Recently, millennials—those born roughly between 1982 and 2000—surpassed Generation X to comprise the largest percentage of the workforce at 35%. Generation X makes up 34%, boomers are 29%, and the silent generation are 2% of the working population.
At more than 80 million strong, millennials are a true force to be reckoned with in the workplace. Like every “next generation,” millennials often feel misunderstood, which can lead to lower productivity, or even disengagement. Studies predict millennials will be the highest achieving generation to date. To better connect with this powerful segment of the workforce, leaders must understand who they are and how to draw on their unique talents.
The Characteristics of Millennials
Like any generation, there are certain cultural experiences that affect the way millennials see the world. Baby Boomers grew up with The Brady Bunch and having to get off the couch to change the channel. Millennials remember watching Full House and Home Improvement; most recall vividly when they got their first cell phone.
There are a variety of characteristics that can help you easily identify a millennial. Their generation is one of selectivity, choices, technology, and team work. Millennials grew up in an era with hundreds of television channels, boxes of crayons with 96 colors and now multi-colored iPhones and laptops.
Because they’re used to having options in all parts of their lives, millennials value flexibility and convenience more than previous generations. Going through programs such as daycare and after-school sports—something their parents or grandparents did rarely—has also shaped the way millennials learn and interact. Because they’ve been working with peers their whole lives, they learn best through collaborative efforts.
Based on the knowledge of what makes a millennial “tick,” leaders need to understand the three main characteristics that shape their approach to the workplace.
1. Millennials learn by doing and encourage constant feedback, which makes them incredibly results-oriented. They’re usually on the lookout for ways to develop and improve the quality of their work, making them great team members. With that, leaders know they can rely on millennials to welcome constructive counsel to reach their best potential.
2. Millennials are the first generation to grow up in the information age, making them true digital natives. Because millennials rely so heavily on technology, this means they may not have had the opportunity to practice verbal communication skills in business situations. As leaders, we can teach them about the benefits of face-to-face communication and tap them to help us better navigate new technologies.
3. Along with being tech savvy, millennials are great multi-taskers. They often have several screens open while working on multiple projects. Knowing that millennials are comfortable with multi-tasking, leaders should know that this skill-set makes them flexible team members that can successfully handle several tasks at a time.
Shaping the Future
As the largest percentage of our population, millennials are shaping the future of many industries. Having them as a part of your organization can help guide your team through the ever-changing business landscape. As new technologies become a bigger part of business, millennials will be there to help companies adjust through those changes. Their experiential learning style and innate ability to be results-oriented will continue to add value and ultimately help drive business results. That’s a benefit a leader of any generation can appreciate.
How will you maximize on the uniques skill sets that millennials have to offer?