Are Millennials Really That Bad for the Modern Workforce?

Depending on what sources you choose to listen to, Millennials are considered to be the group of people born starting in 1982 up to the early 2000’s. Pew Research further narrows the field to those born between 1981 – 1998 (source).

Capping the Millennial-field at those born before 98′ is perhaps the most relevant for those of you reading this in 2014, as this would leave the youngest of them all at 16 years of age; i.e., most likely just entering the retail workforce now, and soon moving into more professional work environments in the next few years.

Young business people

Millennials – More Labels Than Any Other

Ad Age magazine labelled this group as “Generation Y” back in 1993. Since then, several other marques have been associated with them, including “Generation Next”, “Generation Now”, “Echo Boomers“, and “The Net Generation.”

This entire introductory preface I’ve detailed is important for any business owner, manager, or potential coworker to know because Millennials (as I’ll refer to them henceforth), are considered to be a much different breed of worker than all who came before them.

The Good vs. The Bad

The good news for employers is that Millennials have been (for the most part) trained to do things the easy way. But this isn’t a bad thing. Most of the stereotypes about this group are perpetrated by an aging workforce that’s unwilling to adapt in the face of a fast-changing economy and workforce. Where technology makes it possible to accomplish once arduous tasks in the blink of an eye.

Let’s try to pull this group out of a few of the common and unfair pigeonholes they’ve been stuffed into over the last few years:

1. They’re lazy

I’ve stated that Millennials have been trained to do things the easy way.

Why’s that bad though? Farmers used to shovel all the manure on their farms, and plant and harvest their crops by hand, before modern gas and electric powered machinery was developed. Put this in perspective and postulate how we’d feed and clean up after 7-Billion people if everything was done the hard, traditional way.

Truth: Using technology, outsourcing, and smart time management is the way of the future. Millennials are merely the next step in the evolution of a more efficient, modernized workforce.

2. They’re too free-spirited, unwilling to commit

Their free-spirited nature may be a direct result of having hippie and post-hippy generations of parents, but there’s a heck of a lot more to do with it than non-conformist parenting. True, this generation doesn’t feel like they need to get a full-time job working at a factory for 20 years, only to die of a heart attack at 55. They also don’t want to work 60 hours a week destroying their bodies as a tradesman or laborers. Nor do they desire to work in office administration or middle-management for an established company year after year, only to be working the same exact gig when they’re 40.

Too many Millennials have seen the adults in their life suffer at the onset of the Information Era.

In their lifetime, Millennials have watched:

  • The Industrial Age came to a final halt (look at General Motors, once the highest-paying and most desireable factory jobs across North America.)
  • Office-based businesses went from needing 100’s and 1000’s of people to head their operations, to needing less than a quarter that number, due to improved technology.
  • Corporate America transform itself into a mecca of Entrepreneurship.

Millennials have been taught not to count on a single entity or industry to provide them with the financial means to survive. Yet so many would label this adaptation as a lack of willingness to stick it out for the long haul, or that they’re always looking to go with the next-highest bidder.

Truth: Millennials are once again merely adapting to the current and impending future employment landscape. They know they have to diversify their opportunities in order to ensure a lifetime of employment and financial security. Employers should embrace the flexible nature of this group. Millennials are more open to performance-based compensation, love to work from home, are open to changes in the workplace, and will give willingly their loyalty to employers who embrace these qualities.

Millennials conversing
photo credit: Francisco Osorio / Flickr

3. They’re not team players, too self-absorbed

This stereotype definitely has some merit to it. Still, it’s a pigeon-holing belief because not all Millennials are made this way. Furthermore, for those Millennials who do fit into this mold, it’s still yet another adaptation to changes in the workforce: the availability of jobs and being taught that they need to assert themselves aggressively to get ahead.

Millennials have been taught to think big. Look forward and never back. Consequences be damned. You only live once. They don’t live in a small-town box like generations that came before them. The Internet and in particular, social media has taught them that there’s more to the world than just the day-to-day “grind” at the office.

Truth: The truth is that Millennials can be more self-absorbed, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good team players. The answer to this dilemma is for managers and CEO’s to encourage, even demand, that everyone in the workplace has more active leadership-based roles, so Millennials don’t feel like they have to step over each other on their road to success.

Stop Picking on the Millennials and Start Adapting With Them!

Here’s why:

By 2020, it’s projected that 50 percent of the global workforce will be Millennials; by 2025, nearly 75 percent!

Millennials are merely adapting to emerging changes, ensuring a future for themselves and their families. There’s an old saying that goes something like “do what you’ve always done and you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

Whenever times are a changing, traditional beliefs and systems always clash with innovation. That’s just reality.

This emerging segment of the workforce simply cannot go out in the world with an industrial revolution mindset and expect to survive.

The Millennial Shift has begun!