Even though Millennials are no longer the newest members of the workforce, we’re still hashing out why they work so differently from their Baby Boomer and Gen X counterparts. In a changing workforce that is giving Millennials more options than ever before, it’s about time that we reconsider the labels we’ve placed on Millennials.
“Millennials have a larger vision for their careers and work toward goals that align with their career aspirations.”
In recent years, Millennials have become the largest segment of the workforce, with more than 56 million working today. Despite what countless books and articles claim, Millennials are hard workers. But they won’t settle for a company that doesn’t treat them well or challenge them. While older generations like Baby Boomers and Gen Xers were happy to just have a job, Millennials have a larger vision for their careers and work toward goals that align with their career aspirations.
Still, older generations tend to believe that Millennial success stories are outliers. We’ve all heard some version of a success story that starts with a Millennial who started a multi-million dollar company from their basement. But honestly, the stories we should be telling are those every day successes that show Millennials growing their skills and moving up within their respected companies.
Some are even doing so without the corporate ladder. Mark Webb worked his way from technician to general manager to owning a franchise of Shack Shine, the company where he got his start. While working on his marketing degree, Mark connected with the owners through a job posting online. Although the company didn’t even have a brand, Webb got on the ground floor and connected with a mentor who changed his career trajectory. He credits solid mentorship and hard work for his success but also recognizes his knack for discovering his limitations as helpful in the business world.
Stories like these show us what some think pieces tend to forget: like it or not, Millennials are moving into managerial and executive roles. Sometimes at younger ages than we’d expect. We better be ready for them.
“Millennials are also highly collaborative, tech-savvy, and adaptable…”
Millennials tend to be skilled at recognizing the work environments that work best for their aspirations, goals, and skills. Unlike older generations, those in their twenties and thirties are good at asking for help, which makes them strong leaders who prioritize real-world learning opportunities. Millennials are also highly collaborative, tech-savvy, and adaptable, something that their Baby Boomers don’t realize they need to prioritize.
Still, the misunderstanding about how Millennials work isn’t just between Baby Boomers. They also share differences from Gen Xers, who may have more experience as managers and an understanding of how departments work together. Something older generations tend to forget about is the fact that Millennials are earlier in their careers and therefore seeking out opportunities to learn from their older counterparts.
Some view Millennials’ interest in technology as an uncrossable difference that separates them from older generations. But what this really tells us is that younger and older generations have something to teach each other in the workplace.
“Millennials have… damaging generalizations that don’t account for individual differences [from previous generations].”
While Baby Boomers are said to rank high for productivity, working hard, and mentoring others, Gen Xers are effective and adaptable managers. But Millennials are stuck with labels that show them to be tech-savvy, overly enthusiastic, and able to throw together a good social media profile. These traits either aren’t fully appreciated by older generations or simply hide the other skills that Millennials have, creating damaging generalizations that don’t account for individual differences.
The problems surrounding our discussions about workplace misunderstandings between Millennials and Baby Boomers start with these generalizations. But more importantly, they keep us from having a real dialogue about bringing teams together and growing everyone’s skills so companies operate more efficiently without making Millennials sacrifice autonomy or work-life balance.
“[Let’s bring] everyone together under common goals and [prepare] the next generation of managers.”
Despite the misunderstanding between Millennials and older generations, it’s quite possible to bring generations together in the workplace. Sharing the company culture, creating mentorship and real-world learning opportunities, and delegating projects to junior employees can be a great way to bridge the gap. If we really want all the chatter about Millennials and their lack of work ethic to stop, the answer is bringing everyone together under common goals and preparing the next generation of teams and leaders.