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What's wrong with millennials? Nothing.

For those complaining about millennials, it’s time to get with the times

Millennials may have been pigeonholed as lazy, apathetic, and entitled. Stories about them demanding raises and promotions every six months abound, punctuated with ample anecdotes about avocado toast.

I was recently talking with the president of an electrical contracting company who was in awe that a millennial worker didn’t want to work on a Saturday, when he would have been paid double time – because it was the only day his girlfriend had off, and they had plans to go to IKEA.

He talked about how in his day, he worked as much as he could to save for a down payment.

While a situation like this might seem like a lack of work ethic, or not understanding the importance of “putting in your time,” it also demonstrates one of the major differences between how generations view work.

“Millennials aren't driven by the thought of working hard for the next 40 years and then retiring,” writes millennial and Generation Z speaker and generations expert Ryan Jenkins in an Inc. article.

“Rather, they are driven by the idea of building a life and career that can withstand the continuous reinventions and pivots that their long-term careers in the 21st century will require.”

In this particular case, that trip to IKEA might have been more important that a few extra dollars. The mentality is that work is more of a marathon than a sprint and what many young people say they’re looking for is finding meaning in their work.

This is partially why the focus of much of the conversation around work has shifted from performance and promotion to culture. If young people are integrating their life and work and not just punching the clock, it makes sense for their workplace to adjust and become a place where they feel welcome.

When new generations enter the workforce, of course there’s a culture clash. The age range for millennials is anyone born between 1981 and 1996, putting them between 22 and 37 currently, which might be surprising for those who spew the clichés.

At a recent Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce talk, culture and development strategist Nicki Bullock talked about how it doesn’t make sense for leaders of companies to keep sticking to their own workflow and ways of communicating while insisting millennials adjust, because those young people are the ones making up most of the workforce.

“I used to get so cranky with the leaders just wanting to blame a generation,” she said.

Millennials actually became the largest demographic in the workforce in 2016. More than one-in-three American labor force participants (35%) are millennials, making them the largest generation in the U.S. labour force, according to Pew Research Center analysis of census data.

Millennials are also starting businesses younger than previous generations. According to the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report, the average age for millennials to start their first business is 27, versus 35 for Baby Boomers. And with many boomers retiring, young people are entering one of the most favourable employment markets in recent history.

Like it or not, these kids will soon be the ones running the show – so it might be time to adjust. Have a bit more flexibility, really hammer out your mission statement and maybe share the odd avocado toast.

The workplace will be better for it.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at [email protected]