A Comprehensive Guide to Millennials in the Workplace

Every workplace is filled with people from all different backgrounds, walks of life, and of all different ages. Learning how to manage and accommodate each of those different groups is key to success, but dealing with different generations in particular can often be a struggle. Today we’re talking about millennials in the workplace. As a generation, they’ve been talked about extensively—from their tech use and high level of education to their supposed lack of work ethic and the now infamous “avocado toast is ruining the economy” media campaign. 

In today’s article, we’re going to a closer and earnest look at millennials, setting aside the negative stereotypes and assumptions. We’ll look at the needs of millennials at work, their challenges, and how you can better manage millennial employees. 

Defining the Millennial Generation

Millennials were born from 1981 to 1996, meaning they currently range from 27 to 42 years old. It’s worth noting though that these numbers vary slightly depending on the source, so don’t get too hung up on specific dates/ages. With that out of the way, let’s look at some characteristics of a millennial. 

Considered digital natives, millennials grew up in a time with rapid and sudden technological change. Though they may have started out with dial up and flip phones, they quickly adapted to the world of smartphones and social media. But unlike Gen Z (who have their own wants and needs in the workplace), they remember a time pre-smartphone and social media. 

Moving onto characteristics, let’s list some of the common ones and look at which ones may or may not be accurate:

  • Poor work ethic.
  • Good with technology.
  • Limited social skills. 
  • Are entitled.
  • Hungry for praise.

As you can see, all of those are negative except their proclivity towards technology—but are they true? Not really. 

Millennials grew up and live in a very different world than older generations, and they aren’t afraid to make it known. Millennials ask for many of the same things older generations took for granted, like fair pay and affordable housing, yet they’re called entitled for it. 

As for their work ethic, millennials are just as hardworking as anyone else. But at the same time, they aren’t afraid to call out their employers for a toxic environment, unfair compensation, poor treatment, etc. They will work hard when they feel they are being respected and treated fairly. 

And while millennials may be more upfront about their desire to be praised for their successes and wins, that’s a good thing. Positive workplaces should encourage praise and recognition. 

So while certain stereotypes may trend true (like their tech skills), most of them seem to misalign with reality and overlook the changes in society that contributed towards millennials’ development. 

Why Millennials Matter in the Workplace

All that talk about millennials in the workforce, but why do they matter? To start, millennials are currently the largest generation in the US labor force. According to Pew Research, 35% of all US workers are millennials. With over a third of the workforce being millennials, they’re not a group you can ignore. 

Moving beyond that though, there are other reasons why working with millennials is important. Millennials enjoy independence and creative solutions. They will work hard, finding new ways to solve problems and increase efficiency. 

They also can be a positive influence in the workplace overall. Millennials want and expect a healthy environment with effective communication and fair treatment, so they can help you ensure that your work environment is positive. 

And while millennials being job-hoppers can be a somewhat true stereotype, they only do so when they aren’t being treated or compensated fairly. When millennials are given a reason to stay, they can be incredibly loyal and valuable team members. 

Lastly, it’s important to note the role they will play in the future. As more and more baby boomers age out of the workforce, millennials will continue to move up and take higher positions. Millennials will be a very important aspect of work in the future, so it’s best you learn to understand them now. 

millennials in the workplace

What Millennials Seek in the Workplace

You might be noticing a pattern by now; millennials can be incredibly hardworking and loyal employees that uplift the workplace—if they have what they want in the workplace. So, what do millennials want exactly?

While many in older generations assume that millennials’ needs are unreasonable, they’re actually incredibly fair when you take a closer look. 

Above all else, millennials want two things—fair compensation and work-life balance. They want to be compensated fairly for their work, and they want to actually have a life outside of work. It’s not unreasonable to want a competitive, living wage for full-time work. And it’s not unreasonable to take the stance of “I work to live, not live to work.” 

Millennials also want a path forward in work, meaning opportunities for growth and professional development (which can help drive innovation). They don’t want to feel like they’re in a dead end job, and they want to feel like they are valued.

Tying into that, millennials also like flexibility. Things like remote work and work from home arrangements are very popular for millennials, as they give them more flexibility and a better work-life balance. 

Another thing millennials seek in the workplace is purpose and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Millennials are very attentive to the world around them, injustices, inequality, etc. They want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves and are actively making the world a better place. And as you’d guess, they also expect things like diversity and inclusion to be the standard. 

millennials in the workplace

Challenges Faced by Millennials

Now, let’s look at some of the challenges they face that may create problems with millenials in the workplace. 

The biggest challenge faced by millennials is financial. This isn’t unique to them, but they (alongside Gen Z) have come up in a precarious financial time—even if the stock market and GDP say otherwise. 

Healthcare is frequently unaffordable, even with good insurance. Housing prices have skyrocketed compared to a few decades ago. Pensions have largely been replaced by 401k accounts dependent on the ever fluctuating and gamified stock market. And all of that comes on the back of wages that have stagnated for decades while corporate profits and productivity reach all time highs.

Another big challenge is in relation to mental health and wellbeing. Millennials are much more conscious of their mental health, and—unlike prior generations—they are willing to prioritize it over work. And with the financial pressures listed above, it’s not hard to see why mental health is a big concern for millennials. 

One last challenge they face is the ever changing nature of technology. Being the first digital natives, millennials are often expected to be experts at everything. But technology changes constantly, and it’s impossible to stay fully up-to-date. 

On top of that, things like AI and automation are now disrupting the workforce in massive ways. Blue and white collar millennials alike now have to contend with technology that may or may not take their job, adding one more worry to their list. 

Adapting the Workplace for Millennials

Now, let’s shift to how employers can adapt their workplaces to accommodate millennials. To get the obvious out of the way, you need to compensate them well. If not, they’ll just go elsewhere. Moving beyond that though, let’s look at other ways you can get better at managing millennials in the workplace. 

A good start is by creating a millennial friendly culture. Put a focus on things like employee wellbeing with wellbeing initiatives, and create a good work-life balance. Encourage effective communication, help them develop professionally, and treat them well. A good culture goes a long way in accommodating millennials. 

Also, be sure to recognize their wins and provide constructive feedback as necessary. Millennials want to be acknowledged when they do well, and they want feedback so they can do better. It’s simple, but it will show them you really care. 

Another good option is to utilize team building events. An event like Build-A-Birthday or Just Roll With It are perfect for millennials. These events will help your team communicate and collaborate better, all while having fun and doing something good for the community. 

Future Trends and Considerations

Before wrapping up, let’s quickly take the time to look at future trends and considerations. 

Millennials will continue to be a sizable portion of the workforce for quite some time. And as the years go by, more and more will be leaders, managers, and the like. Whether you like it or not, millennials are here to stay. So you might as well get to know them and learn how to work with them now. 

Also, millennials are but one generation. Gen Z currently ranges from age 11 to 26, meaning the older portion are entering or have already entered the workforce. In a decade from now, Gen Z will be a sizable chunk of the workforce. And a few decades from now, so will Gen Alpha. 

Point being, employers will always have to adjust and accommodate as newer generations enter the workforce. Right now it’s millennials, but it’ll be Gen Z next. Employers need to keep their finger on the pulse, stay in touch with younger generations, and be ready to change with the times. If not, they’ll get left behind as the next generations lead the way. 

millennials in the workplace

Connect with Millennials Via TeamBonding

Millennials are an often discussed but frequently misunderstood generation. Despite the stereotypes, they are a hardworking generation that just expects to be treated with respect and  compensated fairly. And since they make up over a third of the workforce, it’s important employers meet their needs. 

To accommodate millennials, employers can work to create a positive environment that encourages effective communication, employee wellbeing, personal/professional development, and a healthy work-life balance. 

Start connecting your team with TeamBonding. We have over 25 years of experience putting on corporate events, and we have numerous events that are perfect for connecting with millennial employees and creating the workplace they expect. So get in touch with us today and start embracing the next generation!

Amanda Deiratani

Team Contributor

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