.

If they can do the work, they’ll do it. If they can’t, they can’t. But for them, it doesn’t have to do with years of experience – and this is exactly where the disconnect happens between Millennials and their Gen X or Baby Boomer managers.

Remove the Colored Lens

I invite you, managers and authority figures within companies around the country (and the world, for that matter) to remove the colored lenses when it comes to Millennial employees.

Instead of expecting that they are a certain way, look at the person as a whole, especially because labeling Millennials as “lazy” or “unmotivated” is not really working for the employers that are having challenges to attract, engage and retain Millennials.

It’s really important to be able to identify the best in each employee so you can bring it out in them, and this includes everyone, not just Millennials. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can hone your unique leadership skills to better relate to the other generations in your office, check out my complimentary Leadership Discovery Tool. You will receive tools to develop your leadership abilities right away.

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