Actually, the Millennials are here, but many businesses are just now recognizing the challenges of managing the latest generation to enter the workforce. Generational cohorts are groups of people who are similar in age and exhibit similar behaviors. Different authors use slightly different classifications, but in general, the Silent Generation was born between 1925 and 1945, the Baby Boomers between 1946 and 1964, Generation X between 1965 and 1978, and the Millennials between 1979 and about 1998.
For years we have heard about the Baby Boomers and how the largest generation ever would impact schools, universities, business, and retirement systems. Most of the predictions were true. Having a group of 78 million people move through the different stages of life stressed the infrastructure and created marketing opportunities and challenges. The main impact of the Baby Boomers was the simple fact that there are so many of them.
The Millennial generation is even larger, with about 82 million people between the ages of 16 and 34. That fact alone tells us they will have an impact on nearly every facet of society. In 2013, more Americans are 22 years old than are any other age. There are over 26 million Millennials between the ages of 17 and 22, most of whom will be entering the workforce in the next five years. Their numbers alone would have a huge impact, but in addition the Millennials are different from previous generations.
Millennials have different aspirations, different expectations, and they interact differently. Millennials are better educated than any previous generation. They are much more willing to change jobs and are less willing to sacrifice quality of life for their jobs. When it comes to technology, Millennials are highly skilled and have integrated technology into their lives. Millennials respect authority and want extensive interaction and continuous feedback. They are self-confident, but do not like ambiguous or open-ended assignments. Quite simply, Millennials have their own culture, which is distinctly different from that of the Baby Boomers, or even Generation X.
As the population of Millennials in the workforce grows, managers will have to learn how to manage them in a way that will make the most of their strengths and overcome their differences. The good news is that the Millennials are ambitious, technologically skilled, and enthusiastic about their jobs. Firms that successfully adapt and integrate them will find Millennials to be a strategic advantage.