The Truth about Millennial Employees: The Largest Generation in the Workforce

From audacious to lazy, there are a lot of blanket statements and misconceptions spread about Millennial employees. Here’s what they want you to know.

millennial employees on a couch

Audacious, lazy, and addicted to technology– there are a lot of blanket statements and misconceptions spread about Millennial employees. Can we text faster than we can hand write a note? Sure. Do we decide where to travel based on optimal Instagram posts? Maybe. But there’s a bit more to us than that.

We millennials grew up in a precarious time; some of us remember a time before the internet, some of us don’t. But we’ve become digital natives nonetheless, and that has carried over into our work lives. We expect a certain amount of technology to meet us in the workplace.

Whether you’re looking to attract the new, young talent flooding the workforce or you’re a millennial looking for a little solidarity, here’s a primer on what it actually means to be a millennial employee.

What is a millennial employee?

It would be helpful to start with a definition of a Millennial employee.

Anyone born between 1981 and 1996 is considered a millennial, which means any worker between 22- and 37-years old is as of 2018 is considered a millennial employee.

Millennials also represent the largest generation within the current workforce at 56 million as of 2016, surpassing 53 million Gen Xers and 41 million Baby Boomers. Millennials not only represent the largest share of the workforce, they currently represent 20% of leadership positions — a number that is expected to rise.

Common misconceptions about millennial employees

So, now we have the basic definition. But that doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the common misconceptions about their ability to function as employees.

Because the subject of millennial employees has become more popular, many recruiters, HR leaders, and even CEOs have been reading up on how to attract, retain, and work with these new, young job seekers. However, between Medium posts, and SNL sketches, a lot of these generalizations are less than flattering. A few of the most common misconceptions are that Millennials are:

  • Lazy and entitled. There are bound to be inaccuracies when applying individual personality traits to an entire generation of workers.
  • Social media experts. While millennials are largely digital natives, it doesn’t mean that each and every one of them is on social media or that they are adept at using Instagram and Twitter.
  • Job Hoppers. While it’s true that millennials might switch up their jobs more than previous generations, the onus doesn’t fall squarely on them. The ubiquity of startups is just one factor—these companies come in and out of existence at warp speed and so do the jobs that compose them. Career switches are also more widely accepted now than they ever have been in the past.

The Truth of Millennial Workers

There are some accurate generalizations of millennials; for instance, Fast Company found that millennial workers are more likely to report wanting to make a social impact through their work. They are “not motivated by money. Rather, they aim to make the world more compassionate, innovative, and sustainable.” This means that more than any other generation, these workers are willing to take pay cuts in order to work for companies which match their values.

Tips for engaging millennial employees

Love or hate this Instagramming generation, Millennials are the largest faction of the workforce as of today. Here’s how to engage with your 20- and 30-something employees:

  • Be clear about your company’s mission statement. Millennials want to work for a company they’re proud of, so demonstrate your company values up front.
  • Provide opportunities for professional advancement. If millennials are going to be able to make the change in the world that they want, they’ll have to make their way up the ladder. Providing them opportunities to do so will entice them to join your ranks and keep them there longer.
  • Strive for transparency. Millennial workers want to know and feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. The more transparent you can be about the organization and projects they’re contributing to, the better.

There’s no mistaking it: Millennials are here to say. While there may be cultural differences between millennials and other generations of employees, you can easily create a productive and fruitful relationship

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