Millennials in the Workplace


Millennials are the fastest-growing generation in the U.S. workforce. The same is true in most countries around the world. In the U.S., there are about 83.5 million Millennials. They are the most diverse generation in U.S. history and have more college degrees (and college debt) than any previous employee generation, and they bring all of these issues to work.

Millennials were born between approximately 1977 and 1995. Those born after 1995 cannot process the significance of the #1 generation-defining moment for Millennials: September 11, 2001. In other words, if 9/11 has always been history to you, then you are not a Millennial; you are a part of the generation after Millennials—known as Gen Z or iGen.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y and Echo Boomers, are currently around 21 to 39 years old. This age range is particularly important in the workplace because it covers a broad series of major life events, ranging from graduating from college to living independently, buying a house, getting married and becoming a parent.

One of the most interesting—and least discussed—ideas about Millennials is that they are breaking into two different generational groups. One group of Millennials is reaching all the traditional markers of adulthood, though a few years later than previous generations. This group is working toward careers and entering their wealth accumulation life phase, commanding more power in the workplace. The other group of Millennials, however, is not creating “real-world traction.” This is the group you’ve probably heard most about—they still live at home and let Mom pay their cell phone bill.

By the time Millennials reach age 30, they will self-select into one group or the other and can no longer relate to the other segment of their generation. These divergent trajectories will have profound implications for the workforce, marketplace, government, economy, and more.

In fact, the group most offended by Millennials who act entitled is other Millennials who do not feel entitled. The unentitled Millennials think that the rest of the generation is giving them a bad reputation!


Millennials are entering the workforce at a later age than ever before. This is important because it means that Millennials end up with less work experience than previous generations of the same age. A Baby Boomer’s resume at age 25 looked a lot different from a Millennial’s resume at age 25 today.
Millennials are a largely visual generation. Their most trusted learning resource is YouTube. Companies have been slow to adapt their onboarding and training processes to align with how Millennials prefer to learn, creating big challenges as they enter and advance through the workforce.

Millennials communicate differently from other generations at work. Here is a list of their preferred communication methods in order:

  • Text—and now, in many cases, IM apps such as
  • WhatsApp are becoming more important than texting
  • Email, with the subject line being most important
  • Social media
  • Phone call
  • In-person
Yes! Millennials can be incredibly valuable employees. However, to exhibit those behaviors, they need a workplace environment different from what previous generations have been conditioned to offer. Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, and Generation X conformed much more quickly to their workplaces, whereas Millennials want (and, we dare say, expect) employers to find a middle ground. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Millennial employees often want challenges, a sense of purpose, and more life balance—which is increasingly what other generations are asking for, too.
  • Millennials are okay with shorter tenures of employment and quitting a job that is not a fit for them. It is likely that the perspective will change as they take on more responsibilities, but it has the potential to become a long-term trend.
  • Millennials strongly expect their employers to invest in employee training and growth.
  • Millennials expect promotions faster than other generations because of their high expectations, lack of understanding of how long other generations worked before being promoted, and desire for tangible career progress.
  • Millennials want communication from the boss more frequently than any other generation in the workforce—up to 54% more based on one of The Center’s national studies.

Besides the obvious demographic tidal wave—with Millennials already comprising over 50% of most workforces—The Center has identified three big reasons through our research, speaking, and consulting work:

  • Millennials want to make a difference from their very first day on the job. They want to have an immediate impact—an ideal attitude for new hires. Give them training specific to how to have that impact, and you will see results.
  • More than any other generation, Millennials naturally challenge the status quo at work. They have little experience and are comfortable sharing their opinions on what is not working or what could be better. Cross-generation teams that include Millennials can have a strong positive impact on innovation.
  • Millennials will turn down higher-paying jobs to stay with an employer and leader they believe in.
Absolutely! But, like any generation of employee, they need to continuously build experience, complete training, and earn the respect of those they lead.

Just because you’re the manager doesn’t mean that people will follow you. Leadership is earned over time based on your actions and reactions.
Being younger than those you lead does change things. It is what it is. You can prove yourself by not getting hung up on your own age or anyone else’s. Show up. Lead by example. Listen to others. Value others. Then make the hard decisions and keep moving forward.
Learn to value the intangibles. You may be fabulous with technology but have room to improve how you give or take feedback. If a leadership responsibility makes you uncomfortable or nervous, treat is as an area for growth.

The Center is leading a new research study on the generation after Millennials, called Gen Z or iGen. One anecdotal finding is that many managers think that Gen Z will enter the workforce with more willingness to do the jobs Millennials aren’t willing to do and, potentially, with a greater work ethic. This does not bode well for Millennials if it’s true—especially Millennials who have not yet successfully entered the workforce.

Contact us for a customized presentation, research, or consulting on Millennials. Check out our additional perspectives on Millennials here:

Millennials Workplace