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11 Things You Need to Know About Your Millennial Co-workers

MillennialsMove over, Gen X; millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Look around your office and you’ll likely see that one in three of your coworkers is a millennial (born between 1977-1995; a.k.a. Gen Y). Currently there are over 83 million Gen Yers in the United States, and that number is expected to grow. As this generation continues to mature and enter the workforce, understanding millennials and what motivates them has never been more important.

For the first time in U.S. history, four generations are working together, and the age gap between co-workers can be as wide as 60 years. You’ll find traditionalists, baby boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers working side by side in many offices. Each of these generations has defining traits that are shaped by a variety of factors. These factors include parenting styles, economic trends, technology advancements, historical events and lifespan. This results in different work and communication styles, career goals and values.

Predictably, these differences often cause friction, and tensions can arise. When there is discord between the generations, it can have a negative impact on your bottom line, causing your operational costs to go up and your operational effectiveness to go down. Knowing the distinctive traits associated with each group and developing the skills to work across the generations will help companies smooth over issues and increase productivity.

Thankfully, generational expert Jason Dorsey, who also happens to be a millennial, has written a book to help you navigate the generational divide. Dorsey is the chief strategy officer at the Center for Generational Kinetics, and he’s also a Gen Y researcher and speaker. In his book, Y Size Your Business, Dorsey shares the defining characteristics of each of the generations currently in the workforce and explains what sets Gen Y apart.

Some key things to note about millennials (and no it’s not their tattoos, piercings and facial hair):

  1. Gen Y is the first generation to have no expectation of lifetime employment. Millennials consider long-term employment as being at the same company for 13 months.
  2. They have a feeling of entitlement. Their parents want things to be easier for them.
  3. They bring big expectations for their career and have a strong desire to make a difference.
  4. Millennials crave instant gratification and are outcome-driven.
  5. They depend on technology and use it to communicate with friends and family 24/7. This dependence is often at the cost of interpersonal communications skills and face-to-face conversational skills.
  6. Millennials have a high tolerance for diversity—both racial diversity and diversity of thought.
  7. They aspire to be entrepreneurs and run the show.
  8. Millennials like to control their own schedules.
  9. They have a need for ongoing feedback.
  10. Millennials lack real-world experience and need to be taught how to act like professionals.
  11. Gen Y values their lifestyle over their career.

Many of these defining characteristics are wildly different from those of prior generations. Luckily, Dorsey provides strategies and tactics to help you leverage these traits, starting with how to get millennials to apply for your job and tips to keep them in that job once you’ve hired them. Unlike previous generations, millennials decide on day one whether to stay at a company. Connecting with them and helping them see how they fit into your culture should be priority number one.

Once a Gen Yer has made the decision to commit, you’ll need to keep them engaged and provide regular feedback as you develop their talent and teach them how to conduct themselves professionally. If you can align your company goals with their personal goals, you can expect millennials to be loyal, hardworking members of your team.

Learning how to motivate, manage and lead millennial employees will help ensure the success of your firm. Leveraging their diverse thinking and desire to make a difference could even give you a competitive advantage.

Jennifer Gardner, Communications Manager--Social Strategy, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

Millennials courtesy of Thinkstock.


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