Why care about Generation Y? Because you work with them, you probably manage a few, you market to them, you design for them, and because their take on life, work and everything in between is so different than most generations past. Another reason: Millennials are the fastest growing segment of today’s workforce, with estimated numbers as high as 70 million. Wouldn't you want to understand what drives them and what makes them tick?

Keep in mind, there are exceptions to every generation. Not trying to create a Gen box here. That would not be cool. These are just general characteristics that are too great to ignore and understanding some of the differences helps us work so much better together. Inspiration came from a great article published on the HOW-March 2012 issue entitled "Millennials: What makes them tick?" Great read!

So who makes up the Millennials or Generation Y? According to some, it includes those born between 1978 and 1999.

Some of the characteristics:

  1. A job is an experience, not part of a career
  2. Multitaskers (conversations, projects, clients, entertainment)
  3. They're team-oriented (collaboration)
  4. They deal with change easily
  5. They value life outside of work above all else
  6. They have a strong sense of entitlement
  7. They value innovation ("latest & greatest")
  8. They believe & rely on the web for product/company recommendations
  9. They're the most socially-conscious group
  10. They won't respond if you're trying too hard

1. Jobs come and go. How they view their jobs is incredibly important and I can relate from my own personal experience. I certainly don't view my career in a linear fashion. Millennials are more likely to try one job for a short period of time and move on to something new just to see what that's like. There's no such thing as a job downgrade when they're in pursuit of a new experience.

2. Short attention span? You mean multitasker. Their ability to multitask is incredible thanks to having cell phones, texting, video games, and the internet as a standard in their lives. This also means they'll get bored easily if you spoon-feed them single projects at a time. And remember they're adept at technology, probably more than their list of abilities outlines.

3. Two brains are better than one. They value collaboration, in person and more so online, and thrive in an open atmosphere. Working in teams comes naturally to them. If they're working on very complex projects all on their own, be ready for an inundation of questions about the project and associated tasks.

4. Change is part of the norm. That's right! Because they've experienced high's and low's in this economy, they're not phased by change, unlike their predecessors. They adapt very fast. Losing a job, having pay cuts and changes to responsibilities is just part of working. They know they'll be changing jobs sometime soon anyways, so what's the big deal. (Shrugs shoulders)

5. Overtime at double-time pay? Sorry, got plans. It's not just the talk. They do really value their personal time over anything else. Their strong sense of identity is not associated with what they do for income. Their happiness (and identity) comes from what they do with their free time. They prefer to makes less and work fewer hours than having large salaries without a personal life. This also means flexible work hours are much more effective for this group. Hate to break it to ya, but if you try forcing them to a 9-5, they're just going to jump ship quicker. Just the way it is. (Shrugs shoulders)

Additionally, how & with whom they spend their working hours is just as important. They will not be a part of efforts/jobs/companies that don't align with their value systems.

6. They want it all now. What trenches? They don't necessarily believe in putting in the time in order to yield rewards or greater responsibility. If you manage them, focus on helping them gain experiences rather than talking about the time it takes to gain a promotion or new responsibility.

7. They'll readily try the newest "latest and greatest". They're not after status claims. They simply want to try whatever hits the market that's most innovative (app, device, gadget, etc.).

8. Did you read that article about... It's not just a funny exaggeration on Portlandia, they consume information from the web when making decisions because they trust the voice of fellow consumers. (Side note: Another reason why we should all stand strong against SOPA and PIPA, which would take away the transparency and freedom of speech online. Had to throw that in there ;-P)

9. Having a cause is just part of life. Since their value system is not based on money or greed, they will freely volunteer and donate to good causes. They support companies that stand for great causes and will happily influence others on your behalf in support of such. They'll talk about it online.

10. Um, you're trying too hard. They enjoy a good laugh but hard-edge sarcasm is not cool, anywhere. Limit them by boxing them in and you'll completely miss the mark. Try to impress them with technology and you'll just look like a fool. Be open, transparent and give them tools to use however they choose. Empower them and let them run with it. You will be surprised how well this fluid (non-rigid) and natural approach works.

What's your take on Gen Y? I'd love to hear about your personal experience being a Millennial or working with them.

Here's a sweet little song to set you in the Y state of mind ;-P