22
October
2015

The Millennial Work Ethic

As a guy who keeps a fair amount of people employed, I’m often amused at what the public perceives as a varying generational work ethic, and what is reality. So here’s what I’ve found to be the reality.

Myth #1: Millennials are lazy
Employers who assume this stereotype do so at their own peril and at the cost of their customers. Millennials can be just as effective as other generations were at that age. With age (sometimes) comes wisdom, but the baby boomers who are the employers of today, conveniently forget that the generation before them thought they were a bunch of pot smoking hippies who would never amount to anything.

Myth #2: Millennials will only accept high paying jobs
If anything, the opposite is true. Many millennials start off working low paying jobs in the service industry just as many baby boomers did. The thing is that a baby boomer may have made $7 an hour in their youth, but millennials are still working at jobs making right around $7 an hour 30 years later. In 1984, I made $7.70 an hour as a part time mail clerk. Adjusted for inflation, today that would be $17.63. Few of these millennials who are college now are making anywhere near that wage.

Myth #3: Millennials don’t want to have to travel to work
Due to wages that are lower, relative to what baby boomers enjoyed, millennials have a harder time accessing jobs which are increasingly being developed in the suburbs and even the exurbs which is close to where many baby boomer employers live. In many cases, mass transit does not serve those areas or mass transit is increasingly limited. Public investment in mass transit has dropped dramatically and as such, bus lines have been cut and scaled back. Bus lines that used to drop workers near the entrances of industrial or factory jobs that were located on major streets and thoroughfares now either don’t serve the areas where the jobs are or they skirt the edges of these business parks.

Myth #4: Millennials aren’t willing to commit to their job
If treated fairly and given the opportunity to make a respectable wage, millennials will have as much commitment to their employer as their employer has to them. Millennials are realistic as they have seen their parents lose their jobs and they have grown up watching their elders succeed by moving to different jobs.

Myth #5: Millennials want everything now
Millennials have grown up in households and have seen their parents struggle. They understand that a corporate downsizing can happen at anytime and are willing to commit if their is adequate commitment from their employer as well.

In short, millennials are more similar to baby boomers than boomers would like to admit. They are the children of boomers and Gen X’ers, but they deal with the same sort of workplace age discrimination that previous generations did.

If anything, millennials put a higher value on quality of life. Long hours for little pay and no benefits are not attractive to millennials. They are willing to put in long hours with the promise of an end in sight, but they must see a tangible, non-distant benefit. Employers who wish to simply grind out 20 years of work from a millennial without giving their millennial employees a real opportunity to achieve the American Dream will be disappointed. But then again, the employer who wants those things also has to understand that they had the same aspirations at that age.

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