I was proud to have the opportunity to serve as a featured panelist at the 2015 CERC Conference along with my colleague (and millennial) Katherine Bouchard, speaking on millennials and, specifically, how they are impacting the mobile workforce. An important part of that presentation was identifying and dispelling some of the myths associated with millennials. In this post, I wanted to share some of the myths my fellow panelists and I addressed.
More than 12 million strong and representing more than one-third of Canada’s population, Millennials (aka “Generation Y”) is the largest workforce demographic to come after the baby boomers. Research has shown that Millennials make up the most complex demographic to date. They are engaged citizens, connected by technology but disconnected from traditional politics. They’re more tolerant than their parents, yet cling to goals that would resonate with their elders—from owning a house, to marriage and children, to early retirement. Furthermore, this is the most educated generation to enter the workforce—most have graduated or expect to soon and 41% are already working full-time.
Three quarters of Millennials are single. While 66% want to get married, the majority expect to get married much later than previous generations. However, it differs depending on where you’re from: Only 47% of Quebecers that want to get married; 74% of Albertans. This generation is largely single, educated, and currently renters, and can pack up and go at almost a moment’s notice; which makes them extremely attractive to employers that are looking to develop long term talent within their companies. In fact, this generation is well-versed in mobility and will seek it out with their employers.
Many of the characteristics attributed to this generation have come from the media. There is an overwhelming amount of information that has shaped the way Millennials are viewed.
Here are some of the myths behind Millennials as employees:
Reality: They are highly selective when it comes to employment and want an “experience,” not just a job. The search for the right company begins long before graduation day and Millennials are tapping into resources that weren’t available to the Gen X’ers and Boomers. They explore company websites and utilize social media to get information firsthand from each other. Studies show that this group of workers would prefer to be unemployed than to stay in a job they hate. That said, they’re not afraid to walk if their expectations do not match what was offered to them as a candidate. Often, an employer won’t know they’re unhappy until it’s too late. A successful assignment will build loyalty/retention among these employees.
Reality: In Canada, the average student debt hovers in the mid to high $20,000 range. The Canadian Federation of Students pegs it at $27,000. In early 2014, BMO (Bank of Montreal) conducted a study on Millennials’ financial priorities. He found that they’re not that different from anyone else—home ownership, saving for their children’s education and saving for retirement were their top priorities. This is also mirrored in a survey by the Huffington Post of over 1,000 Millennials. However, they don’t see owning a home as an immediate goal. They’re very positive about achieving that goal at some point in their lifetime, just not right away. They are very motivated to find work, however, this group has learned from previous generations the importance of work/life balance. Millennials are so concerned with finding work-life balance, they’re willing to relocate if it means finding an organization that is flexible and willing to demonstrate it through mobility. However, they are very driven and more likely to be engaged in their career than they are portrayed. A recent EY study indicates that younger generations are seeing their hours increase more in the last five years at a time when many are moving into management and starting families. (47% of millennial managers reported an increase in hours versus 38% for Gen X and 28% for Boomers.)
Reality: Today’s employee entering the workforce views success and the path to leadership differently than traditional long-held ideals of the past. Rather than upward promotions, they will actively seek out employers who offer various opportunities that may take them to different places and explore various functions within the organization. They believe that these experiences will provide the knowledge and skills needed to lead teams.