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Posted: July 25, 2011

These kids today!

Separating fact from fiction about the Millennial Generation

Evan Abbott

Each generation seems to struggle with the next as it relates to their work ethic, communication, and relationship with authority. Today's work environment is no different.

Ask Baby Boomer (born 1945 to 1963) or Generation X (born 1963 to 1980) managers about their Millennial employees (born 1980 to 2000) and you might hear:

"Does EVERY waking moment have to revolve around friends, texting, or Facebook?"

"What is it with these kids today? They want their hand held around everything! When I was their age I had to figure it out myself!"

"They scare me. If I go on vacation they will have taken over my job by the time I get back."

So who are the Millennials? Based on data collected by the Pew Research Center here are a few things we know:

• They are 11 - 31 years old
• There are over 80 Million of them
• They are more ethnically & racially diverse than any previous generation
• They will likely go down as "The Most Educated Generation in History"
• They describe themselves as hopeful, optimistic, civic-minded, achievement-focused and cooperative.
• Two out of five have a tattoo
• And in case you were wondering, 1 out of 4 have a piercing . . . Other than an earlobe

Can you separate Fact from Fiction when it comes to the Millennial Generation?

Fact or Fiction: They are disrespectful. Fiction. Ninety percent of them report being close to their family and elders, while 50 percent report trusting the government/authority.

Fact or Fiction: They are selfish and self-centered. Fiction. There is currently an all-time high in volunteering amongst teens. In addition, colleges and universities are reporting a significant increase in students seeking "non-profit" degrees.

Fact or Fiction: They are more likely to switch jobs & careers. Fact. Nearly 60 percent have already switched jobs twice. They are estimated to change jobs anywhere from 7 to 10 times in their lifetime.

It's useful to keep the facts in mind when figuring out the best way to manage Millennials. Here are some other tips to consider that may help you establish effective and productive relationships with this newest cohort of employees.

• Don't dismiss their love of technology. This generation has been raised on technology from birth. Very soon entry level employees will think we have always had smart phones, iPads, and remote technology. When your Millennial employees make requests for these items in the workplace, resist the temptation to think of them as toys. Rather, these are critical tools for this newest generation of workers.

• Don't confuse their desire to learn for a lack of focus. Millennials have been raised on the philosophy that it is not about your degree, or what you knew yesterday. It IS about what you know for tomorrow. This generation is looking to constantly grow and develop. Their desire to learn is a direct expression of wanting to contribute more to your organization.

• What we call "hand holding" they call "mentoring." Millennials have always had a parent, coach, or teacher working with them to learn through success. Why should the workplace be any different? This becomes a fantastic opportunity to leverage your Baby Boomer employees who might be looking to pass along knowledge as well as responsibilities to newer employees.

• The world is about options and flexibility. As with technology, school assignments, and most of the direction of the modern world, this is a generation who has been raised on the idea of customizing and flexing your world to fit your needs. When they ask to customize their job description and trade work assignments, this is not because they are looking to slack-off. They are trying to play to their skill sets OR take on new tasks to stay challenged. Be sure to explore all the options before saying "no."

Sooner or later every generation comes . . . and every generation goes. By understanding the unique needs and gifts of the Millennial generation you will be setting your organization up to make full use of this engaging and energetic new wave of the workforce.

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Evan Abbott is the Director of Organizational Development and Learning at Mountain States Employers Council. He holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology from Arizona State University and a master's degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Colorado at Denver. In addition, he also holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources certification. In his 12 years at MSEC, Evan has led professional workshops on a variety of topics including: Generations in the Workplace, Motivation and Engagement, Change/Transition management, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as well as various topics related to Leadership & Supervisory skills. He consults with MSEC members about issues related to training, organizational development and strategic management. In addition, Evan teaches courses in Research Methods, Psychology, and Organizational Behavior in the College of Professional Studies at Regis University.

Evan Abbott is the Director of Organizational Development and Learning at Mountain States Employers Council. He holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology from Arizona State University and a master's degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Colorado at Denver. In addition to his work at MSEC, Evan teaches courses in Research Methods, Psychology, and Organizational Behavior in the College of Professional Studies at Regis University.

 

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Readers Respond

Love the insight, Evan. Extremely perceptive, based on my own experience of working and parenting several millennials. By Marcia Noyes on 2011 07 25

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