Over the course of the next decade four different generations will be sharing the average Canadian workplace, and one generation in particular — millennials — will become the bulk of Canada’s workforce. Adapting to this changing work environment must extend far beyond shelving the well-worn jokes about millennials. Understanding their concerns, needs and wants, as well as those of Gen Z hot on their tail, are critical to ensuring competitiveness and profitability of all companies, and for the viability of Canada’s middle-class as a whole.
Millennials have not had an easy time integrating into the work world established by the baby boomers, as evidenced by some of the recurring tropes concerning the generation. They’ve been called lazy, too easily and often distracted by technology while ignoring what ought to be their real-world concerns, like developing careers, owning homes and starting families. Their generational propensity for regularly changing jobs, or working jobs on the side, has given the impression they’re either disloyal or that they expect instant gratification.
Some HR professionals and academics have decided to move past put-downs and are earnestly looking at how this generation operates and what their strengths and weaknesses are, and are beginning to consider how the generation can be best utilized, integrated and motivated. It’s becoming clear, however, that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the winning formula for millennial success will be different from what was needed for earlier generations — such as Gen X or the baby boomers.
Now that millennials are fully entrenched in work, it’s worth asking whether they need to adapt to the working world or whether the working world needs to adapt to them.