Millennial Mythbusting

Ann All

No one seems sure whether millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 1995, are going to be winners or whiners in the workplace.


Millennials' optimism and tech savvy, among other qualities, should position them to be star employees, opines Lisa Orrell, author of "Millennials Incorporated," in a discussion on IT Business Edge's Knowledge Network.


Yet many articles about millennials portray them as self-absorbed types who aren't interested in listening to and learning from their elders. This simply isn't true, Orrell told me when I interviewed her in June. Smart companies hoping to attract millennials are introducing mentoring programs that pair new and young employees with older workers. She said:

The great thing about millennials is they are very open to coaching and training. Some older generations have a strong aversion to it. But millennials are like, "Teach me, train me, coach me anywhere you can. I want as much guidance as I can get." The more companies realize this and address it with this generation, the better.

It's an observation seconded by Richard Leyland in a recent column. During a research project on millennials, Leyland said he found his subjects to be polite, attentive and respectful of authority. Other myths about millennials Leyland tries to bust:


Millennials are egotistical and require constant praise. Leyland said his subjects harobored modest ambitions and low self-esteem. Orrell's take: Positive communication is important to millennials. More than 60 percent of millennials surveyed by Robert Half International said they wanted to communicate with their managers at least once a day, in contrast to many older workers who aren't interested in frequent contact with managers. Millennials may not need constant praise, but they do appreciate recognition. "If millennials come into the workplace and don't feel valued, they leave," Orrell said.


Millennials value softer measures such as flexibility, creative potential, social responsibility, gadgets and perks over financial compensation. When Leyland asked primary and secondary students their primary motivation for work, it was money. Orrell's take: Millennials also want options such as telecommuting and flex time. Their desires are "causing corporate cultures to shift in ways that are beneficial to everyone" since employees no longer have to put in years of work with a company before receiving these kinds of benefits.


Millennials have short attention spans, thanks to their years of digital dependence. If so, writes Leyland, it's only because "they're immersed in the digital world that we grown-ups have created." Orrell's take (from the Knowledge Network discussion): Millennials' "comfort with technology enables them to embrace new systems quickly, suggest new software solutions that can run a department, company or process more efficiently."

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