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IBM: Stereotypes Of Millennials Are Wrong

When it comes to career goals, collaboration, and leadership styles, Millennials have a lot in common with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, according to new IBM research.

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The introductory speaker at IBM's The Way We Work event, held Feb. 18 in New York, strolled to the front of the room sporting a pink hoodie, over-the-ear headphones, and a "selfie stick." The look said "stereotypical Millennial," a generation widely perceived as lazy, shallow, and selfish.

When the 29-year-old began to discuss her career, however, she better reflected the findings of IBM's recent Millennial-focused study: "Myths, Exaggerations and Uncomfortable Truths." A new pool of data indicates that, contrary to popular belief, not all young workers feel entitled to praise. They do not hop from job to job, either. While the study doesn't cover it, we also (thankfully) don't carry selfie sticks.

The primary difference between Millennials and preceding generations is their lifelong use of technology, which has caused them to communicate differently from their older colleagues. Most have never known life without the Internet. As a result, they possess a digital proficiency more natural than that of Gen X and Baby Boomer employees, and are quick to use tech to collaborate.

Erica Dhawan, founder and CEO of Cotential, points to an example of young law associates who created a Twitter network to share information and help one another solve cases. Their digital strategy was so efficient that it affected the bottom line of their firm, she said, which paid employees by the hour.

[Workforce 101: How Millennials should talk to older people]                            

By 2020, about half of the US workforce will be Millennials. These digital natives, the first generation to believe that businesses can affect greater change than government, according to the presentation, will have increasing influence over organizational decisions as they are appointed to leadership roles and reshape the workforce.

The thought might be terrifying to some. After all, aren't these the same kids who post pictures of their mid-morning snack to Facebook? Who can't make a decision without consulting a network of friends and parents? Who commence job-hunting the week after they start a new gig?

Not really. When it comes to career goals and expectations, working Millennials (ages 21-34) have a lot more in common with Gen X (35-49) and Baby Boomers (50-60) than older generations might like to think. In some cases, Gen X and Baby Boomer employees better fit the stereotypes that plague their younger counterparts. 

Millennials are less likely to mix their personal and professional lives. Almost 30% would never use a personal social media account for business purposes, compared with 7% of Baby Boomers. They also prefer in-person engagement for corporate education. Most would opt to attend a third-party sponsored conference (39%), attend classroom training (37%), or work with a seasoned colleague (36%) to learn on the job.

(Image source: Product Handling Concepts)

Young employees also don't want a medal every time they do something right. Most prefer a manager who is fair and ethical (35%), transparent (35%), and dependable (32%). Their lowest priority? Having a boss that considers their input. When asked whether every member of a successful team deserves a reward, 64% of Gen X employees agreed compared with 55% of Millennials.  

Really, Millennials aren't all that different from the generations that came before them -- they're just the focus of a lot more studies and have far more information readily available on the Internet.

As they look to the future, businesses shouldn't necessarily be altering their priorities to welcome the new generation. They should, however, be figuring out how they can use technological resources to solve existing problems and get things done. The focus is not doing things for Millennials, but doing things to ensure their companies will continue to exist 50 years from now.

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Kelly is an associate editor for InformationWeek. She most recently reported on financial tech for Insurance & Technology, before which she was a staff writer for InformationWeek and InformationWeek Education. When she's not catching up on the latest in tech, Kelly enjoys ... View Full Bio

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JimC
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JimC,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/2/2015 | 7:09:33 PM
Baby Boomer Birth Years
Please note that Baby Boomers were born during the years 1946 through 1964 inclusive.  It's now 2015, so do the math and see that the oldest of us are beyond age 60.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Ninja
2/25/2015 | 12:03:57 PM
Re: Is there more?

I agree stereotypes of any kind are rarely right they use a broad brush stroke to classify groups for segmentation purposes. If these groups were stratified the data would be much more accurate and useful. I am far from the specifics of my category though I possess some variables in the category. So using all the variables to market to me would not be successful. We should all focus on how we can successfully bridge the gap of a diverse workforce not just from and age perspective but from gender, family status, race and other variables. Working with diversity successfully should be the goal to make corporations successful environment for all employees.

dried_squid
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dried_squid,
User Rank: Moderator
2/23/2015 | 9:24:34 PM
Is there more?
The stereotype of the millenials may not be right. For that matter, that of Gen Y-ers and Baby Boomers may not be right either.


Why should these stereotypes for the sake of division matter?

 

Because of marketing. For me, a boomer, I suggest everyone rethink these classifications which float above in the clouds.

 

Many times, not all the time, I think stereotypes are political and commercial levers. Can't remember when they helped my community or workplace.

 

For me a boomer, I think some thingee is diverting my attention.

 

Vote with your wallet.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
2/23/2015 | 5:17:30 PM
Re: IBM: Stereotypes Of Millennials Are Wrong
"As if standing up for yourself in the workplace is a new idea." It actually is. Standing up for yourself in the workplace is often known as another term - "insubordination" and it can get you fired. I don't take issue with people who have no problem fetching coffee for other people - but not everyone feels that way. It was expected of you at one time if you were new or junior rank; it's not that way any longer. Everyone is perfectly capable of getting their own coffee or making a copy and if you can't - or don't have time - you need some time managment classes or need to check your ego at the door. It's an "old boys club" kind of mentality.
bjwest
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bjwest,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/23/2015 | 12:12:39 PM
IBM: Stereotypes Of Millennials Are Wrong
As if standing up for yourself in the workplace is a new idea. Not one generation has a corner on the idea of "I'm worth more than this," or "We're not going to do it that way anymore." The trick here is to learn from each other. My children are Gen X, Millenial and Gen Z. Two have followed me into the field of technology, and the youngest hasn't decided yet. I know that I was part of a generation that blazed the trails for them...as a woman in the technology arena. No, I didn't make copies...but I was sent for coffee. That action didn't demean me -- it got me in the door. It was just a brief phase that allowed me into the enviroment where I could showcase my skills. It's no different now. I watch what my adult kids encounter now in the workplace, and while it's vastly improved, it's still got a way to go. YOU -- Gen X'ers and Millenials -- are blazing trails now for those generations that follow. Don't complain about it -- that's all they will remember. Instead dig in and make it better.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
2/23/2015 | 9:45:51 AM
Re: IBM: Stereotypes Of Millenials Are Wrong
"we should get used to ourselves, too" - I really like that point. I think sometimes people forget how much of an age range the Millennial generation spans. As younger Millennials bring their fresh ideas and tech-savvy mindsets into the workforce, older Millennials who are already used to traditional workplaces will have to be open-minded about welcoming them. Not sure if this is what you meant in your comment, but that's how I interpreted it.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
2/23/2015 | 9:30:05 AM
Re: IBM: Stereotypes Of Millenials Are Wrong
I totally support the notion of paying your dues when you enter the workforce, but I think it means something different now. College students and new graduates are expected to have work experience by the time they apply for their first full-time job, so everyone is looking for internships where they'll have actual responsibilities. I've done six internships, but I was never asked to make copies or go on coffee runs. It felt like I was always contributing something or learning skills that would help me in the future.
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2015 | 4:30:09 PM
Re: IBM: Stereotypes Of Millenials Are Wrong
Come on, hopefully you were kidding with that broad-brush comment about an entire generation. Sure, plenty of these millennials feel like they shouldn't have to "pay their dues," and plenty of them are doing something about it in a positive way. They are starting their own companies, or joining startups, or going to other employers/professions where they feel they can have an impact, such as in the nonprofit space. More power to them, and too bad for the employers who lose out on their talents because of their backward workplaces.
laredoflash
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laredoflash,
User Rank: Strategist
2/22/2015 | 12:36:58 PM
Re: IBM: Stereotypes Of Millenials Are Wrong
It's not about you, my dear. It's about these arrogant snot nosed kids.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
2/21/2015 | 3:31:15 PM
Re: IBM: Stereotypes Of Millenials Are Wrong
I'm all for learning critical skills which round out a person in the workforce - but doing work which is well beneath your talents for the sake of "paying dues" is ridiculous to me and I'm glad this new generation won't settle for that nonsense.
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