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04 August 2016

Millennials are growing up too

Where we previously referred to the ‘Snackbar Generation’ (born between 1990 and 2005) or the ‘No-bounds Generation’ (born after 1986), increasingly these days a distinction is made by branding groups with an X, a Y or a Z. We also make eager use of the word ‘millennial’. But what does this term mean, and what influence does this generation have in the workplace?

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Who are the millennials?

The term ‘millennial’ has something of a negative connotation. Thus this generation (born between 1981 and 2000) may be dubbed as lazy, narcissistic, spoiled, impatient and with little loyalty. What is more,  while the millennial has grown up in the digital world, previous generations are seen as still wrestling with the influences of social media and technical tools, among others. This produces a huge discrepancy in vision and in the requirements that the different intakes impose on a workplace. At least, that’s what you might think. But is that really the case?

In a previous blog colleague Vincent Henricks cast some doubt on the generation gap in the workplace. I go along with that too. Yes, this intake of youths has wishes that Generation X (1961-1980) probably didn’t have. For example, they like to be flexible, so that working from home and creating flexi positions are current points of attention for facility managers. Moreover,  a survey by PwC among higher-educated millennials showed that loyalty has indeed declined substantially since 2008. Eight years ago 75 percent of respondents still indicated that they envisaged working for a total of two to five employers during their working lives; now they are down to 54 percent. A quarter of those questioned even consider they will work for more than five employers.

Perhaps we are now focusing more than ever on a new generation. Books like Ties and Tattoos highlight the role of the millennial in the workplace, just as the workshop Dude, what’s my job? does. These somewhat suggestive titles say a lot about the image surrounding the new millennial. However,  on what basis has this image been created?  Research into the differences between three generations indicates that there are actually very few. The research shows that the newest intake has the same career objectives as older colleagues.

Are the differences really that big?

Given the huge attention paid to technological developments, the millennials group is perhaps subjected to closer scrutiny than the previous generation when entering the labour market. So does this mean that they are completely different employees? Don’t the people belonging to Generation X also want to make the best of their careers? I don’t believe that the vision and the package of requirements of the new generation differ much from those of their predecessors. Moreover, the millennials are getting older too, and will probably opt for a family at a certain stage. 

Then, just like their older colleagues now, they will have to deal with issues like childcare and taking the kids to school. I know from experience that this doesn’t improve flexibility. So I think that the minimal difference between different generations will shrink even further. Now the younger employee wants freedom, for instance to determine where and when they work. However, when younger employees become older, a moment certainly arrives when the desire for more regularity grows. Exactly as it did for the undersigned.

Geert-Jan Blom
Business Consultant Planon Netherlands