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The Alternative Board Blog

What Baby Boomers Always Get Wrong About Millennials

Jul. 29, 2015 | Posted by The Alternative Board

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials will take over 50% of the U.S. workforce in the coming five years. As more millennials filter into the workforce, it’s becoming more and more important that Boomers learn to work with Generation Y -- and perhaps even learn from them.

Boomers can be quick to write off millennial employees who want to work from home and hop from job to job. But, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll realize that many of their workplace needs don’t stem from what some Boomers perceive to be laziness, but instead a quest to find meaning in the work that they do. Below are some common misconceptions about millennials in the workplace (and what they really mean).

millennialsThey are lazy.

To Boomers, millennials aren’t willing to suffer for a living. As millennials would rather skip out on long commutes, long hours, and even long sleeves, their predecessors assume they don’t take their work seriously. But as we’ve already learned from our own work-life-balance survey, as well as many other business articles, working harder doesn’t necessarily translate into more productivity.

What Boomers are perceiving as laziness is actually the millennial's strategy for achieving more. It’s important to remember that this is the generation that grew up playing soccer, starring in the school play, and taking music lessons – all while passing AP exams. Millennials are brilliant multitaskers, and they understand how to prioritize to make the most of their time.

For example, if driving to and from work every day sets them back a couple of hours and a tie is too distracting for them to focus at work, they question the value of these norms, and they find a solution. They ask for remote options and a casual workplace – not because they’re lazy, but so they can get more done.

They require hand-holding.

According to the “No Collar Workers” survey by MTV, 80% of millennials want regular feedback from managers, and 75% would prefer to be guided by mentors. Yes, this is more than Boomers asked for from their superiors, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Effective and timely feedback is a critical component of a successful performance management program,” says the US Office of Personnel website. “If effective feedback is given to employees on their progress towards their goals, employee performance will improve. People need to know in a timely manner how they're doing, what's working, and what's not.”

Contrary to popular belief, millennials don’t just want to bring home a paycheck to cover their rent and a few craft beers. They want to thrive. When they feel as if their performance is going unrecognized, they quickly become disengaged.

Boomers can learn a thing a two from this mentality. There’s nothing wrong about asking for help or guidance. In fact, our very own TAB survey revealed that nearly a quarter of all entrepreneurs wish they sought out mentorship sooner, agreeing it would have made the single biggest difference in their business careers.

“They don't see the need for coaching as a sign of weakness, but as a path to greatness,” says J.T. O’Donnell, Founder and CEO of CareerHMO.com, “Give them the feedback they want (in the way they want it!), so they can exceed your expectations.”bigstock-DIGITAL-NATIVES-Concept-Wall-56628716

They spend too much time on Facebook.

Yes, millennials are plugged in, but that’s not a bad thing for your business. They understand the online space in a deeper, more intuitive way and can pave the road for your business’s online presence. In an interview with BusinessNewsDaily, TAB’s Vice President Dave Scarola advises, “Although many Baby Boomer leaders are becoming more comfortable with technology, some are still hesitant about using it. Allow your younger staff to help lead your company in a more tech-friendly direction, with suitable IT controls.”

Want additional insight? Read 7 Steps for an Effective Hiring Process now to learn more


With the advent of social media, millennials have become naturals in the art of branding. Their posts, their shares, even their photos of Sunday brunch (that somehow get 1000 likes) are great examples of effective content creation and personal branding. Knowing how to create an image for themselves translates into knowing how to create an image for your company. Not to mention, as they fall in love with their job and it becomes more and more a part of their personal brand, they become more likely to share the wonders of your company with their large social network. If you know how to encourage them, millennials can turn into invaluable brand ambassadors.

bigstock-Successful-young-businessman-h-87764414They only care about a paycheck.

The same MTV survey revealed that “loving what I do” outranks salaries and big bonuses for Gen Ys in the workplace. In fact, 83% of the Gen Ys surveyed agreed to seeking out “a job where my creativity is valued” above anything else.

The reason your millennial employees may seem less-than-thrilled at work is because they aren’t in the right position or given the right kind of work to inspire them. When hiring millennials, it’s important to ask them about their passions and goals. Don’t hire a creative writer in a sales position. If they give a great interview, see if they can support your content marketing department instead.

Ask your employees what kind of projects they would like to be working on, and you may come up with some amazing new ideas for your company. Perhaps they can lead a social media campaign or help restructure the company’s processes.

They have no loyalty.bigstock-Commitment-Promise-Responsibil-96720842

RecruitiFi’s Millennial Outlook Survey found that 86% of millennials would not hesitate to leave their job if it meant pursuing their professional or personal passions. Does this mean they have no loyalty? Or does it mean their current work situation isn’t offering anything to feel passionate about? Perhaps the rigidity of their work schedule is making it difficult for them to work to their full creative capacity. Or maybe, their lack of vacation time is leaving them overworked and uninspired. Maybe they aren’t being given the feedback they need, or they were hired into the wrong role.

Chances are, if they’re leaving the company, it’s not something wrong with them -- it’s something wrong with the role they are in. As a business owner, when any employee leaves – millennial or otherwise – it’s up to you to identify what went wrong and how it can be fixed rather than blame the employee. Before a millennial puts in two-weeks notice, it’s likely you’ll already see it coming.

“Millennials walk into the CEO’s office to tell them how to fix things,” says Nick Shore, a senior vice president at MTV and leader in the “No Collar Workers” study. If a Millennial leaves, it’s not necessarily because they have no loyalty, but because the workplace was unable to listen and adapt.

"As more millennials enter the workforce, experienced business leaders will be faced with some real challenges," says Scarola. While meeting in the middle may cause some turbulence at first, Scarola agrees it's worth the extra effort to bring on millennials. "They [Gen Ys} are strong multitaskers and have high expectations of themselves and their employers.”

Change in business can be hard, but it’s essential to growth. A group of peer advisors can assist you as you make transitions in the workplace, including bringing on new employees and implementing strategies to keep them. It’s time to think like a millennial and not be afraid to ask for help. If you’re interested in effective business growth coaching, get in touch with your local TAB board. A TAB board can help you develop a strategy for achieving your personal vision of success and hold you accountable to that plan.

Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board


Written by The Alternative Board