Why You Shouldn’t Dread the Advance of Millennials in the Workplace

by | 07 January 2015

By now, you might have heard that 2015 is the year Millennials take over the workforce. Does the thought fill you with dread? If so, you aren’t the only one. Media coverage of Millennials in recent years has been a parade of hand-wringing and selfie-loathing. They’ve been called a “generation of deluded narcissists” by Fox News, financially illiterate by USA Today and the “least entrepreneurial generation” by Quartz. As Baby Boomers and Gen Xers head towards retirement, are they doomed to work alongside incompetent, self-centered sloths?

Plus: What studies reveal about Millennials | Are Millennials renters by choice?

Take a deep breath. It’s true that Millennials aren’t perfect, but the good news is this: Millennials bring some unique and positive qualities with them to the workplace.

Millennials are digital natives, which is a good thing. 

Millennials have taken a lot of criticism for constant engagement with the Internet and technology, but this is only a sign of the times. We live in a fast-paced, technology-driven world. Keeping in touch with the latest tech trends and social media is essential to the modern workforce — and will be for the foreseeable future.

Also: What’s the current business climate for Millennials? | Largest shopping malls in the world

We’ve already discussed how social media can make you better at commercial real estate. Social media is also a great platform for employees to function as brand advocates for their company; a Nielsen study from 2013 concluded that 84% of respondents found word-of-mouth recommendations (also known as earned advertising) to be trustworthy. That makes earned advertising the most trusted form of advertising by a wide margin. Social media is the world’s biggest channel for word-of-mouth recommendations, and it is growing every day.

We need to stop chastising Millennials for using social media and turn their behavior into a business advantage. The Millennial penchant for learning new digital platforms is actually a huge bonus; the problem, it seems, is motivating them. This brings us to our next point …

Millennials are motivated by company values, not just money. 

Millennials expect a little more from their employers. They are more likely to seek out flexible working hours, offices with a diverse workforce and a company with which they share values. This desire is driven by the weight Millennials place on their personal relationships and their desire to work toward a greater good.

According to a 2014 survey, a company’s involvement with causes is the third most important factor for a Millennial when deciding to apply for a job. A company’s diversity ranks high on their list too, coming in at fifth most important. This makes sense, given that Millennials are the most racially diverse generation in American history. In short, if you want to attract Millennials to your business, hire a diverse team and give them a cause to rally around.

However, it’s not clear if Millennials are more motivated by values than money. To be frank, most Millennials haven’t had a chance to engage with wealth.

According to this Pew report, 25- to 32-year-olds of every education level faced higher unemployment in 2013 than any comparable age cohort since the Silent Generation. Given the job market during the recent global recession, it makes sense that Millennials opted to stay in school rather than join the workforce. All those diplomas produced a lot of debt, but they also produced a generation of well-educated people. In fact …

Did you know Millennials are the most educated generation in American history? 

It’s true. It’s also true that high levels of education (and a willingness to learn more) impact the way Millennials work. According to the 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce Study, 82% of hiring managers agree that Millennials are more technically adept, and 60% agree that Millennials learn new things more quickly.

In our knowledge economy, better-educated workers are better workers. This is a rising tide that will lift all economic boats. Even though Millennials have been suffering under the same wage stagnation as previous generations in recent decades, higher levels of education will help them climb toward the top of the pay scale.

It’s time to welcome Millennials.

Have no fear, old-timers. Despite what you might have heard about Millennials in the workplace, the business world will keep turning. You’ll get to engage with social media and tech a little more often, and you’ll be working with well-educated people who care about company values. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Let’s roll out the welcome mat.

Maybe the real worry for industry veterans is this: As technological innovations and new demographics roil the waters of commercial real estate, will older generations be able to keep their hands on the rudder until retirement?

Tony White has spent decades exploring discourse within online communities, and he writes about social media and digital innovations in real estate. Send him tips or questions at Tony.White@Colliers.com or via Twitter