The Millennial generation or Gen Y is transforming the nature of careers and the workplace. Their values, beliefs and life style are significantly different from the Baby Boomer generation. These differences will require organizations to adapt due to sheer numbers of Millennials who will dominate the workplace in the coming decade.

By 2020, nearly 50% of the U.S. workforce will consist of Millennials according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Stastistics. Another study predicts nearly 75% by 2025. In Canada, the figures are 75% by the year 2028.

I’ve had the privilege of working with scores of young Millennials in the Vancouver Board of Trade’s Leaders of Tomorrow mentoring program, and I’ve found them to be passionate and driven to make a difference in the world, and confident they can assume the role of leaders early in their careers. And clearly they see their careers and the workplace very differently than current baby boomers.

Josh Berzin, an talent management expert, writing in Forbes magazine advises executives “Your ability to attract, develop, and retain young leaders will make or break your company in the coming years.” Berzin argues “The way we move people around, the way we appraise people, the types of rewards we provide…and how we think about careers all need to change. Many of these changes throw sand in the gears of HR.”

Kate Taylor, writing in Forbes, states, “The 9 to 5 job may soon be a relic of the past if Millennials have their way…Freelancing and self-employment are on the rise. Meanwhile 60% of Millennials are leaving their companies in less than three years at a cost to the organization of $20,000 per person to replace.”

Millennial Branding study reported that 45% of Millennials will choose workplace flexibility over pay; 72% want to have a job where they can have an impact; and due to the impact of the recent recession and current high unemployment rate for young people, need economic security (according to a recent AP analysis, more than 53 percent of recent college grads are unemployed or underemployed). An MTV survey reported Millennials want more flexible hours and ability to work remotely with technology; they want to set their own hours and dress how they want; and they believe they can teach older workers and their bosses a thing or two.

According to Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, and an expert on the Millennials, says “Millennials have a different view of how work should be done and what a company’s role should be in society. They want companies to give back to the community, to eliminate the traditional 9 to 5 workday collaboration,instead of isolation, and to create a organization fabricated by social media. Millennials, relative to older generations, are all about giving back to communities that align with their core values. They want to make a difference in a world.”

Emily Matchar, writing in the Washington Post,  “The current corporate culture simply doesn’t make sense to much of middle-class Gen Y. Since the cradle, these privileged kids have been offered autonomy, control and choices… They’ve been encouraged to show their creativity and to take their extracurricular interests seriously. Raised by parents who wanted to be friends with their kids, they’re used to seeing their elders as peers rather than authority figures. When they want something, they’re not afraid to say so.”

Jay Gilbert, writing in the Ivey Business Journalcontends “Millennials are creating a change in how work gets done, as they work more in teams and use more technology. Their social mindset, however, is also a significant factor. As Leigh Buchanon writes in Meet the Millennials, ‘One of the characteristics of millennials, besides the fact that they are masters of digital communication, is that they are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70 percent say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities.’”

PWC study of Millennials, in collaboration with The University of Southern California, concluded, among other things, that organizations still embrace old models of work and talent and management, models that are inconsistent with the way Millennials want to work.

David Burstein, author of Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaping Our World, and himself a Millennial, argues passionately, “Millennials are part of the quiet progression toward significant, scalable, and lasting change, and they are learning that they can do extraordinary things when they mobilize their peers … Millennials are trying to incorporate issues, causes and beliefs they are passionate about into busy, complex, multifaceted lives. Millennials are looking for sustainable commitments that can engage them and allow them to contribute to society.”

The Millennial generation has been widely characterized as the “me” generation—self-centered, lazy, and demanding–a reputation that is unbalanced and to some degree mud slinging by the predominant baby boomers, who upon close examination, haven’t done so well. One thing is clear, the Millennials will soon be in control of careers and the workplace, and they will change.


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