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Millennials: How Different Are They?

MillennialsMuch has been written about the Millennial generation (also known as Generation Y), born between 1980 and 2000. These individuals have been joining the workforce for the last few years, and it is estimated that Millennials will comprise more than 40% of the U.S. workforce by 2020, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some have labeled Millennials as entitled, spoiled, or slackers. Others highlight their idealism, technological expertise, “can-do” attitude and desire for new challenges.

How should businesses be prepared to handle this youngest generation in the workplace? This article by Susan M. Heathfield for lists eleven tips for managing Millennials, including:

  • Provide leadership and guidance. Plan to spend a lot of time teaching and coaching and be aware of this commitment to millennials when you hire them. They deserve and want your very best investment of time in their success.
  • Take advantage of the millennial's comfort level with teams. In contrast to the lone ranger attitude of earlier generations, millennials actually believe a team can accomplish more and better - they've experienced team success. Millennials gather in groups and play on teams; you can also mentor, coach, and train your millennials as a team.
  • Listen to the millennial employee. Your millennial employees have ideas and opinions, and don't take kindly to having their thoughts ignored.
  • Millennial employees are up for a challenge and change. They seek ever-changing tasks within their work. Don’t bore them, ignore them, or trivialize their contribution.
  • Millennial employees are multi-taskers on a scale you’ve never seen before. Multiple tasks don’t phase them. In fact, without many different tasks and goals to pursue within the week, the millennials will likely experience boredom.
  • Provide a fun, employee-centered workplace. Millennials want to enjoy their work. They want to enjoy their workplace. They want to make friends in their workplace. Help your long-term employees make room for the millennials.

And this article by Leslie Kwoh for The Wall Street Journal contains real-world examples of the ways some companies have adapted to the "demands" of Millennial workers. For example, at Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., some older managers now give feedback more frequently to accommodate the desires of younger workers. The company also decided to scrap its policy of an 8 a.m. workday start to accommodate young hires who make the one-hour commute from Boston, where they prefer to live, and has instituted more flexible work hours. Chegg Inc., an online textbook-rental service based in Silicon Valley, has eliminated some middle-management positions to give younger hires more exposure to projects, and introduced an unlimited paid vacation policy.

But are Millennials really all that different from generations before them? Or are they just displaying the idealism, and naivete, and impatience of youth? In his commentary The Gen Y Workplace Myth for CBS MoneyWatch, Steve Tobak shares the story of his carrer after college. It is filled with common Generation Y workplace themes we hear frequently: recession, no jobs, student loan debt, inflexible workplace, no work-life balance, and new technology. The only difference is all that happened over 30 years ago.

Jeff Schmitt writes in a similar vein in this article for Forbes, writing, "Critics call this new generation impatient and entitled, horrified by how some are already asking for a seat at the adult table. But my generation was no different. The kids are all right, I guess. Still, it feels so surreal. While we worked, they grew up. And now here they are, reminding us that our time will someday pass. It is the natural order." The article also highlights eight areas where the rookies might run circles around the veteran workers in your office.

Have you had good - or bad - experiences with the Millennials fitting in to your workplace? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

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