Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Millennials: The Good, the Bad & the Awesome

By Sean Follin

So you’ve just hired a 25-year-old Millennial. Get ready to contend with the entitlement. The air of authority (sans experience). The texts written in code. The lofty expectations and quick-to-the-next-one career path. Did you know on average, a Millennial will have seven jobs by the time he or she turns 26?

You can also forget about keeping your newest hire focused while in the office. The 9-to-5 is out. This new employee has a life to live which leaves little time for whatever you planned.
So as you watch your recent hire make his way downtown to an evening yoga session, leaving a trail of poorly worded emails and unfinished tasks in his wake, don’t worry.
You have just seen the future, and it is bright.

How could this be, you might ask? Let’s put the stereotypes aside for a moment and start with the numbers.

Millennials (also known as Gen Y) were born between 1980-ish and 1998-ish. Numbering over 80 million, they have surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest demographic. By the year 2025, over 75 percent of the workforce will be made up of Millennials.

Additionally, the Millennial cohort is remarkably diverse. Only 60 percent are reported to be “non-hispanic Caucasian,” which is about 10 percent lower than that of previous generations combined. It comes as no surprise that this group is reportedly the most tolerant – a tolerance that extends beyond race to marriage equality, gender issues, and other social concerns.

Let’s not forget about the technology component. Millennials will soon be the largest audience online. This means big dollars for businesses looking to tap into Millennial buying power. Millennials have been a driving force behind major spending shifts – from e-commerce to m-commerce (‘m’ stands for mobile), and the development of the sharing economy, which you have probably taken advantage of yourself if you’ve ever used Uber, airbnb, or Zipcar.

Finally, the generation is idealistic. In fact, today’s young people have a special blend, which David Burnstein, author of the book Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaping Our World, calls “pragmatic idealism.” That is to say, motivational posters on the wall won’t cut it. Burnstein points to the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Arab Spring, both ‘run’ by Millennials, the latter being his prime example of Millennials’ pragmatism.

Do I buy everything Burnstein says? Of course not. I’m a Millennial. I don’t buy everything anyone says. However, Bernstein alludes to something that does resonate – the cause. A recent survey showed that over 58 percent of Millennials would take a 15 percent pay cut to work at an organization which had similar values to their own. Over 70 percent said they’d like a job where they can “make an impact.”

Holy smokes, that’s serious.

So getting back to the original question – how’s the future so bright? And what’s in it for you, the newly minted boss of the Millennial?

First off, get ready for expert collaboration and information sharing. Millennial social networking habits carry over into the workplace. Combined with the “everyone gets a trophy” attitude from their days in Little League, Millennials excel at team-based projects in environments with constant feedback.

Millennials also look for new methods to complete tasks. By using technology to automate or optimize certain aspects of their jobs, Millennials are finding innovative ways to get work done on time and under budget. While it can be frustrating to field so many variations of the question “why do we do it this way?” a little patience in the matter can lead to large gains in productivity and satisfaction.

Speaking of technology, remember when your Millennial left at 5 p.m. for a dinner which absolutely could not be rescheduled? Well, what she may not have mentioned was that she’d be back online working from home later on in the evening. She might even send you a text during dinner. Perpetual connectivity is the new norm, which has blurred the lines between work and play. Millennials expect to be able to socialize during the day, but in return they’ll work when away from the desk or at home.

Yes, the 9-to-5 is dead, but in its place is the 24/7.

Finally, tapping into your ideals as an organization – and sharing them with your employees – is proven to increase engagement and satisfaction. While you may not be able to stop the “seven jobs by 26” churn, you do have a shot at elongating their stay and getting the most out of each employee while they are with your organization.

In conclusion, I have a lot more to say on the subject. We haven’t covered this generation’s entrepreneurial spirit or their lack of civic engagement – but unfortunately, I’ve got to get to a kickball team happy hour. I can’t reschedule. I’m sure you understand. Shoot me a text or something and I’ll get back to you.


Sean Follin is owner of the consulting firm New Rise Strategy Group.