Characteristics of Millennials


Millennials are now the largest segment of the US labor market. By 2025, they will account for three quarters of the workforce (Pew Research Center). Considering they are set to eclipse Gen Xers, getting to know who the millennials are in your office, and how to get them to join your company is something you should already be thinking about. But first…who are they?


Millennials were born between 1982 and 2004, making them approximately 12 to 34 years old. For some perspective, the oldest Gen Xers are now 51 years old, and the youngest Baby Boomer is around 52 years old (with the oldest at age 71).

What are some defining characteristics of millennials? Millennials are commonly viewed as being optimistic, collaborative, technologically savvy, and achievement-oriented. What do millennials want? They want to do meaningful work and make a difference, they value work/life integration, desire frequent feedback, and prefer autonomy.

We admit, this is a generalized and broad list of “typical” Millennial traits, so it’s important to get to know your millennial employees personally and embrace their quirks rather than pigeon-hole them. Like all of your employees, they have unique contributions to make to your organization and are worth the investment of your time.


Now that you know a little more about the average millennial, let’s dive a little deeper into what makes your millennials happy and satisfied at work, and how to keep them that way.

millennials want leadership skills to be developed


Money is important to millennials, but opportunities for career progression beat out competitive wages and other financial incentives. This is multifaceted issue. Millennials may need help exploring their strengths. And then help them grow – define their personal and professional goals. They want training and learning opportunities to magnify strengths and fortify weaknesses. Whether it be formal training or mentorships from more senior employees, providing the chance for formal professional development is highly valued among millennials. Less formal, and perhaps more continuous is articulate the skills they will learn on the job and how they are of value to their careers.

They want to see advancement opportunities – and they want it faster than other generations. Millennials are results-oriented and think tenure should not be a deciding factor in career advancement. The real question is – how do you realistically meet their expectations for climbing the ladder?


Millennials love to know what you think about the quality of their work. They want constructive feedback more frequently than in just an annual review – provide input, and offer it in real time.


Accept the fact that they are going to leave. Millennials don’t pick one job and make it a lifelong career. There will be an inevitable churn. And before you say that Millennials are entitled and compulsively job-hop to find what they think they deserve, read this: statistics on job tenure for Americans in their 20s today are almost exactly the same as they were in the 1990s (Bureau of Labor Statistics). So maybe this phenomenon isn’t exclusive to millennials, maybe they’ll outgrow it. Either way, employers should know your millennial employees won’t be around long, so prepare now for their departure.

millennials like to job hopA little context: It’s not about loyalty. Consider the environment in which millennials are trying to build their careers – many might have graduated college during the economic recession, compromised and took an irrelevant job just to pay the bills. They have low job security and meager salaries to start with, so it’s logical that they are ready to move on (especially from their first jobs) quickly. You’re a great employer if you know this and can help them build skills along the way.


Life and work are becoming more and more intertwined (for better or worse). Millennials expect employers to be aware of this and to provide opportunities to work remotely, leave early, use their phones at work, etc. Millennials are open-minded and employers might benefit by thinking a little more like them, in areas besides just work schedules. When it comes to work styles, they like clear and concrete instructions and defined targets – the means to get there might not matter so much. Try to steer clear of micromanaging your millennial employees, or from being too vague when you give them projects.


Millennials are more concerned with how your organization treats its people and what it does than how much money you make or how popular you are. Aka transparency and being socially conscious is important to this group – are you trying to look good or actually do good? Millennials want to like your brand, so help them feel personally connected to it. You want to make sure they you hire the right people – so try using personality tests to give you insight into determining cultural fit, as well as understanding employees’ strengths, identifying needs, and realizing goals so you can develop a personalized coaching plan for your employees.