Born between 1980 and the early 2000sii, the eldest Millennials are in the workplace now and by 2025 will make up 75 per cent of the global workforceiii. If you are in the workforce now, there's a pretty good chance that you'll be working alongside them. They could be your customer and may even be your competitor: 70 per cent have, or want to have, their own businessiv.
Spoilt, lazy, impatient or ...?
Unfortunately, as a generation, Millennials have not been given a great résumé. The popular perception - not necessarily supported by substantial evidence - is that they're impatient, overly self-confident, self-absorbed, self-important, lazy, easily bored, spoilt, constantly need positive affirmation, and are disloyalxvii,i.
That is in stark contrast to how they see themselves and the opportunities they present to employers. When they look in the mirror, Millennials see a tolerant, curious, positive, sharing, connected, flexible, innovativev generation. They are true to themselvesi.
They are also the most-educated generationvi. In 2011, 52 per cent of young adults (18 to 34 years) had a non-school qualification and 26 per cent held a bachelor degree or higher qualificationvii. Go back 35 years to 1976 and only 30 per cent in the same age group had a non-school qualification and just 5 per cent held a bachelor degree or higher qualificationvii.
Recent events, globalisation and ... happiness!
Even when factoring in the dot.com bust and global recession which began in 2008, Millennials have lived in relative prosperity. One report claimed some commentators felt Millennials "need a good recession" to realise how good they have itxvii.
With experience of the world that goes back only 30 years, it's the recent big trends and events that have helped shaped them. Viacom's 2012 research on 15,000 young people (aged 9 to 30) from 24 countries - including Australia - point to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., the launch of Facebook and Barack Obama's election as key events in the lives of Millennials worldwidei. The report noted the Black Saturday bushfires, Global Financial Crisis and Queensland floods weighed heavily on Australian Millennialsi.
Climate change is the top problem facing society in the next 20 yearsviii according to 300 Millennials interviewed in Australia for the Deloitte Millennial Innovation Survey 2013viii.
Despite the threat of terrorism, natural disasters, economic catastrophes and climate change, 84 per cent of Australian Millennial respondents to the Viacom survey were happy (global average: 87 per cent). Nevertheless, 35 per cent were stressed (global average: 33 per cent)i.
Opinions on business
The Mind the Gaps 2015 Deloitte Millennial surveyix, which interviewed 7800 Millennials from 29 countries including Australia, showed Millennial respondents thought businesses needed to pay equal attention to people as they do to products and profitMx. Seventy-five per cent thought businesses were too fixated on their own agendas and should be more focused on improving societyx.
The Deloitte 2013 Millennial Innovation Surveyxi of 4800 people in 16 "markets" (covering at least 18 countries), provided more information on Australians. 70 per cent of Australian respondents thought employee satisfaction was very important (just less than financial performance)xii. While research indicates the top priority for Australian respondents is that businesses should produce goods and services (29 per centxiii), only 58 per cent thought their company helped society in some wayxiv or that they worked for an innovative companyxv.
Millennials are likely to have been influenced by new technology, economics, and socialisation by very hands-on involved parentsxvii who valued their children's opinions on matters such as cars and family holidays. This has led to Millennials having high expectations: they want well-paid and meaningful work and, according to popular literature, to become famousxvii. At the same time they (similar to older generations) place parenthood and marriage far ahead of work and financial successxvi.
Working with Millennials
Each generation has unique features. Empirical studies support the stereotypes that Boomers are ambitious workaholics who may be critical of co-workers who do not work as hard, while Generation X are sceptics who like to work autonomously and dislike meetingsxvii.
Empirical studies indicate that, like Boomers, Millennials thrive on recognition and promotionsxvii. They often have a broader perspective about supervisor-subordinate relationships, and want close relationships and frequent feedback from their bossxvii. The ideal boss - according to a 2013 Hays survey of 1000 Australians aged 18 to 30 - is mostly a mentor (50 per cent), leader (40 per cent, confidant (30 per cent) and friend (23 per cent)xviii. The four qualities they wanted in a boss were: support (43 per cent), expertise (42 per cent), motivation (39 per cent) and fairness (38 per cent)xix.
Millennials expect to become involved in projects that have a major impact on the organisation soon after they've joined. This includes matters normally reserved for more senior employeesxvii. Giving Millennials more responsibility regarding broader company issues, so they feel involved, can avoid them becoming bored, which, according to popular literature, is the main reason for leavingxvii.
While Millennials are adept at team work, this can come at the expense of individual excellence, fast decision-making and productivityxvii.
Millennials are optimistic and familiar with technologyxx. They may be well placed to provide opinions on how to improve operations and marketing through technologyxvii. Like Generation X workers, they feel rewarded by work arrangements that offer more flexibility and new technologyxvii,xxi.