Who Are the Millennials?

Born roughly between 1980 and 2000 (some sources start and stop points range a year or three within either side of those dates or more), as of 2019 millennials are 21 to 37 years old. With Baby Boomers retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day, and Gen Xers born in a population growth lull, millennials now comprise the biggest portion of our work force – currently 50% and growing.

How Millennials Got the Way They Are

Millennials were born during one of our greatest eras of economic prosperity. Starbucks specialty coffees became ubiquitous, which melded well with Krispy Kremes and were somewhat offset by the Organic Food Act of the 1990s.

They grew up with laptops and cell phones.

The oldest were still only ten years old when the internet began its meteoric rise.  They could satisfy their curiosity and Google their way out of problems with relative ease.  Onscreen, anything was Pixar-possible, as families flocked to blockbuster “Star Wars,”  “Back to the Future,” “Toy Story” and Marvel movies where good usually triumphed over evil and the world was saved.  Mister Rogers encouraged a kinder, gentler world, noting “one of the greatest dignities of humankind is that each successive generation is invested in the welfare of each new generation.”

Airline travel became far more affordable and the world was everyone’s oyster.

Because they were toddlers or teens when Facebook and online gaming took off, millennials could make virtual friends anywhere.  Masters of the Universe action figure dolls reinforced millennials perception that they are their own superpower.

At the same time, the ever-prominent American Dream of a college degree, a home and two cars became much less attainable.

That put pressure on parents to give their kids a healthy head-start while trying simultaneously to save for their own impending retirement and increasing medical expenses. Regardless, many millennials entered the world of work mired in student loan debt.

Show Me the Money. Now, Please.

Millennials are keenly aware the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to comes with a high price tag. What’s more, they know their worth, or at least what the going rate should be, thanks to easy access to sites like GlassDoor.  They expect competitive compensation, and, if they’re ambitious, more.

Blake Wetzel, a Seattle tech Talent Acquisition Manager explains “I’d like to be compensated based on my impact and value to the company rather than my years of experience.”

In contrast, an “older” circa 1984 millennial and Director of Innovation at a large consumer product goods company (CPG) who prefers to remain anonymous, resents not getting rewarded for her education and experience.  “My generation was sold a bill of goods that if you put in the effort and investment into your education, that would be rewarded.  I have four degrees (culinary, BS food science, MS food science, MBA) and often feel they aren’t as valued as they should be.  [Yet] in several jobs I was getting paid the same or less than someone with fewer degrees/experience than me.”

Ultimately, however, for millennials even good compensation can’t overcome stressful, boring, soul-less and inflexible and overly demanding jobs.

Time-Outs and Flextime Nearly Rival Salary in Importance (Pay Attention — This is a Really Big Deal)

According to a millennial Food Scientist we surveyed, “Vacation time, flexible schedule, opportunity to work remotely are the most important benefits,” Another of the millennials we surveyed, an Engineering Manager at a premier Northwest Food Processing Brand, agrees.  “Vacation time and/or PTO is very important to me. I turned down an offer with a company that only offered two weeks of vacation but told me I could not use any of it in the first year!”

Millennials also expect a good benefits package and ample vacation, though they are unlikely to stay any place long enough to accrue more than a starting vacation, and a lack of sufficient time off may push them to move on.

All the Millennials that I know are just trying to do things “smarter not harder,” the millennial Food Scientist adds.  “We don’t see value in putting time in the office just for the sake of saying we were there.  Often, I will work 50-60-hour weeks and even more so if I’m traveling or working remotely.  Companies need to have more faith in their employees to get their work done rather than being focused on assessing people on how much they sit at their desk.”

As much as millennials are nearly always connected, they also recognize the importance of unplugging

  • I slow down, practice yoga and mindfulness to take a step back when I feel myself becoming stressed or overwhelmed – Blake Wetzel
  • My hobby helps me unplug so that I can be more engaged at work when I’m at work. – Engineering Manager
  • I enjoy outdoors activities that allow me to fully disconnect. I generally like being connected to work and the people I work with. My balance comes when I completely disconnect from all things (including cell phones, video games, and civilization). — Ryan Still, Maintenance Manager, Portland Bottling Company

Other hobbies can provide growth that complement