It has become fashionable to trash Millennials. They lack a strong work ethic, have no grit, aren't respectful or patient and definitely don't understand corporate culture. The trashing fits with how people romanticize the 1950s as the golden age of American culture, when everything was just somehow better.
I don't know whether Gen X is just irritated that they're getting older or whether people are forming their opinions solely based on Buzzfeed, but I think the stereotype is wrong - dead wrong. In fact, I will go out on a limb and state that Millennials may actually be the best generation of workers we've ever seen.
And I say this having hired hundreds of new college grads - and seasoned professionals - over the past 20 years. Here's why:
1. They're too big for their britches.
Today's young job seekers have grown up with a startup mentality. The value of embracing failure has been etched into their psyche by entrepreneurs and tech titans like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. So, unlike past generations, they are not necessarily looking for stability. They don't dream of landing a job at GM or IBM. They approach positions with the understanding that they may have to put in 110% to succeed, even with the near certainty that their employer won't be around five years from now.
Put that in contrast to the stigma of entitlement attached to Millennials. It's true that many baby boomer parents have raised them with a perspective of possibility. They've been encouraged to follow their dreams and passions. And from watching Mark Zuckerberg or President Obama, they've learned first-hand that it's not just dogma; anything really is possible.
So where some see entitlement, I see greater authenticity and audacity.Millennials will shoot for the stars - and if they fall down, they'll get right back up and try a different way.
2. They just don't communicate the way you do.
If you've watched "Mad Men," you've seen the fast-paced advertising world struggle to become more connected with innovations like... the speaker phone. Fast forward to today, where first-time job seekers not only understand and embrace collaborative technologies but don't know anything different.
While many offices struggle to get their workforce to embrace services like Yammer or Basecamp, Millennials have been doing those things for years. They've been learning with social classroom tools and chatting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every waking hour. As a result, they actually conceive of communication in a one-to-many paradigm, which is a huge plus for companies that are spread out globally and interact primarily in a virtual environment.
3. They expect things to happen instantly.
I don't know anyone over the age of 50 who doesn't complain about how fast the world is moving these days. However, in the case of job performance, that's a very very good thing. Think about it. Thirty years ago, everything took a lot more time. The data you needed to make critical business decisions was delivered weeks later by a mail truck. Someone had to physically be sitting in a predetermined location at the right time for you to call on the phone.
Our expectations for accomplishing tasks were, naturally, based on the resources and structures we had in place. Simply put, we moved much slower. And, God bless them, there are many professionals out there who still work the same way.
Not Millennial workers. With the pace of news, communication and responsiveness nearly instant, that's how they approach work. They know nothing else. Plus, they have the necessary tools to support them. Give a Millennial employee a research assignment on your competitors, and you’ll get the project back in 24 hours. Twenty years ago, the same project might have taken a month. One piece of advice: Just make sure you attach a deadline to the assignment.
4. They expect too much.
Studies show that young job seekers today are passionate about how their jobs affect the world. In fact, they value job fulfillment over monetary reward. Many balk at the traditional model of doing charitable good only when you have reached a certain level of economic wealth or solely in your free time. They want to reach financial well-being and achieve social good simultaneously .
What does that mean for employers? I would hope it could open the doors to two things. First, we have the ability to retain skilled and valuable Millennial workers by creating environments where social impact is lauded. That will reduce employee turnover and save companies thousands of dollars each year in recruiting, hiring and lost productivity.
More important, Millennials are a driving force toward significant, scalable and lasting social change that will benefit everyone, whether it's about the environment, socioeconomic diversity or just a healthier work-life balance. In case you've forgotten, the U.S. ranks the worst among all modern economies in vacation time and pay.
5. They think differently from you.
Millennials are the most diverse generation in U.S. history. Minorities, roughly a third of the U.S. population today, are expected to become the majority by 2042. So Millennials don't just embrace diversity on the job; they expect it.
From race and religion to gender and sexuality, they've come of age with a greater comfort of multiplicity of all kinds. They've entered adulthood with an African-American president and been the catalyst for many states legalizing same-sex marriage. Female leaders like Hillary Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg have shaped their views on gender equality.
Imagine how that translates in the workplace. The payoffs touch every single area of a business by opening the doors to increased creativity, agility and productivity, new attitudes and language skills, a more global understanding, new solutions to difficult problems, stronger customer and community loyalty and improved employee recruitment and retention.
6. They are obsessed with technology.
Today even the industries that historically have been slow to innovate are finally adopting a web- and mobile-first philosophy. Century-old brick-and-mortar stores are fighting to keep Amazon at bay; healthcare finds itself transformed by the Affordable Care Act. Job seekers with coding and programming skills from Java to Ruby to SQL are desperately needed at all types of companies right now. Big data analytics, video game design, app development, software architecture - the list goes on and on for highly sought Millennial workers with tech expertise. But the issue isn't just about the hard skills they bring.
If you've spent any time with a child lately, you've probably noticed that they can master an iPad within minutes. It's mind-blowing - and a little frightening - to imagine how future generations of consumers will interact with technology.
Millennial workers are the bridge to that future, through social media, mobile, the cloud and other real-time technologies that haven't even been invented yet. They are graduating with both academic skills and innate behavioral skills that companies will need to engage with customers in much more meaningful (and profitable) ways.
It's the way Millennials think about technology, and their relationship with it, that is changing everything. So, having Millennial employees on staff to advise on your customer relations strategy or spearhead innovative new mobile and social media programs is invaluable for any business of any size, place or industry.