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Are Millennials the Misunderstood Generation

The topic of Millenials is not going away anytime soon, but while a lot has been said and written degating what type of people they are and will be, they have been busy building their professional life. They've gone from new kids on the block to influencers - freshman in the workforce to Chief Executive Officers. They're casting their weight to change work life balance, paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child, office atmosphere, and if they come into the office at all to work or work remotely. Perhaps most importantly, they now hold the steering wheel to the economy, making up the largest percentage of the workforce in the U.S. and spending more than any other generation this year.

This period of time was always going to come, and now many are wondering why we still talk about millennials. Also, why talk about millennials when you are one of them, and your office is full of them? Well, may of the conversations that have been happening haven't been the right ones to have, and it's time to ask the meaningful, less speculative questions.

Jason Dorsey, the "Millennial Whisperer" recently had a discussion with the Journal of Accountancy about millennial CPA's. He said the right questions to ask are those of "What are the things that we can hope to gain from Millennials when they join our workforce to unlock their talent? What are the things we can do to best bridge the generations without having to cater to or coddle them as employees so that everyone wins?" Another way to put this is to ask yourself and the millennial-heavy office around you 'Now that we are more experienced, how do we best release our talents? How do we communicate with those around us effectively? How are we going to become the leaders?'

From work ethic to commitment to skill level, there's been a lot of doubt about this generation, but now they are going to have to decide how to move on to the next level in their professional career. They have to see how to usher the last of the millennials into the workforce and then how are they going to welcome the next generation. 

 Still, employers now can gain or lose a lot on how they continue to approach this generation. Dorsey commented, "They still want to feel valued like everybody, they want to feel included, and they want to feel challenged. They want to be a part of the company. They want to take on more responsibility. These are all great things to have, but Millennials may communicate them differently. And they may be motivated differently. They may think about work/life balance differently, and even the prospect of loyalty or paying your dues may look different to them. The employers who recognize this and adapt are having a massive advantage."

     Millennials and their employers are finding how to work together, realizing it's more important to find your place than it is to put others in theirs. With this comes the potential to transfer knowledge, wisdom, and grow professionally, but also to leave behind the great generational divide that's been felt the past few years. Here are two simple ways to make this happen.

Don't focus on the outliers

A lot of the unattractive qualities millennials have been branded with are due to the majority of focus being put on a small representative, resulting in the statement that "millennials are so _______." Someone is hired and quits after three months is defined as a millennial than a mis-hire. They show up to an external meeting they same as they do for an internal one and rather than realizing professional etiquette may have never been taught to them, it's assumed that millennials choose to be unprofessional. It's better to understand why there might be excessive turnover within a business or to address a trend of knowledge that needs to be taught.

"They (millennials) still want to feel valued like everybody, they want to feel included, and they want to feel challenged. They want to be a part of the company. They want to take on more responsibility... The employers who recognize this and adapt are having a massive advantage."

Millennials don't have a cookie-cutter skill set

Dorsey puts a great spin on the reality of millennials being tech-savvy stating "The third one is everyone thinks ­Millennials are tech-savvy. This is particularly true in more traditional industries. The reality is that Millennials are not tech-savvy. We are tech-dependent, and there's an important distinction. We don't know how technology works; we just know we cannot live without it. People just assume that because we can text without looking, we clearly know how to send a fax or hook up the printer. The reality is that we don't." This statement alone will give many millennials a sigh of relief and also allow them to show off their analog skills as well. Older generations assume the younger workers can help them with their phone issue or how to retrieve their iTunes password, and despite the belief that they only talk over text, they may excel at facilitating peer to peer communication in the office. In fact, millennials are probably looking to find commonalities rather than being told they are different all the time and treated as such. They want to learn from people who have similar interests, not be shut out as if they have no unique skill sets or talents to offer.

With better communication, misunderstood and underutilized could turn into realized talent and a generation who embody the leadership traits of the generation before them mixed with their personal style. The general schema will change with time, how quickly depends on individuals from different generations readily approaching the task at hand.

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