It Ain’t Necessarily So: Why Millennials Aren’t So Different After All.

The U.S. workforce comprises four generations: The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. Many believe that Millennials are drastically different from the prior three generations. But is it true? How do generational differences affect your company?

We reviewed the existing research on this topic and conducted studies on our own. We quickly learned that there are some common beliefs about Millennials (that they are lazy and have an attitude of entitlement, for example). But according to the research, these characterizations aren’t entirely accurate.

Here are three myths about Millennials we discovered.

Myth #1. Millennials have different work values from their predecessors.

While more research is showing that the younger generation views work as less central to their lives, findings are mixed regarding whether different generations have different values in the workplace. Yes, millennials prefer transformational, relationship-focused leaders who are dependable, supportive, and trustworthy. But so do other generations.

Some argue that the so-called “ME generation” prefers working alone over teamwork. But this isn’t supported by research. It turns out this is more an individual point of difference than a generational one.

Myth #2. Millennials are not as satisfied, committed and engaged at work.

This is part truth, part myth. Some research indicates that younger generations tend to be less satisfied with their jobs, less committed to the organization, and more likely to quit. But the findings are too mixed to draw clear conclusions, and corporate culture might be a big factor in the mix.

In our study on generational differences in employee engagement, the relationship between age and level of engagement depended on organizational culture. The higher an organization’s overall culture scores (on involvement, consistency, adaptability and mission), the smaller the generational differences in employee engagement.

Myth #3. Millennials want to work less and play more.

In fact, millennials spend just as much and often more time working than their older counterparts. That said, they are less “OK” with work life interfering with their personal or family life—and vice versa—than older generations. Their emphasis is not on less work more play, but on striking a better balance between the two.

The lesson here: While research shows that different generations don’t differ that much in their work values, attitudes, and behaviors, they do differ in how they perceive each other. Everyone values teamwork, for example. But Generation X employees think that Boomers don’t value teamwork. Everyone values technology, but the Millennials think that Boomers don’t value it as much as the Boomers actually do.

Culture is the key: Millennials will respond to an organization’s culture and brand.

“Can you tell me about your culture?” That is now a frequent interview question – asked by interviewees! Millennials want an organization that can help them develop advance their career and make an impact. They are attracted to organizations known for a good work environment and high performance in the market. They want an organization that can also support telework and work-life balance.

We believe that an organization that can build a high performance culture and use that culture to build a brand as an employer will be more likely to attract and retain the capable Millennials. And the capable GenXers. And the capable Baby Boomers!

It’s time to be more intentional about driving an organizational culture to manage the multi-generational workforce successfully. What does your culture look like? How do you describe and show off your culture to the various generations in and entering your workforce? How does your organization’s culture help or hinder managing the different generations?

For help addressing these and other questions about corporate culture in your organization, contact us.

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two business people holding disconnected puzzle pieces that say culture and engagement