Millennial Insights for the Intergenerational Workplace

Every year, millions of “millennials” (born between 1980-1996), are entering the workforce. A recent extensive Gallup Report on millennials reports that there are over 70 million millennials in the U.S. alone, making up 38% of the U.S. labor force. Without a doubt, employers will increasingly need to know how to best work with millennials in the years to come.

Unfortunately, many employers and leaders feel they do not understand the millennial generation or how to maintain their loyalty in the workplace, concluding that millennials are an “uncrackable code” or even a lost cause. This does not have to be the case. Here are some common themes among millennials as well as practical insights about how to strengthen communication with them:

  • Are highly relational. Having grown up in an era of social networking and instantaneous feedback, millennials are accustomed to constant communication. Work environments that have hierarchical, top-down leadership and only focus on the task (while neglecting social aspects) are unappealing as compared to work environments that are collaborative and communicative.
  • Want to have purposeful, meaningful work. Millennials are very purpose and values-driven in terms of where they want to be employed. Many are not just looking for positions that can earn them an income; rather, they want meaningful work at companies that align with their personal values and passions. They seek out jobs that offer the best options to hone their skill sets, give them opportunity for advancement, and resonate with what they find important.
  • Appreciate honesty and transparency. Millennials appreciate coworkers and supervisors who can offer honest feedback and be transparent in addressing challenges. Additionally, as determined by CliftonStrengths, two of the top five strengths among millennials are Learner and Adaptability, which demonstrate their teachability when they receive reviews and critique.

Tips for How to Strengthen Your Communication with Millennials:
  • Communicate often. Millennials thrive in the workplace when their supervisors clearly communicate what is expected of them and give feedback about how they are performing. They also value bosses who take time to check in not just about work tasks, but about their personal lives as well.
  • Affirm outstanding performance. When you see growth or potential, encourage them and let them know. Take time to recognize when they’ve done stellar work which demonstrates that you respect them and that their contributions matter; Gallup notes that millennial employees are significantly more likely to stay at a job where they feel valued and get to use and develop their strengths.
  • Expect excellence. Though young and still learning the ropes of the professional world, millennials have the knack and drive to produce excellent work. If you set a high bar for them in their tasks and projects, do not be surprised if they go above and beyond. Many are yearning for the opportunity to use their skills and talents to deliver top-notch performance.
We Need Each Other

In 1 Timothy 5:1-3, the Apostle Paul explains the importance of generations honoring and respecting one another. He instructs Timothy that the younger men should treat older men and women with kindness and respect, and treat the younger men and women as he would his own family. We also see the biblical reminder in 1 Corinthians 12 that we are like different parts of one body, and that “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26, NIV). Though Paul was directly referring to spiritual gifts, the same principle can be applied about the diverse generations: if we choose to honor each other and seek to work together in spite of differences, there is a greater unity and satisfaction for the team.

As believers, living by these scriptural instructions to honor and encourage each other intergenerationally can actually be a way to model our faith in the workplace.


 Joyce Ahn is a regular guest contributor for The BAM Review.