Like street signs, labels help us find our place in unfamiliar territory. By labeling things, places and people, we can orient ourselves in confusing situations and circumstances—literally and figuratively. So, it’s no surprise that labeling members of the Millennial Generation, also called Gen Y and loosely defined as individuals born after 1980, has become a sort of industry, especially in the tech sector.
Why? Because “Millennials” also have been labeled the “Net Generation,” a group inextricably tied to technology. Members of Gen Y were the last generation of the 20th Century, a time marked by an unprecedented explosion of technology. Millennials have been labeled everything from “tech savvy” to “tech obsessed” to “tech dependent.” But are any of these labels accurate?
Recent research by Bentley University and KRC Research sheds some light on this question. Researchers canvassed more than a 1000 people between the ages of 17 and 35 to help illuminate their attitudes toward technology and their place in today’s shifting workplace—and to provide insight to all their colleagues. Both groups will need direction, as the Bentley study—and many others—projects Gen Y will make up as much as 75% of the global workforce by 2025.
“Millennials have a lot to offer, and their generation is poised to revolutionize the workforce,” Sharon Florentine, a staff writer for CIO.com, wrote in a recent column “Busting Millennials-in-the-Workplace Myths.”
“If your business doesn’t take time now to understand this generation’s motivations and strengths, you risk losing out on a major competitive edge,” advised Florentine, who covers tech careers.
The challenge facing executives and managers seeking to tap the potential of this cohort: Instead of serving like road signs to help navigate new relationships, labels stuck to Millennials can interfere with communication in the workplace. This can have a negative effect on collaboration in the workplace, which, in turn, can bog down an organization’s productivity.
The Bentley research revealed three tags attached to Millennials that don’t hold up to scrutiny. Yanking these tags could be a good first step to facilitating greater communication, collaboration and productivity in business:
1. Millennials are job hoppers
The implication of this label is Gen Y workers are neither dependable nor committed to the company. Stats from Bentley suggest Millennials are more loyal than many think:
- 80% surveyed believe they will work for four or fewer companies during their careers
- 36% expect to stay in their current positions for three to five years
- 16% say they will stay with their current employer for the rest of their careers
2. Millennials have a poor work ethic
The knock here is Gen Y employees just don’t put in the hours on the job that previous generations did. Again, Bentley numbers indicate otherwise: 89% of survey respondents reported they regularly check business emails after work hours.
3. Millennials are obsessed with social media
The image created by this sticker is of a generation with its eyes glued to smartphones, checking the latest tweets and posts to Facebook—whether out of the office, at their desks or in meetings.
While no group in the workforce—born after 1980 or otherwise—fairly can claim the high ground in the war against distracting digital devices, two-thirds of the Gen Y members polled by Bentley believe employers should limit social media usage on the job.