Working with Millennials

Let’s start off breaking down the three generations that currently make up the American workforce. They are:

  • Baby Boomers (born between 1946 – 1964)
  • Gen X (born between 1965 – 1981)
  • Gen Y / Millennials (born between 1982 – 2000)

To better understand your employees as a whole, you have to put them into context. How are millennials different from baby boomers, what is working with millennials like? What do they expect from their jobs that Gen X-ers don’t? Regardless of their reputation of being the “entitled” generation, millennials will soon be running America’s businesses and become our primary buyers; it’s worth paying attention to how they are revolutionizing the workplace. In fact — dare we say— millennials just might end up being the most hard-working generation of all.

So here’s the 411 on today’s working generations and what it’s like working with millennials.

1. Baby Boomers

Baby boomers were born between 1946 – 1964. They make up 31% of the workplace today and are slowly beginning to exit the workforce.

Defining Traits of Baby Boomers

  • Optimistic
  • Hard-working
  • Consensus-oriented
  • Focused on long-term goals

Baby boomers want to build a big tent with those who share similar values and beliefs with them. They are focused on long-term goals, which explains most of our current legacy planning frameworks. They tend to focus on 1 to 3 year goals (to put this in perspective, the average time an individual stays at a company today is 4.4 years). Baby boomers are team players, whose most important corporate perks are benefits such as healthcare and retirement.

2. Gen X

Gen X-ers were born between 1965 – 1981. They make up 33% of the workplace today.

Defining Traits of Gen X-ers

  • Skeptical but pragmatic
  • Value work-life balance
  • Competence-oriented
  • Consider titles unimportant

Gen X-ers possess less raw optimism than baby boomers and tend to be more pragmatic. Rather than prioritize the ability to form strong consensus, they look to the person with the great skillset to lead. As a result, they are known to have great managerial skills and see job titles as less important. In terms of perks, Gen X-ers value flexible work hours as part of their commitment to achieving work-life balance.

3. Millennials

While the exact years that span the Millennial generation are still being debated, the general consensus is that millennials were born between 1982 and 2000. They currently make up 24% of the workforce, and that percentage is growing.

Defining Traits of Millennials

  • Entrepreneurial
  • No work-life distinction
  • Teamwork-oriented
  • Committed to making a difference

Millennials are the most tech-savvy working generation to-date, and you can expect them question the status quo. Working with millennials means continually striving to make a difference.

One common misconception is that millennials befriend their coworkers. In reality, millennials see no work-life distinction and wonder why people even talk about a difference between work and one’s personal life in the first place.

While the average time an employee stays with one company is 4.4 years, millennials average about half that time. They prioritize professional growth as an essential part of working at a company. As a result of a lack of work-life distinction, millennials expect their employers to support their lifestyles both inside and outside of the office, from encouraging healthy living to sponsoring pet care.

*Adapted from Nancy Ahlrichs’ Retaining Four Generations of Workers.