Seems like yesterday that leaders were figuring out how to work with Generation X. Now we are figuring out how to best lead and relate to the current generation of Millennials. I’ve been involved in consulting with companies whose employees are “Millennials,” also known as Generation Y. I have found this generation enjoyable to work with–enthusiastic and eager to learn. I’m amazed at their knowledge–I would label them “smart” with a high level of creativity, willing to think out of the box in solving challenges and eager to be a part of the solution by sharing their perspectives and ideas.
Here is what I’ve discovered that is important to the Millennial:
- Relating in a manner that genuinely values them as individuals, demonstrating respect for their professional skills, knowledge, and perspective.
- Inviting them to contribute in conversations and decisions that affect where they work.
- Investing in their personal and professional development and success.
This seems to be indicating that a huge dose of respect goes a long way for this generation.
As a coach and consultant, I’m encouraged that businesses are hiring leadership coaches to help build company cultures that are successful at leading and developing Millennials. We have an opportunity to invest in their leadership. It’s important that we understand the person called the Millennial.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at this generation that was born between 1980 and mid-2000s.
Now the largest, most diverse generation in the US
More than one-in-three American workers today are Millennials (adults ages 18 to 34 in 2015), and in 2015 they surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce, according to new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
Pew also found that this milestone occurred in the first quarter of 2015, as the 53.5 million-strong Millennial workforce was rising rapidly. The Millennial labor force in 2014 surpassed that of the Baby Boomer, which has declined as Boomers retire.
In the first quarter of 2015, about 45 million Baby Boomers were in the labor force. The Baby Boom workforce peaked in size at nearly 66 million in 1997. The youngest Boomer is now 51 years old, while the oldest Boomers are approaching age 70. With more Boomers retiring every year and not much immigration to affect their size, the size of the Boomer workforce will continue to shrink.
Currently, with the first cohort of Millennials only in their early thirties, most members of this generation are at the beginning of their careers and so will be an important engine of the economy in the decades to come.
In addition to their numbers:
- This is the first generation to have had access to the Internet during their formative years.
- Millennials also stand out because they are the most diverse and educated generation to date: 42 percent identify with a race or ethnicity other than non-Hispanic white, around twice the share of the Baby Boomer generation when they were the same age.
- About 61 percent of adult Millennials have attended college, whereas only 46 percent of the Baby Boomers did so.
- One study found that more than half of the Millennials surveyed expressed interest in starting a business. And although several Millennials became well-known entrepreneurs in their 20s, this generation is just beginning to reach the peak age for entrepreneurship, which generally occurs in one’s 40s or early 50s.
Practical Application: They are a generation of entrepreneurship and leadership. This gives coaches a valuable and important opportunity to make a mark on their lives and on the companies they have and will establish.
Shaped by technology
The past few decades have witnessed astounding advances in technology and computing. Since personal computers were introduced to schools in the late 1970s, technology companies have innovated at startling speed, often rolling out a groundbreaking new platform or computer model every year. Because much of this period of innovation coincided with Millennials’ childhoods, it has shaped the ways that Millennials interact with technology and seems to have affected their expectations for creativity and innovation in their own work lives.
Millennials are more connected to technology than previous generations and a quarter of Millennials believe that their relationship to technology is what makes their generation unique. While all generations have experienced technological advances, the sheer amount of computational power and access to information that Millennials have had at their fingertips since grade-school is unparalleled. Computational processing power has roughly doubled every 2 years, and storage prices continue to drop. In 1980, IBM’s first gigabyte hard drive weighed 550 pounds and cost $40,000. Today, consumers have access to 3 terabyte hard drives — 3000 times the size — that weigh under 3 pounds and cost around $100. Under these trends, Millennials have come of age in a world in which the frontiers of technology have appeared unlimited.
Practical Application: Technology is like breathing for the Millennial and their ability to create and solve challenge with technology is impressive. This converges with their enjoyment of putting their ingenuity to work for others.
Value community, family, and creativity in their work
Millennials are not just virtually connected via social networks; they value the role that they play in their communities. This community-mindedness also includes a strong connection to family. Millennials have close relationships with their parents, and as high school students, roughly half say that it is important to them to live close to their friends and family, compared with 29 percent of Baby Boomers and 40 percent of Generation Xers.
When it comes to work, Millennials are mostly similar to previous generations: they want to be successful, and they want the type of prosperity that means that their children will be better off. They are somewhat more likely than previous generations to report that they consider creativity to be a very important job feature. Perhaps this is no surprise for a highly-connected generation for whom technology was a key part of their upbringing.
In sum, quality of life appears to be a focus of this generation: Millennials value staying close to family and friends, having free time for recreation, and working in creative jobs. However, they also want to make a positive social impact on their own children and communities, as well as on society as a whole.
Practical Application: They are highly relational on their job and want to have an experience of community. That is one reason for the new open work spaces that are popping up in office buildings. Their cell phones represent community to them; be creative in helping them managing this dynamic while on the job…it’s not going away anytime soon.
Staying with their early-career employers longer
Millennials are sometimes characterized as lacking attachment or loyalty to their employers, but in fact, contrary to popular perceptions, Millennials actually stay with their employers longer than Generation X workers did at the same ages. This reflects the fact that Millennials face a labor market characterized by longer job tenure, fewer employer switches and other types of career transitions, and lower overall fluidity in the labor market. Millennials are less likely to have been with their employer for less than a year than Generation X workers were at the same age, and they are more likely to have been with their employer for a fairly long period like 3 to 6 years.
Young workers spending more years with their employers has important advantages in terms of job security, the benefits of learning on the job, and the additional productivity associated with reduced turnover. To the degree that the increase in tenure reflects improved job matches it represents a favorable development.
Practical Application: Employers would be wise to make a plan on how they can best invest and develop the generation of Millennials.
Let’s boil this down to five basic ways that we can relate to the professional Millennial:
- Look for ways to satisfy their desire to be creative, to have important and interesting roles, and to engage them in being a part of the company’s progression. In other words, be inclusive.Emphasize training and personal development to retain this group. Amy Lynch of Generational Edge says, “It’s money that is worthwhile.”
- Encourage collaboration and transparency. This generation assumes they can and should contribute to conversation and decisions that affect where they work. Establishing meetings where open, collaborative sessions resulting in everyone sharing ideas is important to the Millennial.
- Focus on mentorship. Millennials value guidance. They have grown up with considerable guidance from their parents, society, and teachers. Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace and co-author of, The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today encourages reciprocal mentoring. Example: Have the executive learn social media while the Millennial learns leadership and management skills.
- Commit to social causes. Connection to social issues that are having a positive impact in society or community is important to the Millennial. Leaders who are prioritizing volunteering or a connection to social causes in their organizations are finding success in attracting Millennials.
Information in this blog can be found in the 2014 Council of Economic Advisors Report.
I’m anticipating incredible and remarkable inventions, ideas, and leadership from this generation in the years to come. I’m finding it a privilege to be working alongside individuals that call themselves Millennials.
About the author: Mary Verstraete is a professional leadership consultant and coach. She works with ambitious business professionals who want to leverage their leadership.
As a business consultant, Mary works with organizations to establish a culture of synergistic teams, systems and processes for greater employee engagement, employee loyalty, and communication effectiveness.
Mary is President and Cofounder of the Center for Coaching Excellence, a distinctive training organization that focuses on developing highly competent coaches through a mentor-training approach and a training model of coaching that easily transitions into professional and personal conversations. She continues to expanded coaching into diverse industries by developing customized coach training used in companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, and MJ Senior Housing.
To contact Mary, call: 612.246.4787