Suddenly ‘Millennials in the workplace’ has become a buzzworthy topic for managers everywhere. For many of us, the word “Millennial” brings to mind skinny jeans, MacBooks, and an insatiable appetite for kale. Workers and prospective employers from other generations have other associations: “unrealistic,” “self-absorbed,” and “lazy.”
According to NBC News, the majority of older workers surveyed in a recent study said that Millennials don’t have the same work ethic as prior generations and aren’t willing enough to “pay their dues.”[i] CBS News similarly reports that 46% of CFOs polled by Duke University and CFO Magazine believe that Millennials exhibit “an attitude of entitlement.”[ii]
Millennials earned this reputation in part because they want work to be fun, social, and flexible. An MTV-sponsored study found that 88% want to be friends with their coworkers, 81% want to make their own hours, and 79% want to wear jeans to work.[iii]
New research from IBM shows, however, that although Millennials prefer a more social and casual work environment, they closely line up with Baby Boomers and Generation Xers when it comes to “things like career goals, employee engagement, preferred leadership styles and recognition.” [iv] Indeed, the researchers found that the “digital proficiency” of Millennials is their main distinguishing factor.
While Millennials may not be as different from other employees as we might have thought, harmoniously integrating them into the workplace still poses challenges. As more employers are integrating Millennials into the workforce each year, it’s important to understand who these young workers are and what they value, and for Millennials themselves to disprove the widespread misconceptions about their work ethic.
Since Millennials actually have much in common with their older colleagues, understanding who they are and what they value in a workplace offers several benefits for companies. It helps them attract, integrate, and retain these techy, social media-savvy workers, and also provides insight into how companies can improve their organizations to benefit employees of all ages.
Up against an unfortunate professional reputation, Millennials must actively prove themselves to their employers and older coworkers. It’s important for them to remain flexible, hardworking, and patient. While many hope to find a fast track to career advancement, adjusting to a new workplace and building a career takes time.[xix]
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[iv] “IBM Study: The Real Story Behind Millennials in the Workplace.” Technology Business Journal. NewsRx, LLC, 2015. Web. 3 March 2015.