Millennials continue to be the most misunderstood of the generations in the workforce. Born in the age of technology and everything at their fingertips, organizations find it challenging to manage them.
There is the perception that millennials are stuck, lazy, and have no work ethic. Many believe there must be a reason why they aren’t getting homes, marrying and having children like their predecessors did at this stage in their lives. Some refer to it as a “millennial thing” or “it’s just the generation,” but is it?
A growing number of millennials are behind in life, but ahead at work compared to their baby boomer parents, according to a recent CLO Video Blog by editors Lara Walsh and Frank Kalman. Their video blog discusses workforce challenges for millennials and the positive attributes they bring to the table.
There are two factors the video blog associates with Gen Y being behind, college debt and not getting the right job early on that would propel them into their career. These factors are not characteristic of the generation, but rather a result of life events that have transpired in the 21st century, namely the recession and economic crisis.
Walsh shares the advice recently given to her as she graduated college, “Internships are the new entry-level job – paid is always best, but that is not always what you will get.” When a new graduate is faced with college loans and an entry-level job that in some cases may not pay, the result is a generation that is staying single longer, not purchasing a home, and waiting to have children.
Kalman compares it to being on a ladder – the career gets pushed down a few rungs and it is taking longer for this generation to get out there and be in a place they want to be. But, for all the challenge this generation appears to have, they have many positive characteristics that are often overlooked due to stereotypes.
Many millennials have a freedom from certain responsibilities like home ownership and raising children, something their parents didn't have. Without these responsibilities at this stage in their life, they have more flexibility (when and where) to do their work as opposed to their baby boomer supervisors who are more limited. Furthermore, they are often more prepared in certain areas than their predecessors. They tend to be tech savvy, creative, and focused on getting the job done while achieving the end result in the most effective way.
Organizations need to understand that this younger generation can and does add value to the workplace, even if they find them challenging. By separating the true generational characteristics from the life stage traits, and using their positive attributes to their advantage, organizations will find they have bright, productive, hard working individuals looking to make a difference.