Myths & Truths About Millennials

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With Millennials increasingly entering the workforce, and likely to make up 50% of the US 2020 workforce and by 2030 75% of the world workforce, leaders and HR experts constantly are trying to find out how best to create a good fit between them and with their (existing and future) companies. Many people believe that these “digital natives” are different from existing generations and would revolutionize the workplace; based on my experiences as a father, teacher and supervisor of teenagers and young adults, that’s not what I experienced. Therefore, I was excited to learn about a study on the topic by the IBM Institute for Business Value.


The title gives you an idea of what their multigenerational study of 1,784 employees from 12 countries and 6 industries found when they compared the preferences and behaviors of Millennials (aged 21-34) to Gen X (aged 35-49) and Baby Boomers (50-60). “Myths, Exaggerations and Uncomfortable Truths” debunked 5 common myths and exposed 3 “uncomfortable truths” that apply irrespective of age.


The data suggest that when it comes to career goals, preferences for management styles and recognition, understanding of the corporate strategies and expectations for customer experiences, Millennials are not vastly different from their older colleagues. In some cases they are more similar to members of the Baby Boomers; in others, such as creating a collaborative culture to get group input for decision making, Millenials are more similar to Gen Xers (with Baby Boomers being the outliers). Indeed, 42% of Millenials would leave their jobs for another offering more money and/or a more innovative environment, similar to the 47% for Gen X.


The key take-away is that this first generation of “digital natives” offers companies the opportunity to harness their new perspectives and skills by creating work environments that embrace the use of digital capital and allow it to flourish across all generations.


However, workplace success for all the employees depends on companies changing three uncomfortable truths about the workplace itself;

  • Employees are in the dark: 50%+ don’t feel they understand their organization’s business strategy – and their leaders are partly to blame. Almost half said leaders don’t clearly communicate their vision for the business and what they expect from employees.
  • All three generations think the customer experience is poor: Baby Boomers – 60%; Millenials – 70%; and Gen X – 40%!
  • Employees of all ages have embraced the technological revolution. But they believe that their companies are slow to implement new applications – only 4% of respondents claim their organization has no issues adopting new technologies. The majority (72%) of all groups fear the impact of technology on customer experience; and over 40% see the obstacle to technology being its complexity and their leaders’ lack of technological savvy.


What do you think? How do you think we can best change these workplace challenges? Share your experiences!