Millennials are a bit like magnets: How do they work? Americans belonging to this generation, born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, have continually confounded the marketers who try to decipher their behavior, as well as the employers who struggle to cater to their expectations. According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, none of this is changing anytime soon: Millennials are officially the biggest generation of the U.S. workforce. Approximately one third of U.S. workers—53.5 million people in all—are a part of that generation.
The milestone means big things for the U.S. workforce and the future of work more broadly, as The Wall Street Journal hints:
Of course, the much-analyzed millennial generation has also been the subject of many myths. And data on specific generations is notoriously fuzzy. For example, about 110 million Americans were born in years that fall between clear generational divides and data agencies fail to track generations over time.
…The shifting demographics present both challenges and opportunities for employers as the new wave of job-seekers strike out.
Why does this matter? As most employers know, this generation encompasses decidedly different attitudes and expectations about work than their older colleagues. The group, which Fast Company contributor Sarah Horowitz calls “the first generation of freelance natives,” has a much more fluid, project-oriented approach to work compared to those for whom the strict 9-5 structure has long reigned.
For these folks, the traditional career trajectory is out the window. Many jump-start their careers before they finish college, if they even bother reaching that milestone at all. Leapfrogging from job to job is much less taboo than it used to be.
For employers, this shift in expectations requires a shift in how these workers are managed. It represents a conundrum of sorts for many companies whose cultures are entrenched in more traditional styles and structures. But, it’s worth noting, this isn’t the first generation that has left its elders scratching their heads, and it won’t be the last.