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3 Defining Characteristics of the Facebook Generation

It might shock you to learn that the term “millennial” applies to one-third of the U.S. population, according to a report released by the White House. A term used loosely, “millennials” refers to anyone born between 1980 to the mid-2000s and represents one of the most diverse generations in history, both in demographics and behavior. The first generation to be raised plugged into the internet, this generation is perhaps one of the most connected, educated and engaged generations that the U.S. has seen, even if it seems that its members spend their time focused on their mobile phones instead of actually experiencing their surroundings.

Millennials are often blamed for seeming entitled, lacking respect for their more experienced authority figures, being lofty, lazy and living off their parents. With names that range from “Screenager” to “Generation Nice,” the increase of millennial managers in the workplace is forcing business owners and managers to consider: “What defines this generation?”

#1 – They want to be involved.

This generation entered the workforce at a time when there were few jobs available and a huge amount of student debt was knocking on their doors. Creativity was essential in securing their economic futures, so what often was seen as a propensity to voice opinions without perspective or authority is the expression of a key value of millennials—creativity and community problem solving. Millennials want to help and perform best when they can be engaged, and they value managers who empower them to be engaged in a variety of activities that allow them to grow and develop as individuals. This enthusiasm can be an asset, even if the lack of focus can be aggravating for a generation built on structured job descriptions.

#2 – The don’t have their own value system.

From the baby boomers perspective, millennials seem lazy and without ambition. Perhaps a bit of both fact and fiction, their outlook is actually a shift of priorities. According to a global study done by Universum, INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute and the HEAD Foundation, North American millennials ranked having a successful career fourth on their life goals, preceded by spending time with their family, growing and learning new things and living a long and healthy life, in that order. This demonstrates a shift in priorities, often called out as the result of watching their baby boomer generation prioritize work over family. In fact, the same study reported a work-related fear of many millennials “working too much.”

#3 – Continued Optimism is More Positivity Than Naivety

A study presented by Forbes discusses how millennials were optimistic about America’s future before the recession and continue to believe government will “do the right thing.” This is in stark contrast to the viewpoint of baby boomers during the previous recession in the 1970s. Is this optimism a general positive attitude in the face of adversity? When we look at the risk-adverse generation and consider the obstacles its members have encountered as they’ve entered adulthood, it’s challenging to see this glass-half-full outlook as anything other than taking a punch and getting back up. This generation holds an average of $20,000 in student debt before its members secure an entry level job where the competition for employment often includes more experienced candidates.

Generation Y is now more than one-third of the workforce and is beginning to influence business decisions, much to the dismay of their old-school superiors. Their confidence and zest for life outside of the time clock both aggravate and energize their colleagues. This grind between the generations will only heat up, as estimates have 40 to 50% of the workforce being this oft-misunderstood generation by the year 2020. Businesses like Johnson & Johnson have appointed a cross-generational committee dedicated to folding this new workplace culture into its business, as its millennials begin to assume leadership positions. Smart businesses have already initiated ways to tap into millennials’ positive influence, attracting millennials to their workplaces without alienating their more experienced team members.

How have you been addressing this generational shift in your business?

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