The Millennial Workforce: Debunking Generational Myths

Skip the bad rap.

May 9, 2018


By the year 2020, Millennials will comprise 50 percent of the American workforce; by 2025, that number will rise to 75 percent. Against this backdrop, employers will hire a significant amount of candidates from this pool.

Bad Rap

Magazines, newspapers, websites, and social media channels report record-breaking numbers of Millennials in today's workforce.  The information they publish suggests that there are substantial differences in the work ethic of Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers. 

A recent Op-ed in The Chicago Tribune revealed results of a private study conducted in which 20,000 human resource professionals were sampled. The findings were consistent with the same negative information that brands Millennials as the generation with a poor work ethic.

The Other Side of the Coin

In contrast to these negative viewpoints, however, Washington University, and the Department of Defense performed studies that concluded, “Meaningful differences among generations probably do not exist in the workplace.”  Instead, we should attribute differences to a person’s stage of life, not their generation. 

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey results also agree that “although the millennial generation has unique characteristics, young people today in some critical areas are more like the rest of the population than they are different.”

Show Me The Money: Capitalizing on False Information

The Harvard Business Review’s recent report titled,  “Millennials are Different,” has catapulted firms into vying for a share of the $150 billion-a-year global consulting market.

 The result of the study has prompted consultants to jump on the millennial bandwagon waving red flags that alert employers to beware. 

Once this groundwork is laid, consultants run to the aid of companies to help them “handle” Millennials in the workplace. Should a company not take the advice, they should expect issues they would not be able to handle. These professionals offer strategies to businesses that will adjust work environments and learn new skills to accommodate this unprepared and challenging group.

What’s Age Got to Do With It?

The IBM Institute for Business Value conducted a multigenerational study of employees across 12 countries that debunk five common myths that describe Millennials as lazy narcissists, entitled, selfish, and shallow.

Myth #1

Millennials have different career expectations than older generations.

Debunked

Millennials have the same career goals, desire for financial security, and prefer to work in a diverse environment. 

Myth #2

Millennials do not value the same office policies as older generations and have an ingrained sense of entitlement.

Debunked

Millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers combined value leadership that inspires, prefer to work for a company that has a concise business strategy, and one that offers performance-based recognition. 

One dissimilarity is that Generation Y puts less importance on collaborative work environments, than Gen Xers, however, baby boomers prefer to work alone.

The facts presented also contradict the statement that Millennials have a sense of "entitlement." 

Myth #3

Millennials are digital fanatics who indiscriminately share information that could place business systems at risk.

Debunked

Millennials born into the digital age are adept to and comfortable with using many forms of technology and are familiar with digital etiquette in the office setting.  

Myth #4

Millennials cannot make decisions without comments from others. 

Debunked

Millennials can make decisions without other contributing opinions, but are comfortable, like older groups, to get additional viewpoints. 

In contrast, baby boomers prefer to make independent decisions.  

Myth 5:

Millennials are job hoppers.

Debunked

Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers seek new employment for the same reasons. None of these groups are "job-hoppers," but prefer to keep working to:

  • Pursue creative endeavors
  • Become Entrepreneurs.
  • Seek better pay or working conditions.

Fact: Seventy-five percent of Millennials stay at their jobs for at least three years.

Conclusion

There are challenges to face in every corporation; however, it's not a good idea to point fingers at a specific class, regardless of what you read. Instead, your focal point should be on systems you can implement that will build the best multigenerational work environment.

Look at each staff member individually, and learn their preferences. If your goal is to have your business run like a well-oiled machine, think of each employee as a crucial part of that machine that when combined, runs better than it’s ever run.

Forget age or generations and avoid generalizations. Concentrate on skill and view your staff as individuals. 


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