According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, five years from now about 50% of the workforce will be made up of Millennials. That realization has many businesses in a tizzy, wondering how they should change their behaviors or workplace culture to appeal specifically to the tastes and tendencies of Millennials.
This is the wrong thing to worry about. Generational workplace characteristics tend to get seriously overblown by pundits and misinformed op-ed writers. In fact, there is a lot more that unites the various generations of workers than divides them, as a recent study by the IBM Institute for Business Value found. The study looked at nearly 1,800 employees from organizations across twelve countries and six industries and found that, regardless of age, most workers want the same things and work in basically the same ways.
Differences between workers are much less generational than they are simply individual – no two people work exactly the same way, and general categorizations are not good predictors of goals or behaviors.
Despite common beliefs, the survey found that Millennials prefer learning in the workplace to happen in a person-to-person manner, not through technology. Millennials also actually tend to be better at separating their use of social media at work from their personal uses versus older generations.
Millennials are not entitled or lazy or power-hungry or desperate for attention, any more or less than their older co-workers. They desire financial success, seniority, inspiring leaders, and clearly stated business goals, the survey found. They also enjoy working in diverse groups, and so do Baby Boomers and Gen X employees.
The factors that divide people are not generational. They are unique and individual, and they are much less numerous than the factors that unite them.
The best way to get a solid understanding of your company’s workforce is not to make assumptions based on general categorizations, but to actually get the data that you need to make informed decisions. Get feedback from your employees on their specifics goals and desires. Use individual assessments to figure out how your people work best, what makes them feel loyalty to your business, and what will help them best succeed in your organization.