Understanding Millennials In the workplace

Work It!

Carlotta Daniels-Randolph | 11/3/2015, 4:24 p.m.
Remember the days when the conversation about who is in the workplace was largely about gender, race and ethnicity? These ...

Remember the days when the conversation about who is in the workplace was largely about gender, race and ethnicity? These may still be concerns, but the larger conversation about workplace diversity concerns are around age and generational differences. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the generation known as the Millennials, a population group slightly larger than the so called Baby Boomer generation is now the majority in the workplace.

The Millennial birth period shifts slightly depending on the source you reference, but generally speaking these are people born between 1980 and 2000.

Particular focus is on the second half of this period, 1990 through 2000 because of a survey done on this population that indicates that there is a decidedly different perspective and way many choose to relate to work.

Born of a number of historic economic and social realities such as recessions and rapidly advancing technology, many of these young people see their place of employment as a brief stop along the way on their career path rather than something for the long haul.

This was said to be true of the generation prior to them, the so called Gen Xers who are born from 1965 up to the early 1980s. The Gen Xers started the down shift in attitude toward employer loyalty after witnessing their Baby Boomer and WWII era parents be devastated by downsizing and layoffs. The Millennials have responded with even greater reluctance to commit for the long haul, particularly early in their career. So it would not be unusual for one to view 9 to 18 months as the length of time necessary to spend in one position before they are ready to move up or move on.

Unfortunately there is the tendency to bash this generation saying that they have no work ethic and that they want undue praise for marginal performance and other unkind remarks. However, I would like to see sound research comparing each preceding generation in its youth to see if there is a statistically significant difference in work ethic, which is not to be confused with employer loyalty. If we look back at what was said about Baby Boomers who were coming of age in the sixties, I believe similar things were said.

Why this is relevant for managers and co-workers of Millennials to know is because it can be a source of frustration if it is not understood that they are not being intentionally different or difficult. It is that they have experienced a different upbringing and have different expectations than all three of the preceding generations. Technology plays a significant role in the way this generation relates to the world. They are the “Smart Phone Nation” with all of its ramifications.

As with any work situation where you would like to yield the most positive outcome, you build on and utilize strengths of these individuals. Projects where technology is central are a good start. In areas where development for these individuals is necessary you can mentor and coach. Fortunately, many Millennials are open to support and coaching opportunities with more seasoned employees if they feel the interaction is genuine and not judgmental.

This gives co-workers and managers the chance to build bridges where collaboration can flourish and be of general benefit to the work environment and hopefully the success of the organization.

Carlotta Daniels-Randolph, M.Ed. is a workforce development professional with 20 years’ experience in the public and private sector and an administrator and adjunct instructor at Delaware County Community College.