The Myth of the Millennial

myth of the millennial

Millennials are everywhere. Did you know that they've been discussed in some form or fashion since before half of them were even born? Or that the term "Millennial" has been around for about 25 years (it was coined by demographers Howe and Strauss in 1991)? The discussion grew and then exploded and has been fueled by the media and organizations who believe this new generation is very different than the ones before.

Some of the assumptions: Millennials are entitled yet eager for feedback; they're lazy yet purpose driven; they're extremely likely to job hop. It's created an entire new consulting industry built on the idea that organizations need to understand this new generation.

So What's the Myth of the Millennial?

Employers are eager to figure out how to attract and retain Millennials. And for good reason - there are a lot of them. The myth is that they're the only demographic we need to understand. In our zest to characterize Millennials, have we forgotten some other important people in our workforce?

Gen X

The folks that came of age in the 1980s are now your mid-career professionals who will guard much of your future success. They're also in the thick of the age of the breadwinning mom and the trend toward older parents, two advents that bring very specific challenges.

Boomers

They may retire and take their voicemail with them...but they'll also take a large chunk of your knowledge base. And if they leave too soon, they'll put Gen X and Millennials in a pickle as they try to catch up.

Gen Z; Coming Soon to An Office Near You

Both of the above are worth consideration. And both require specific strategies to address. But if your focus is solely on the Millennial experience, you're potentially giving up the opportunity to talk to the rest of your company. How are they doing? What do they need? Are there issues that need to be addressed? And that means you may be missing Boomers' restlessness - and what to do about it. Or you might be missing Gen X's desire to get some attention for their challenges as working parents.

Interestingly, when it comes to attitudes, recent research shows Millennials are quite similar to more senior generations. The differences that do exist can often be attributed to being young, not necessarily being a Millennial.

While there are benefits to investigating the misunderstood myth of the Millennial, it's important to remember the needs and wants of all employees, not just your youngest ones. There will always be a new generation on the horizon. It's best to understand your workforce as it is today and to create a platform that supports all rungs on the ladder. That way, when Gen Z starts arriving, your company will already be ready.
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Written by: Rachel Hill

About the Author

Rachel Hill at Bright Horizons

As a Research Analyst for Horizons Workforce Consulting, Shannon works with Bright Horizons Education & College Advising corporate clients to deliver college financing workshops and provide personalized counseling to employees. She has over 10 years of experience in student financial assistance, at Boston University and Tufts University, and has also served as an active member of MASFAA’s Early Awareness and Outreach Committee, as a trainer for DOE’s National Training for Counselors and Mentors, and as a volunteer for FAFSA Day Massachusetts.