There are a lot of terms thrown around to describe Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000). On the positive side, you hear adjectives like tech-savvy, smart, independent, and ambitious. When it comes to the negatives, however, the descriptors tend to be really negative—words like spoiled, entitled, lazy, and disloyal often creep into the conversation.
Plante Moran employs a lot of Millennials, and I have to tell you, I haven’t experienced those negatives. I’ve found the generation to be great team players and extremely hard working—they just tend to approach work differently. I’ve also found them to be loyal and highly motivated—especially if they believe in a particular cause or initiative.
So why do Millennials tend to approach work differently? I think it’s because, on average, they tend to get started with their lives later than my generation did. Millennials tend to take longer to get through school and marry later. (The average age of marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men compared to 22 for women and 25 for men back in 1980 when I entered the workforce.) They tend to have kids well into their 30s. I look at my 27-year-old son, for example. He’s still in medical school, unmarried, with no kids. He has a fiancée, but they’ve made the decision to wait until he’s finished with school before getting married. When I was 27, I had one child and another on the way. I had a lot more to worry about beyond myself. Because of these differences, Millennials can afford to try different career paths, move around, and generally approach their lives with a greater sense of adventure. Their approach to their lives tends to be different than the generations that came before them, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.
And it’s not as though previous generations haven’t had a thing or two to say about the ones that followed them. Traditionalists (those born between 1925 and 1945) found the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) to be ruthlessly ambitious versus simply willing to work long hours to rise up within their organizations. Baby Boomers found Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1979) to be lazy and even whiners versus committed to work-life balance. And now this.
We might think we want Millennials to be more like other generations, but if everyone approached work the same, it would get boring really quickly. Like someone once said, “Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.” I believe that goes double in the workplace.
What are your thoughts on the Millennial generation?