Why Millennials Are Exactly What We Need More Of In The Workplace

millennials in the workplace
Millennials in the workplace aren't just a reality of life, they are a benefit
Millennials – commonly referred to in dismissive manner as the “selfie generation” – are the future of all our workplaces. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2030 Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce.


It seems many don’t like that idea, labeling the current assortment of young people as entitled, brash and lazy (as if to say their generation wasn't entitled, brash or lazy).

But truth be told, Millennials are exactly what we need more of in our workplaces.

If your skin just started to crawl, keep an open mind as you learn facts about Millennials rather than just continuing to parrot back the common refrain.

Fact: Millennials Force Managers to be Better at Their Job

Entitled is the descriptive term most common for this era, which is a pretty negative characterization. I don't know about you but if someone referred to me as entitled, I'd be pretty miffed.

Is entitled a fair generalization? Maybe. Or, what Millennials in the workplace really have are expectations.

According to Kris Duggan, CEO of BetterWorks, Millennials have four main requests of their employers:

  1. Clear personal goals and an understanding of the company vision

  2. Freedom to execute on their job requirements

  3. A clear career path ahead of them

  4. Lots of positive feedback

The final point is where Millennials earn the entitled label, the fact they desire so much positive feedback (and a trophy here and there), but look at the rest of their expectations, are they unrealistic? Shouldn't these be things we all demand?

“Knowing how you’re doing, and having your progress acknowledged, is immensely motivating,” Duggan says. “Annual performance reviews do not work with Millennials, they look for feedback and direction every week or two.”

Millennials force managers to do the job they should have been doing all along: Managing.

Bi-weekly meetings, progress reports, goals, career paths, freedom to succeed and fail – these are not unreasonable, or entitled.

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Fact: Millennials are the Most Educated Generation in History

Education has changed over the last two decades and not just in the wallet, but in the overall methodology. The influence of the internet and technology as a whole has improved the classroom experience for a great many. Students today are learning more and faster than in generations past.

But this isn't a phenomenon relegated to elementary and middle school, Millennials are carrying through on their advanced education at a much higher rate than their parents and grandparents. Approximately 79% of Gen Y members hold at least a bachelor's degree, compared to 69% for Gen Xers and 62% for Baby Boomers.

Not only are Millennials more educated, they are also the first generation to grow up with the internet, apps and social media. These advancing technologies are in their blood, a natural extension of themselves.

millennials in the workplace education
Millennials are the first generation to grow up with technology as part of their everyday life, and that is a huge advantage
Millennials aren't an employment burden, they are an asset and opportunity.

Fact: Millennials Aren't as Dependent on Acquiring “Stuff”

Consumerism and the acceptance of personal debt has handcuffed many a generation.

According to a national survey, 36% of workers have less than $1,000 in savings and investments that could be used for retirement. Gen X and Baby Boomers are generations of spenders, where a shiny new car, mini-mansion or boat in the driveway displayed their status for all to see and admire – even if their bank account ran red.

Millennials are thinking differently about spending and saving.

“We’re the generation of the Great Recession, and we've seen a lot of institutions fail us,’ said Tom Allison, an analyst at Young Invincibles, a Millennials think tank. “Whether it’s the financial institutions, or real estate, the housing market, a lot of the drive to sort of get a bigger house and fill it full of stuff has been eroded.”

Adding an influx of staff less motivated by achieving status through material things and more aware of causes will add fresh perspective to a corporate culture, not detract from it.

Fact: Millennials Actually Prefer to Speak in Person

How many times have we heard the cliché description of Millennials talking into their phone instead of to actual people? They live a digital life, avoiding human contact and unable to fit in socially which results in an awkward workplace, the thought continues.

The truth is almost always separate from the common narrative.

According to a study conducted by Bentley University, 51% of Millennials in the workplace prefer to speak to their colleagues directly, while just 19% prefer email and 14% texting.

To give this study perspective I’d like to know how Gen X and Baby Boomers answer the same questions, I don’t have that, but can say anecdotally my generation (Gen X) may be even more dependent on email than Millennials.

Fact: Millennials Aren’t Afraid to Ask for Things

millennials in the workplace digital dependent
Are Millennials unable to make social connections, instead relying on a digital life of texting and social media interaction? Not exactly...
So many of us grew up in an era where asking for more or better was labeled as being selfish, so we self-censored. Women didn't even ask for equal pay to their male counterparts, because to know your co-workers salary was a justifiable reason for dismissal.

We have long lived in fear of our employers, as they yield all of the leverage and we are but pawns in the corporate cycle.

Millennials approach their workplace without fear.

For them to ask for a flexible work schedule feels reasonable. For them to ask for career advancement opportunities seems natural.

Why shouldn't these things be the right of the employee to inquire about without fear of retribution?

Final Thought

A few months ago I had lunch with a sports business executive where we discussed the issues he was encountering in hiring Millennials over some fancy burgers and fries.

His take was a common one, that Millennials aren't loyal, they’ll jump ship quickly to the next opportunity if you don’t cater to their needs. He was exhausted from training staff only to see them leave within a year or two and wished there was a system where he could get a minimum three year commitment out of all new employees.

My response – "Why not offer them a three year contract? Don’t you think this generation, or any generation for that fact, would revel in some stability and predictability?"

There was a long pause...followed by a wry smile, “I might just give that a shot” he returned.

You may need to change your approach to Millennials in the workplace, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
By Brian Clapp | February 12, 2015
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