What impact will Millennials have on the workplace?

It’s an understatement to say that I seldom find white papers written by product companies very interesting, But I saw this table in a white paper by Namely, a “people management” platform company, focused on performance reviews but also offering a more general human resource information solution.
The white paper is about Millennials joining the workforce over the next few decades (and others falling out).
There is no precise definition for “Millennial,” but basically the term includes people born after 1980 and before 2000. Note that the chart also includes a trickle of Gen 2020s too.
Pew published a report on Millennials in 2010 and characterized them this way:

“Generations, like people, have personalities, and Millennials — the American teens and twenty-somethings who are making the passage into adulthood at the start of a new millennium — have begun to forge theirs: confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.”

And later in the report,

“They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history.
Their entry into careers and first jobs has been badly set back by the Great Recession, but they are more upbeat than their elders about their own economic futures as well as about the overall state of the nation.
They are history’s first ‘always connected’ generation. Steeped in digital technology and social media, they treat their multi-tasking hand-held gadgets almost like a body part — for better and worse. More than eight-in-ten say they sleep with a cell phone glowing by the bed, poised to disgorge texts, phone calls, emails, songs, news, videos, games and wake-up jingles. But sometimes convenience yields to temptation. Nearly two-thirds admit to texting while driving.
They embrace multiple modes of self-expression. Three quarters have created a profile on a social networking site. One-in-five have posted a video of themselves online. Nearly four-in-ten have a tattoo (and for most who do, one is not enough: about half of those with tattoos have two to five and 18% have six or more). Nearly one-in-four have a piercing in some place other than an earlobe — about six times the share of older adults who’ve done this. But their look-at-me tendencies are not without limits. Most Millennials have placed privacy boundaries on their social media profiles. And 70% say their tattoos are hidden beneath clothing.”

Other factoids:

  • They are wary: Two-thirds agree “you can’t be too careful” when dealing with people.
  • Two-fifths of them are nonwhite, which is a growing proportion.
  • They are less skeptical of the government than their elders.
  • They lean Democratic and voted for Obama in 2008 by a large margin, and 60 percent voted for him in 2012.
  • They respect their elders.
  • They are the least religious generation ever.
  • They are on track to become the most well-educated generation ever.

The bottom line
By 2015 the Millennials will be the largest element of the workforce, and what is second nature to them — social sharing, mobile, publicy over privacy, and self-expression over conformity — will increasingly become the norm in business.
Namely’s white paper characterizes the Millennial this way:

“Team player — ‘Millennials prefer flat organizations where they achieve goals by working in groups in a collegial and team-oriented culture.’
Feedback seeker — ‘Instead of traditional performance reviews, 80% of Millennials prefer to receive feedback in real time .’
Top performer and job hopper — ‘Millennials change their jobs about every 3 years [1.5 years more quickly that Gen X]. In order to keep top performers, companies have to understand the differences in the generations and in the way they think of performance and compensation. While for Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers making money has been the focus, Millennials concentrate more on doing something they find meaningful; they are primed to do well by doing good.’
Digital masters — ‘Millennials increasingly use the latest digital technology and devices, and dominate the media, advertising, and technology industry.’
Globetrotter — ‘Today’s companies grow internationally and employ Millennials who work on worldwide projects while being located in different countries, time zones, and speaking different languages.'”

With one of my Millennial sons in Prague right now, taking a class for teachers of English as a second language and planning to travel who knows where after completing that course, I can see the globetrotter aspect very clearly. And the other attributes suggest a strong orientation toward cooperative work environments, more liberal social attitudes, and a reliance on modern digital technologies. In fact, this is the generation that really defines digital — and social — literacy. This is a generation that will take the start that has been made with the first and second generation of social tools for business and push it into a new tempo in the next five years.
Note that this is the generation least interested in using email for communication, but that the Millennials excel at digital communication otherwise.
And in less than two years they will be the single largest cohort in the workplace. We are obviously at a tipping point, and the Millennials will be the point of leverage.