Millennials Are Like You and Me, Only Different

There’s nothing that different about Millennials that age doesn’t explain. So concludes an interesting study by the Kenexa High Performance Institute on the work attitudes of Millennials.

“Millennials are, in fact, much like their older counterparts,” says the study authors, who compared the results of current surveys and historic surveys of Boomers and Gen Xers.

What they found is that contrary to the stereotype of being a malcontented, coddled, naive lot, Millennials, the Gen Y generation, are in many ways more satisfied than their older counterparts.

“The data refutes the ‘millennial malcontent’ stereotype,”  write authors Brenda Kowske and Rena Rasch. As part of Kenexa’s WorkTrends survey of some 30,000 workers in 28 countries, they asked a series of attitude questions, finding that 60 percent of Millennials are “extremely satisfied” with where they work. That’s well above the 54 percent of Boomers and Gen Xers who said that.

Millennials were also more satisfied with the recognition they receive, more satisfied with their opportunities for growth and development, and as excited about their work and their pay as Boomers and Gen Yers.

The prevailing wisdom that Millennials hired today probably won’t stay for long does turn out to be true. But not because they are Millennials, say the authors. In the 2011 survey, a third of Millennials reported planning to leave their job in the next 12 months. Only 19 percent of Boomers are considering a change, while 27 percent of Gen Xers are.

Looking back to survey results from 1990, the authors found that 31 percent of the 27-year-olds were headed out, exactly the same percentage as this year’s 27-year-olds.

So why the disconnect, ask the authors, between the prevailing wisdom that Millennials are so very different from you and I, and what they found, which is “when it comes to the workplace, the differences are shockingly slight?”

“It’s possible that HR professionals and managers are adapting to their new charges, and creating programs that incorporate Millennials’ views into the workplace,” suggest Kowske and Rasch.

I suggest there’s more to it than that. The Pew Research Center painted a portrait of American Millennials last year, showing them to be better educated, more ethnically and racially diverse, and with higher incomes than previous generations at the same age.

They are also the first generation to grow up with computers, were the first to embrace social networking, and are still more likely to have online profiles than any other group. They also are the first generation to come of age in the midst of a recession since the Great Depression, perhaps explaining why 37 percent of Millennials were out of work or out of the workforce last year when Pew did its survey.

All these factors have an influence on Millennials, perhaps none as profoundly, though, as the recession. At the Brazen Careerist, a career site for young professionals, some of the most popular and active groups are those dealing with job and career issues. Professional affinity groups are almost as active.

Started by Penelope Trunk, the blunt-talking, irreverent career adviser, Brazen Careerist today has 120,000 members who flock to the online networking events where they connect with other young professionals, and seasoned veterans. These events are networking’s equivalent of speed dating, with a new conversation every few minutes.

The virtual career fairs are equally unique. They, too, have time limits on conversation between job seeker and recruiters. As Ryan Healy, co-founder and COO of Brazen Careerist told me, “we’re not trying to do what everyone else is doing. (Millennials) have a different approach.”

Consequently, the encounters at a Brazen Careerist job fair are conversations, not interviews. “The best part about our online recruiting events is that they offer direct contact to qualified applicants,” Brazen Careerist Marketing and Communications Director Ashley Hoffman wrote me in an email. Recruiters  get resumes, even though the site encourages profiles. It’s a nod to tradition and ATS data fields.

As an aside, a survey by freelance job site Elance found 56 percent of its Millennials declaring digital portfolios and online resumes are more effective than traditional resumes in landing a job.

There are other Gen Y job sites — and are two of the larger ones. And more, like, a Ladders copycat for entry-level jobs and internships, pop up regularly.

Though Brazen Careerist has job listings, collects resumes for the job fairs, and welcomes recruiters, Healy says it is not a job board, nor a Millennial LinkedIn. “There are plenty of social networks out there,” he says. “There are lots of places to go look for jobs … we are more a collection of products and services for your career.”

Adds Hoffman, “At Brazen, you are surrounded by peers. It’s a little more Gen Y friendly.”

  • HVAC Training

    I’m a baby boomer and work for a company with an average age of 35. These Millennials seem to be naive. I guess experience does count for something. They are also cut=ups at the office. Reminds me of high school.

  • Darryl Clements

    Boomers, Traditionalist, Gen X, Gen Y, Millenials are all broad decriptions of a larg group born in particular timeframes. It’s dangerous to think they can be defined that way. In fact, I’d suggest that we’re more a product of how we grow up than when, which these categories often overlook.

    Exactly why are Millenials more tech-friendly? Because they haven’t had a choice. They don’t get books for gifts, they get Apple products. They don’t go to small venue performances, they stream or see them in high-definition recordings. They don’t often cook from scratch – too many pre-assembled meals available now.

    Millenials have been brought up with the understanding that fast and good enough are the rule. They aren’t to blame – every one of us in the groups before them are.

    We’ve taught Millenials that they should move on if they don’t get what they want or need. We’ve also taught them that results matter most at work so how they get them matters less. If they want to goof off, dress casually, or take breaks by feel rather than schedule, we’ve raised them that it’s ok.

    There’s one thing I know Millenials understand more than any other generation – companies take care of the company first. We may not like it, but the Millenials have adapted to future survival in ways that other generations will soon be mimicking.