Millennials at work, part one
The millennials are the topic of much discussion in recent times, probably because many of them have entered the workforce and mainstream society as young people “adulting”, as they would say. Translated that means doing adult things like working and paying bills. That is a part of the change that they have ushered in to every arena of which they are a part: a whole new way of communicating, relating, and even working.
Where does all this generational talk come from anyway?
Perhaps we should understand where all this terminology about generational classifications has originated in the first place. According to The Center for Generational Kinetics:
“A generation is a group of people born around the same time and raised around the same place. People in this ‘birth cohort’ exhibit similar characteristics, preferences, and values over their lifetimes.”
The generation classifications are defined as follows:
• Gen Z, iGen, or centennials: Born 1996 and later;
• Millennials or Gen Y: Born 1977 to 1995;
• Generation X: Born 1965 to 1976;
• Baby boomers: Born 1946 to 1964;
• Traditionalists or silent generation: Born 1945 and before.
All the generations are represented in today’s workplace with millennials representing the largest generation, not only there but also as consumers, entrepreneurs and trailblazers in today’s marketplace.
What are some of the common characteristics of millennials?
Millennials range from ages 22-40, the higher end of the group just bordering its predecessors, Generation X, of which I am a part. Gen Xers I define as the forgotten generation, because so much focus is placed on the younger generations like millennials and centennials or on the older generations like the baby boomers. In some cases, millennials are products of Gen Xers who border the Baby Boomers. So where Gen Xers portray some of the same characteristics of the boomers, like enjoying stability and showing loyalty but not being averse to taking risks or using technology, they have raised and influenced millennials to be free thinkers, bold, fearless, willing to pursue their passion, and to live a balanced life. This is probably because boomers were loyal to a fault, sacrificial and willing to pay the price to provide security and a better life for their families, sometimes to the detriment of familial relationships.
How has this all impacted millennials and influenced their character?
• They are educated, most having attended some form of college up to the masters level.
• Millennial females are outperforming millennial males in the classroom.
• They adapt quickly to computers and technology and use them more in their daily lives.
• They have a strong sense of community and civic duty.
• They have a general cynicism about authority figures and established structures of society.
• They are not religious and are less likely to practice organized religion.
• They are compassionate and socially conscious, embracing diversity, health, social, economic and environmental equity and activism.
• They are global minded more than patriotic. They care about changing the world for the greater good of humanity, not just for one particular nation.
• They multi-task…a lot.
• They are team players.
• They want to learn, grow and contribute.
• They appreciate guidance but also like to be independent.
• They are liberal, progressive, confident and authentic.
Millennials at work
Older generations simply do not understand millennials well. To them, they come across spoiled, unstable, lazy, rude and hard headed. Millennials think older generations are stuck, inflexible and out of date. Oh well. Everyone needs to make the effort to understand each other better and look for potential blind spots to improve. The millennials, however, as well as traditionalists, baby boomers and Gen Xers, are just different with great qualities and areas to improve like every generation.
Advice for millennials at work
1. Be yourself and believe in your ability to contribute to an organization despite your age.
2. Be open to learn and grow. Some principles in life don’t need to change. Learn what they are.
3. Seek to understand how work works. Observe who the influencers are, the dynamics between people, the culture of the organization, and how you work best.
4. Toughen up and stick it out. Sometimes things won’t be perfect. Sometimes it is in imperfect situations that we grow and get better. Determine if the environment you are in is toxic and you should leave, or if it is designed to build your character and experience for a while.
5. Embrace mentoring. If you find that you have a leader or more seasoned professional who is willing to invest time and expertise in you, embrace it. Respect it. Celebrate it. Make good use of it. One of my favorite quotes that is so true is: “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
As societies continue to evolve in an ever-changing way, all of our institutions are forced to change as well. We as human beings functioning in these societies and institutions are also being forced to change. Change isn’t always a bad thing; it is definitely a necessary thing. Millennials are here and are here to stay. They have made our lives different because their world is different. Let’s figure out ways we can all co-exist and better yet, collaborate.
• Simmone L. Bowe, MSc, SPHRi, is a seasoned human resource and organization development consultant & trainer, speaker, author, mentor, and activist who focuses on helping business owners, leaders and professionals diagnose their people and performance problems and implement strategic solutions. For comments, queries and bookings, email firstname.lastname@example.org.