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A Millennial Minute: My Take As a Young, Digital Worker

In the past several years being in the workforce, I've heard the millennial generation discussed in a variety of ways -- many of them not too favorable. Since I'm focused on enterprise communications technology, I hear millennials most often referred to as disruptions -- to regular workflows, technology procurement strategies, business models and policies ... you name it.

You've probably heard many of the stereotypes about millennials; we seem to be the most researched generation of all. If you aren't up to speed on your millennial stereotypes, take a gander at the following video from Official Comedy, Millennials in the Workplace Training Video.

Listen to mainstream media and you'll come away with the impression that me and my millennial peers require excessive praise, a daily start time of no earlier than 10:30 a.m., regular raises and promotions, and the option to take mental health days whenever we just aren't feeling in the mood to work. Now that everyone is up to speed, I'm going to hit you with some facts.

In 2015, people born between 1981 and 1996 -- i.e., millennials -- are expected to become the majority generation in the U.S. workforce, according to recent research from freelancer platform Elance-oDesk and research consultancy Millennial Branding.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 1,039 millennials and 200 hiring managers with a focus on identifying the generational differences in how people work and coming up with an understanding how others view millennials and expect them to shape business moving forward. Let's take a look at some of the study highlights and other related industry pontifications:

Millennials and Technology
In general, the hiring managers surveyed had some surprisingly positive things to say about millennials. For example, 68% of hiring managers said millennials have skills that prior generations do not. Specifically, 82% of hiring managers noted that millennials are technologically adept.

To me, that's a statement of the obvious. We grew up on technology, so we should know how to use it! And I would argue this is what makes millennials attractive prospects to hiring managers, while simultaneously making prior generations view them as disruptions and even potential threats. Because we grew up in the digital age, we have different communications habits than our earlier generation colleagues, seemingly unconventional ways of conducting work, and unique perspectives about the world and business around us.

I have seen some argument as to how technologically adept millennials truly are, with various sources claiming my generation is more technology dependent than especially skilled or adept. I've even seen millennials described as technology addicts.

Driving the Industry
In a September article, "How Millennials Require Us to Design the Technologies of Tomorrow," Wired contributor Jake Wobbrock claims that millennial dependence on the Internet and smartphones is the driving force behind the huge strides technology makers have taken in improving user experience.

"Although millennials can often figure out how to use an app or site that is a clunker, they probably won't take the time to do so," writes Wobbrock, who is co-founder and CEO of AnswerDash. "They are experts at finding alternatives and they simply won't put up with bad user experiences that get in the way of accomplishing their tasks NOW."

The article goes on to cite industry research from Berglass + Associates and Women's Wear Daily that shows the millennial generation will be the largest online audience by 2017. With the upward trend in ecommerce and mcommerce activity over brick and mortar shopping in recent years, this means millennials have some serious buying power. In fact, the data shows that Millennials are expected to outspend Baby Boomers annually within five years, which has many businesses already targeting their digital marketing efforts toward the generation. This is a smart move, I'd say, given what we also learn from Web analytics company SDL. Its research shows that the typical millennial checks his or her phone 43 times per day (well under my personal average!). That's a lot of opportunity for mobile marketers in particular.

Millennials' penchant for being online ,could mean increased friction between them and their older colleagues. Entrepreneur contributor Katherine Halek, a content strategist, shares data supporting the idea that millennials waste more time online while at work than any other generation, opining "employers who grew up before the era of ubiquitous Internet access are not amused by this trend, which can result in friction between rising professionals and bosses their parents' age."

Millennial Retention
While millennials and their relationship with technology can lead to divisiveness in the workplace, they possess other valuable attributes for businesses. Specifically, hiring managers view millennials as more adaptable, creative and solo-oriented than prior generations, the Millennial Branding and Elance-oDesk research shows.

Even so, hiring managers struggle not only to fill open positions with millennial talent but also to retain millennials once they are hired. Fifty-eight percent of millennials surveyed said they expect to stay at their job for less than three years. This worries some businesses, especially as it diverges from prior generation's behavior. Generation X stay with a company an average of five years, while Baby Boomers leave a company after an average of seven years.

Now that you've had your fill of millennial stats, share your opinions in the comments section below. If you're a millennial, what stereotypes and struggles do you face in the adapting workforce? If you're Gen Xer or a Baby Boomer, how do you view the collective millennial generation?

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