Don’t Judge a Millennial by their Reputation

April 06, 2016



The millennial generation. They’re lazy, self-absorbed, entitled and have a weak work ethic. If you still believe these stereotypes, you might want to shift your thinking. While these negative traits might hold true for some millennials, there are far more millennials who prove the stereotype wrong, and prove you can’t judge an individual solely by their birth year.

Although an exact definition is not agreed upon, members of the millennial generation (also known as Generation Y) were born anywhere from the early 80s to the early 2000s. Eighty million young adults were born in this time frame. According to the University of North Carolina Kenan Flagler Business School, by 2020, 46 percent of all U.S. workers will be millennials. So, not only is it likely you already have millennial employees, it is clear that to avoid hiring from within this group would be a nearly impossible task.

Generation Why?

So how did millennials get such a bad reputation? There are a few possible explanations. Millennials work differently than previous generations, partly because they’ve had different formative experiences and experienced more change than the generations before them.

Advancements in technology have played a huge role in many of the stereotypes facing millennials. Millennials are the first generation to grow up with computers in their homes. They were given cell phones and laptops at a young age, and quickly learned to rely on technology for pretty much everything. Thanks to the internet, millennials learned that they can find answers to questions or solve problems in seconds with very little effort, but this ease-of-access to information can sometimes read as laziness. However, the technological changes they’ve grown accustomed to means they’re likely to be early-adopters and embrace new ideas instead of resisting them.

Technology also plays a part in the idea that millennials are self-absorbed. Growing up glued to your iPhone screen can definitely give the person standing in front of you the impression that you don’t really care that they’re there. However, we can’t just point the finger at technology for this reality. One could argue that each generation is a bit more self-obsessed than the last. This attribute is merely a hallmark of early adulthood. Their current stage of life is more to blame than the gadget in their hands.

Millennials have grown up in constant connection with their peers, and although it is usually via social media, this has caused this generation to actually be a very social bunch. You’ll never have a problem with collaborative projects or group work when it comes to generation Y.

One of the main reasons millennials work differently than previous generations is their career priorities. According to the Ivey Business Journal, money is not the average millennial’s main concern; they value meaning in their work and would prefer a promotion to a raise. However, this doesn’t mean that millennials feel “entitled” to receiving a promotion. They’re willing to go the extra mile to achieve their goals.

Now that you understand the reasoning behind some popular millennial mischaracterizations, here are some tips on how to hire (and retain) the right millennials.

  • Consider altering your interview process. Most of the time, employers are quick to blame the entire generation when they get an employee that is subpar. Try shifting your interview questions to get a better idea of your candidates’ work ethic and loyalty. For example:

What role do you expect to have in five years?
Tell me about a time that you experienced failure.
What is your ideal work environment?

  • Challenge and motivate them. Millennials need to be pushed. They need a coach, not a boss. They are less likely to excel with tedious tasks or busy work; they need assignments that will demand their attention and make them think critically.
  • Encourage collaboration. Millennials are so accustomed to constant communication that they don’t prefer to handle a project entirely by themselves. Group work is extremely beneficial because it can not only expedite the work, but also allow a project to have multiple perspectives on an issue to bring more to the table and mirror the way clients or the general public would perceive a matter.
  • Show them a path to success. Millennials have a thirst to improve, and want to know exactly what needs to be done to achieve that improvement. Without this clear vision, they will quickly become frustrated. Growth is key.
  • Be flexible. Millennials like to stay busy in every aspect of their lives. Work-life integration is the new work-life balance. They might need to pick up their child from preschool midday, but don’t fear that this allows them to leave work-mode entirely. They’re simply answering emails from their phone instead of their computer.

What millennials will bring to the table.

  • They’re tech-savvy. The next time your iPhone is doing something funky and you can’t figure out how to fix it, ask a millennial. Odds are good that they will be able to figure it out. Millennials have grown up with their cell phone, and the tech-savvy skills they have effortlessly acquired can’t be beat.
  • They’re up-to-date. All of this technological expertise equates to your company staying up to date at all times. Whether it be through social media or other technology platforms, your millennial employees can comfortably stay up-to-date with the best ways for your company to brand itself through today’s media.
  • They’re always connected. Getting ahold of Generation Y for after-hours emergencies will never be a problem.
  • They’re extremely hard workers. Because of their urgency to grow and be promoted, they are extremely tough on themselves and will always go the extra mile.
  • They’re more cost effective. Although this is the most money-conscious generation, they aren’t as driven by money as previous generations. If your company doesn’t regularly give bonuses, you aren’t necessarily out of the question for millennials. They would prefer to work for a company that fits their needs rather than the one that is willing to pay them the most.
  • They’re multi-taskers. They basically learned how to walk while texting. You can assign numerous different responsibilities to a millennial before they start to feel overwhelmed.
  • They’re passionate about leading. According to a study by Deloitte, one in four millennials are “asking for a chance” to prove their leadership skills.

So when you think of the millennial generation, try to wipe all the negative connotations associated with them from your mind. They’re a tech-savvy, ambitious, hard-working bunch that just want to succeed. By understanding their personality traits, companies can appreciate the opportunity that this generation brings and take pride in the millennial workforce that will one day lead their company.

Eliza Rosenwasser is a Content Marketing Intern at Fiore Communications.



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