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Dissecting the "Millennials"


The truth is that the internet is rife with many disparate studies and information referring to Generation Y, Echo Boomers or Millennials. A bit of background, people who belong to this group are the offspring of the Baby Boomers (50/60 years) who are currently around 18-33 years old, born between the 80s and early 90s. The term most used to refer to them, Millennials, was coined because it is the generation that came of age with the arrival of the new millennium.

Of the seven billion people in the world, two billion belong to this generation, and just in the United States this group absorbs 80 million. There are about 8 million millennials in Spain according to the latest data from the Spanish National Statistics Institute. Moreover, according to a study by D’arriens, it is estimated that the millennials will account for 41% of the global workforce by 2020 and about 75% by 2030.

As mentioned earlier, I am struck by the disparity of opinions I’ve read about this new generation. On the one hand, we have those who see them as the best ever educated generation in history, possessing an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, and as the new leaders of the future. Yet on the other hand, we have others who believe they are an "egomaniac" generation, spoilt and impatient. Even two years ago, the North American Time magazine, dedicated a cover headlined "The Me-me-me generation" with a young female doing a selfie.

Even though they were born during a time of economic boom, undeniably the millennial or the “selfies” generation have suffered the full brunt of the ravages of the global economic recession of seven years ago. They have had to develop under very complex, novel, and above all, bleak employment conditions. The long recession has led them to observe proactive work attitudes. Together with the fast technological advances they grew up under, this makes them the first digital natives (alongside Generation Z born between, 1994 – 2002) of whom it could be said were born with a tablet under the arm.

...But what are they like? What characterizes them?

As we are already aware, three generations now coexist (Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials) in the labour market and soon the last of the alphabet will join this landscape, Generation Z.

The absorption of new generations into the workplace is not something new. However there are still some difficulties arising in organizations when it comes to managing new talent and how they live side by side with preceding groups, as obviously each generation comes with new attitudes and motivations regarding work.

Based on recent studies such as "Millennial Survey 2015" by Deloitte, "Generation Next - Millennials Primer" written by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, "Cambridge Monitor 3: Millennials in Spain" undertaken by the University of Cambridge in collaboration with the consultancy firm, Ipsos, and especially on my own experience (although I may have referred to the millennials in the third person, I am talking about my generation), here are a series of characteristics for organisations to consider to better understand the millennial generation.

1. Money is not the main motivation: For Spanish millennials, 9 out of 10 young people prefer to work in something vocational, even if it means receiving less income. Furthermore they value above all the way companies take care of their employees, growth and development. They also lay emphasis on their organisation’s contribution to the community and society, as well as innovation in products and services.

Omnipresence of technology and social networking implies that in many cases they want to steer their careers towards the technology world. In fact it is unsurprising that the ranking for the best valued companies is led by Google, Apple, Facebook or Microsoft, or that they seek out independent professions that have emerged in recent years such as: video game testers, youtubers, bloggers and community managers.

2. Leadership vision: According to the Deloitte survey, “Millennial Generation 2015”, they have a different view of how the best teams should work. There is a clear gap between the view current leaders have of their organisations versus the way millennials would set priorities, if they were the leaders instead, advocating that “a leading organisation gives its employees the opportunity to grow and learn”. Although millennials still believe that business profitability is important, it must come with a purpose.

3. Millennials are said not to be particularly loyal to organisations and that their average term within the company is roughly two years, unlike preceding generations who developed their entire career path in one single company until retirement. Nevertheless, a good way to secure loyalty is to deliver them a defined career plan, new challenges and responsibilities, even if these seem out of their reach. If necessary, they will work to meet expectations and they are highly competitive and always willing to acquire new knowledge.

4. Set great store by constant communication: The figure of the authoritarian leader who inspires fear is something they cannot imagine. They need a leader who is a mentor, a coach and helps them to improve and develop the skills they lack.

Since they were born in the Internet era (of immediacy), this makes them very impatient and value incessant and friendly communication alongside constant feedback (partly because they love to excel in their work and need superiors to recognise their merit, why deny it…).

In short, organisations cannot ignore millennials as they will be tomorrow’s leaders. The Bank of America study pointed out, "Generation Y" is emerging as the most important global demographic trend and is becoming the main source of income and wealth generation.

By Paloma Moreno de Carlos Sánchez de León, Marketing & Communication Assistantat Meta4

Editorial HR

Meta4, with 1,300 customers in 100 countries, manages more than 18 million people worldwide. The company’s R&D&I center located in Spain (Madrid) develops HR applications capable of meeting local and global needs of all types of organizations. The editorial team is made up of professionals with over 15 years of experience in the HR technology field.

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