By: Bob Dearing, CFE
I know what you are thinking, “Oh no, here we go again with another article on the evils of the millennial generation.” Your suspicions are understandable but that is not the purpose of this article. The millennial generation is unquestionably the most studied, talked about and reported on generation in recent history. Much of the reporting is, often, less than flattering and generally critical of their core values. Have some of them earned their entitled participant trophy attitude? Without question, yes but I happen to take a different view of the majority of this generation.
Who are they?
According to the US Census Bureau, millennials were born between 1982 and 2000. There are approximately 73 million employed individuals in this age group today and they presently account for 35% of the workforce. That number is expected to rise to 75% by 2030, a little more than 10 short years from now.
They are the children of the baby boomers and bring with them a whole new set of values, expectations, work ethics and a host of other thought processes. They are destined to reshape the workforce and will be dealing with likeminded clients and business-to-business customers. They are unquestionably a societal force now and will remain so in the years to come.
What is a millennial?
As with any other generation the characteristics of a millennial varies on the culture and environment, they grew up in. Their core values surprise many people since much of the publicity about this generation has not been reflective of reality. They are the most highly educated generation in history. They have high morals, are highly tolerant and hotly competitive. They are tech-savvy, goal and achievement oriented, civic minded members of a global community. In their work life they seek assurances that their work is aligned with the company mission and is for a higher cause than just profit. They will aggressively seek leadership positions.
The impact of millennials in the workforce is expanding and they are our future leaders. Watch this TEDx video by Jeff Orr on millennial leadership for some enlightening observations.
As you can see from Orr’s presentation there are those who seek leadership positions and they are less than patient in just how quickly that comes. Their expectations in most cases are likely to be overenthusiastic however the fact remains they are eager to learn, grow, achieve and lead. The point is… start early in the development process to retain talented people.
What makes these people tick?
We have looked at their core values now let’s look at their attributes. Millennials have grown up with technology and have never lived without computers in their lives. They are attached to their “gadgets” and their focus on change always includes a technology component. They are high-speed stimulus “junkies” and live in a world of immediate response. They believe that because of technology they can work any time from any place and that they should be evaluated on their work product not on how when or where they got it done.
They are goal-oriented and are looking for a career in a stable environment. They expect to influence the terms and conditions of their job and have high expectations of their owners and managers to assist and mentor them in the attainment of professional goals. They prefer diversity in the workplace and recognize that people make the company successful. Training is important to them and they want to enhance their work skills by continuing their education. They thrive in a collaborative environment.
Will the workplace be affected?
A recent Inc. newsletter tells us that in the coming years and decades, the tools you use at the office will change, and so will workplace culture. The physical layout of your office may transform to accommodate these changes. You will begin to see companies invest in more devices and technology platforms not only to accommodate the millennial workforce but to anticipate the demands of the company customer base. You can expect to see in-person meetings decline as video conferencing becomes more and more popular. To advance the collaborative nature of the workforce the company focus will shift more and more toward a team environment. The millennial work ethic does not include a ten-hour day. They do, however, embrace a time to time work from home option. According to a Deloitte study, nearly 75 percent of Millennials believe that a "work from home" or "work remotely" policy is important.
What does it all mean?
The world is changing. Truth is the arrival of the millennial generation is a natural “changing of the guard” transitional phenomena. Whether you are a traditionalist or a baby boomer the thought process of accepting the change was much the same. There is, however, a difference with this generation. The Pew Research Center gives us some insight into those differences.
In general, they’re better educated – a factor tied to their baby boomer parental employment and financial well-being. Millennials have brought more racial and ethnic diversity to American society. Millennial women are more likely to participate in the nation’s workforce than prior generations. And Millennials are now the second-largest generation in the U.S. electorate (after Baby Boomers), a fact that continues to shape the country’s politics given their Democratic leanings when compared with older generations.
So, what is the message?
They can, and will, make a difference in your company. Begin now to leverage and benefit from the unique millennial mindset. Engage now, accept and develop millennial leadership within your company. Failure to recognize the opportunity could put you well behind your competition. As Jeff Orr tells us in his video…
1. Let them lead
2. Invest in their leadership development
3. Incorporate their aspirations and goals into your growth strategy.
Your company will be better for it.