Mobility, telecommuting, the Internet breaking down geographic and time barriers, more professionals working on their own, co-working spaces – do you see where this is all going?
It’s the future of work – a future hugely influenced by millennials.
Also called generation Y, nesters, and echo boomers, millennials are on track to be the most educated generation in American history. Attracting the best of them will be the catalyst in effecting major shifts in the workplace of the 21st century.
What’s in a name?
Generation names are not only influenced by major turns in the calendar, but also by economic, cultural, political, and social events.
Here’s a bit of background on the events that shaped the personalities behind every living generation, compiled from this paper and this generations chart.
The G.I. Generation refers to Americans who grew up during The Great Depression and served in World War II in their adulthood. They were born from 1901 to the mid-1920s. Some who survived the war helped build and rebuild U.S. industries.
Members of this generation are excellent team players but are often incapable of handling ambiguity and change, preferring to make decisions based on the past. Because of their tendency to save and conserve, they are also the most affluent elderly population in the U.S.
The Silent Generation is the group born between World War I and II, 1925 and 1942, too young to fight when the war started. They grew up in the peace time after the war. While they are hard workers who often excelled in their profession and work past retirement age, they struggled as leaders. They’re risk-averse and reluctant to defy the system.
The Baby Boomers’ generation is defined by the unusual spike in birth rate after World War II. Born between 1946 and 1964, this group was heavily influenced by the political and social unrest during the 60s and gave rise to the hippie subculture. The Vietnam War, assassination of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King are just some of the events that marked this generation.
Baby boomers started the workaholic trend. They are described as more process than results-oriented, equating work with contribution, personal fulfillment, and self-worth. They are more accepting of diversity and value loyalty to employers, seek personal growth and health and wellness.
Members of Generation X were born between 1964 and 1980. Alternately called baby busters and 13th generation, they spent their teen years in the 1980s, influenced by MTV.
Gen Xers are independent and self-reliant, having grown up with a single parent or with both parents working. At work, Gen Xers are described as adaptable to change and results- oriented but tend to question management before complying with any task. They value continuous learning, skills development, and teamwork.
Millennials refer to the “connected” generation. The major differentiator between this generation and the earlier ones is the Internet. Influences include 9/11 and The Great Recession. Their affinity to digital technology leads some people to label them as lazy, entitled, and social media addicts.
Members of this generation crave instant feedback, are great multitaskers and optimists. They value work-life balance, adaptability, and diversity.
Why millennials matter
Born between 1980 and 2004, millennials are shaped by the digital revolution and the challenges of The Great Recession. They’re sometimes called the most compassionate generation. They tend to be vocal against corporate irresponsibility and are more passionate about causes.
In 2013, millennials represented approximately one-third of the U.S. population. In 2015, there were over 75 million millennials (aged 18-34) in the U.S., surpassing the baby boomers as America’s largest generation. Pew Research predicts that the millennial population will reach 81.1 million in 2036, due largely to the increasing number of immigrants.
The millennial generation is also the most racially and ethnically diverse generation. In the December 2009 population survey, 61% of 18 to 29-year olds were white, 19% Hispanic, 14% black, 5% Asian, and the remaining 1% other ethnicities.
A vast number of millennials are now staging their way into adulthood and entering employment. With baby boomers retiring and the number of Gen Xers in leadership roles dwindling, millennials will take over as prime movers in human resources.
It is projected that millennials will comprise 46% of the U.S. workforce by 2020, and by 2025 will form 75% of the global workforce.
Millennials and the future of work
Millennials are often depicted as lazy, entitled, and couldn’t get their eyes and hands off their gadgets. However, a recent study by IBM Institute for Business Value says that pretty much all the hype about millennials in the workplace isn’t true.
In fact, millennial employees share certain characteristics with the older generations. Proofs are these five myths about millennials in the workplace that were debunked in the said IBM research:
- Compared to their predecessors, millennials have vastly different career goals and expectations.
Contrary to this myth, what IBM found is that millennials have almost the same career goals as the older generations. They aspire to make a positive impact in their organization, help solve social and/or environmental challenges, and work with a diverse group of people.
- Millennials seek constant praises and think all team members should be rewarded.
Based on the responses gathered in the survey, millennials prefer a fair and ethical manager who is transparent and gives immediate feedback over one who recognizes their accomplishments.
- Being digital addicts, millennials want to do and share everything online.
While they’re better at online interaction than their older counterparts, results show it’s the baby boomers having trouble keeping their professional and personal social interactions separate.
To learn new skills, millennials prefer face-to-face contact over virtual learning, namely working alongside knowledgeable colleagues, attending in-person classroom training, and going to third-party-sponsored events.
- Millennials can’t make a decision without consulting everyone.
The study uncovered that this is the truth for Gen Xers, more than the millennials – 64% and 56% of respondents, respectively.
- Millennials are more likely than others to change jobs if their passions aren’t fulfilled by the job.
Employees in each generation share the same reasons for jumping ship, the foremost being higher compensation and a more innovative, creative workplace.
Although this study proved that there are many similarities among the generations, the bottom line is that millennials have certain characteristics that make them understand the future of work better than the others.
This optimistic and innovative generation grew up in a technology-driven world, helping them complete tasks faster and more efficiently. Leveraging this immersion to digital technology, millennials are shaping work flexibility for everyone.
They break down geographical barriers with telecommuting, with a preference for global opportunities. They view work as a thing and not a place, and believe that productivity must be gauged by work output, not the number of hours logged.
Millennials tend to be uncomfortable with traditional 9-to-5 office grind and turned off by information silos. Their grasp of the limitless potential of social media make them want transparency and regular feedback, which bolsters their desire to keep learning and move up quickly in the organization.
Bottom line, millennials aren’t way too different from their older colleagues, but their being digital natives and penchant for transparency are two of the qualities the future of work will surely be banking on.
Image from Pixabay
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