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Why Millennials are Different

By Melissa J. Anderson

A recent study by the Kenexa High Performance Institute examines the truth behind stereotypes of Millennials: “they lack street-savvy, they need to be coddled, they’re naïve and have a profound sense of entitlement.” It also looks into the stereotype that millennials are more mobile than other generations – that they frequently switch jobs.

But according to the research, millennials aren’t all that different from their older colleagues. In fact, the study shows, millennials exhibit the same tendencies to leave jobs as previous generations did at their age.

The report authors, Brenda Kowske, Ph.D. and Rena Rasch, write:

“Our research indicates the millennials often stand on common ground with their older counterparts, and in some key areas, the research suggests that the millennials may even turn out to be better employees and, eventually, better employers than their predecessors.”

That’s not to say that millennial workers are just the the same as their older colleagues. Here are a few major differences – and why they matter.

Kids Today

ERE writer John Zappe points out that there are a few fundamental differences between millennials and their older generations. First of all, he points to last year’s Pew research on American Millennials, “showing them to be better educated, more ethnically and racially diverse, and with higher incomes than previous generations at the same age.”

But the big difference, according to Zappe, are the influence of technology and the recession. He writes:

“They are also the first generation to grow up with computers, were the first to embrace social networking, and are still more likely to have online profiles than any other group. They also are the first generation to come of age in the midst of a recession since the Great Depression, perhaps explaining why 37 percent of Millennials were out of work or out of the workforce last year when Pew did its survey.

All these factors have an influence on Millennials, perhaps none as profoundly, though, as the recession.”

Millennials More Satisfied

Despite entering the workforce during a tough economic climate, the Kenexa study pointed out one significant difference.

According to the researchers, Gen Y employees are significantly happier than workers of older generations. Kowske and Rasch write “Millennials’ attitudes are more positive than Gen Xers’ or boomers.’ In fact, 60 percent agree that they are extremely satisfied with their organization as a place to work. Even more – 63 percent – report that they have opportunity for growth and development at their company.”

And it’s not just job satisfaction in general. Millenials are also happier about recognition and the outlook for job security. Kowske and Rasch continue:

“Despite the cliché about needing trophies just for participating, millennials are more positive about recognition than their coworkers. Half of millennials are satisfied with the recognition they personally receive, as opposed to 42 percent for boomers. Finally, as the recession recedes, millennials are more satisfied than their counterparts with the job security that their organization provides for “employees like them.” Taken together, these areas of generational differences can serve as leading indicators for millennials’ loyalty, motivation and productivity. ”

In fact, according to Kowske and Rasch, the concern about Gen Y may be the reason behind their general happiness. They explain, “It’s possible that HR professionals and managers are adapting to their new charges, and creating programs that incorporate millennials’ views into the workplace. After all, millennial employees also rate their managers higher than either of their generational counterparts.”

Because managers and HR are working to engage millennial employees, as well as utilize their strengths and skills, they are succeeding in making them less inclined to switch jobs than their predecessors were at the same age. Based on their higher education, and the fact that baby-boomers are approaching retirement, this may be a smart strategy after all.

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