Millennials, or members of Generation Y (also known as Gen Y) were born between 1982 and 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Census Bureau estimates that there are 83.1 million millennials in the U.S., and the Pew Research Center found that millennials surpassed baby boomers (boomers) to become the largest living generation in the United States in 2016.
Millennials are separated from the older generation before them (Generation X) and the generation that followed them (Generation Z).
As expected by their birth years, the Millennial generation makes up the fastest growing segment of the workforce. As companies compete for available talent, employers simply cannot ignore the needs, desires, and attitudes of this vast generation. As with each generation that preceded it, Millennials have come to be defined by a set of characteristics formed mainly by the world and culture they grew up in. Here are a few of their common characteristics.
Millennials are Tech-Savvy
Generation Y grew up with technology, and they rely on it to perform their jobs better. Armed with smartphones, laptops, and other gadgets, this generation is plugged in 24/7. They like to communicate through email, text messaging, and whatever new social media platform (i.e., Twitter, Instagram) friends and colleagues are using. This is a generation that can't even imagine a world without the internet or cell phones.
Millennials Are Family-Centric
The fast-track lifestyle has lost much of its appeal for millennials. The members of this generation are willing to trade high pay for fewer billable hours, flexible schedules, and a better work/life balance. Although older generations may view this attitude as narcissistic or see it as a lack of commitment, discipline, and drive, Millennials have a different idea of workplace expectations. Millennials usually prioritize family over work, and even those who aren't married with children feel the need to be a part of a family and spend time with nieces, nephews, and siblings.
Millennials Are Achievement-Oriented
Nurtured and pampered by parents who didn't want to make the mistakes of the previous generation, millennials are confident, ambitious, and achievement-oriented. They also have high expectations of their employers, tend to seek new challenges at work, and aren't afraid to question authority. Generation Y wants meaningful work and a solid learning curve.
Millennials are Team-Oriented
While growing up, most Millennial boys and girls participated in team sports, playgroups, and other group activities, whether it was soccer or ballet. They value teamwork and seek the input and affirmation of others. Millennials are the true no-person-left-behind generation, loyal and committed. They want to be included and involved.
Generation Y Craves Attention
Generation Y craves feedback and guidance. They appreciate being kept in the loop and often need frequent praise and reassurance. Millennials may benefit greatly from mentors who can help guide and develop their talents. This is where the boomers come in handy because (though mostly retired), they have something to offer and see mentoring millennials is one way they can continue to contribute to the workforce.
Generation Y Is Prone to Job-Hopping
A potential downside of Generation Y workers is that they're always looking for something new and better. It's not uncommon for a millennial to stay with a firm for only two or three years before moving on to a position they think is better. The resumes you receive from millennial job seekers will undoubtedly demonstrate this peppered job history.
Don’t discount members of this generation just because they’ve worked for several firms—these young employees bring with them a variety of experiences. Unlike previous generations, they do not take a job and then hold onto it for as long as humanly possible. Instead, they go out and create a new app or fund a trendy start-up.
The Bottom Line About Millennials
Generation Y possesses many characteristics that are unique in comparison to past generations. They tend to be excited about their jobs, and they will work hard and efficiently. They might approach their superiors as equals more so than previous generations, but companies can take steps to draw a line between supervisor and friend. When that line is drawn, millennials will not only work tirelessly for you, but they will show you the respect due to a supervisor with many years experience.