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Millennials: The Generation Riding the wave of Uncertainty

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​Further to our recent post that listed 8 strengths and motivators of millennials in the workplace, I want to dig that bit deeper to understand the why behind these traits. The rate of change in technology and lifestyle, particularly over the past 80 years, has created massive shifts in attitude within each generation – and is the underlying reason why we can define generations so distinctively (see the table at the bottom of the blog).

You may wonder why it’s important to consider this, however, prejudice towards millennials is surprisingly common, with many established professionals failing to recognise or understand the differences in their views. One of the most frequent frustrations aired by business leaders is a perceived lack of long term commitment (so called job-hopping), and more worryingly a categorisation of the new generation of workers as “entitled know-it-alls”.


Millennials are often portrayed as ‘generation nice’ with a everyone’s-a-winner mentality. This optimism stands at odds with the economic realities they face. Millennials have had to contend with entering a marketplace scarred from 9/11, the credit crunch and long-term austerity. Escalation in tuition fees and houses prices has made attaining degree/masters qualifications and home ownership unreachable for some.

This generation is riding a wave of uncertainty, with Brexit providing the cherry on the cake. With this level of insecurity, we should not be surprised that millennials move jobs more frequently. For them, a job-for-life is an urban myth. Their motivations and expectations are very different from previous generations – they do not even expect employers to offer substantial pension schemes and their mindset is more attuned to instant gratification.

They have grown up with technology that promotes immediacy; be it access to information, instant communication, shopping with next/same day delivery. On demand services and immediate credit agreements furnish easy access to luxuries and brands and debt is now expected rather than feared. Is this immediacy in everyday life what we see spilling over into work behaviours, with higher expectations for quick career progression, recognition and promotion?

Affinity with and use of technology is synonymous with the millennial generation. Without memory of a time before the internet, they are used to interacting with devices for all their needs. This access has given them a more global perspective and an ability to inform themselves, but this prevalence of digital dealings can have a negative impact on leadership and influencing skills, where face to face communication, relationship-building and listening are still critical in the workplace.

The flipside of this is that they’re highly digitally literate, picking up systems and applications intuitively and quickly. Need information? Ask Google, Siri or Alexa. Got a problem  not seen before? Find a solution instantly through their online networks via YouTube, social media and specialist forums. Millennials are used to finding solutions quickly and autonomously.  The downside? A potential reluctance to admit that a problem is beyond them or where they may really benefit from the direct experience of others.

We are shaped by our environment and experiences, and this continues throughout our lives. Perhaps it’s more poignant to consider how millennials are going to change as they gain more experience. Will they retain these traits and values, or will they transform into something else entirely?

Either way, millennials are not done in shaping the workplace and I can’t wait to see how millennials change the workplace through the adoption of disruptive technologies. Meanwhile Generation Z are beginning to enter the workplace – let’s see what happens…

2000 to present: Generation Z   The next generation of workers that is still growing up. There is not a lot of data yet published about this generation, but they are already hooked on technology and the first truly digitally-native demographic. They are the first generation to experience an interactive classroom environment and are not used to passive learning environments (sit down and listen).  Because of this, in the workplace they may lean towards a more collaborative approach, while technology, customisation and in-demand is an expectation in every aspect of their lives.
1980 to 2000: Millennials or Generation Y The first generation to reach adulthood in the new millennium, Generation Y comprises young technology gurus who thrive on new innovations, start-ups and fitting work around their lives; rather than the other way around.  This blog-savvy generation was raised by parents who were less authoritative and so they grew up making their own rules. They are largely inseparable from their smart gadgets, their extra limb!
1965 to 1979: Generation X   The first generation to value work-life balance. This generation’s worldview is based on change, on the need to combat corruption, dictatorships, abuse, AIDS, a generation in search of human dignity and individual freedom, the need for stability, love, tolerance, and human rights for all.  As they got older, they have actually become fluent in technology and the use of mobile phones and tablets. The difference is they use these technologies as productivity tools rather than for social connectivity and engagement.
1946 to 1964: Baby Boomers The “flower power” generation is known for their pivotal roles in the civil rights movement, Woodstock and the Vietnam War.  The term “Baby Boomer” was derived due to the dramatic increase in birth rates following World War II.  This generation values relationships, as they did not grow up with technology running their lives. Baby Boomers grew up making phone calls and writing letters, solidifying strong interpersonal skills.



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