Lately it seems as though Millennial professionals have become everyone’s favorite topic of discussion. You can’t read an article, watch a news segment or attend an industry conference without being bombarded with thoughts and opinions on Gen Y. What they think, how they behave and what they do in the workplace has suddenly become a hot subject—and for good reason. By 2020, Millennials will compose half of the global workforce.
Understanding Millennials is critical to preparing your business for the future, but believing generalizations and popular misconceptions can be damaging. Today, we’re going to clear up a few.
1. Misconception: Millennials aren’t loyal to their companies.
Truth: You’ve probably heard Millennials like to job hop, they demonstrate little to no allegiance to their organization and they’re always looking for something shiny and new. But while Millennials might be making a lot of job changes now, they aren’t the only ones. Median wages have either plateaued or declined in most sectors and often the only way professionals can advance in their careers and earn more is by moving companies. Moreover, Millennials are actually job hopping less than previous generations.
2. Misconception: All Millennials care about are job perks.
Truth: Whether you’re 25 or 55, if you’re choosing between an opportunity that offers unlimited vacation, an on-site gym and a daily lunch buffet versus one that doesn’t, we’re pretty sure you’re going to opt for the former. That’s just common sense. Millennials care about perks because they’re seeking work-life harmony—but highly effective Millennial professionals also care about core values, opportunity for advancement and a company mission that aligns with their personal objectives.
3. Misconception: Millennials have no work ethic.
Truth: There’s no denying a poor work ethic exists in a certain percentage of the Millennial population (just as there are baby boomers and Gen-Xers who exhibit poor dedication at work). But many Millennials reject the old way of work simply because they know there is an easier way. This generation is fighting to make the concept of “work smarter, not harder” a reality through workplace technology and automation. Because if you can do just as much in 25 hours as you can in 40, why not?
4. Misconception: Millennials don’t follow business etiquette.
Truth: What does a Millennial look like? If the stereotype is to be believed, all Millennials are sporting sweatpants, hoodies and unwashed hair while slumped over a desk covered in Cheeto dust. (And we’re sure this might be true in some cases.) But there is a larger subset of Millennials who reject traditional business etiquette because it’s simply not the way they work most efficiently. Trading out a suit and tie for jeans doesn’t change an employee’s level of competence or professionalism.
5. Misconception: Millennials don’t respect authority.
Truth: If it seems like Millennials challenge authority, it’s because they do — but what generation hasn’t challenged the mores and beliefs of its superiors? Millennials were raised in a time of vast information and a greater demand for transparency. This generation doesn’t take anything at face value. And after a childhood and young adulthood marked by war, economic turmoil and unprecedented amounts of student debt, can you really blame them?
While not all generalizations about Millennials are false, these five sweeping misconceptions can be dangerous for businesses leaders looking to secure a bright future for their organization. Taking time to understand Millennials instead of making snap judgments will benefit you, strengthen employee satisfaction and improve your bottom line.
Editor's Note: This post was previously published on Inc.com and has been republished here with permission.