5 Ways Millennials Are Changing the Workforce

Gen Y may be branded as lazy and entitled, but find out how they're actually changing the workplace for the better

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Millennials-members of the generation born roughly between 1980 and the mid 2000s-aren't always portrayed in the nicest of lights: lazy, entitled, and unwilling to put in the hard work of their predecessors, say their critics. Remember last year's Time cover story, "The Me, Me, Me Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents"? Or how about The Hollywood Reporter's recent story, "Hollywood's New Era of Millennial Assistants: Mom's Complaints to the Boss, Less Subservience"?

To that extent, experts say that the criticism makes sense: One of the biggest challenges millennials present to employers is the desire to skyrocket to CEO on day one on the job, says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. However, the proliferation of this narrative doesn't mean it's all doom and gloom. "What's fascinating is that Boomers were also known as the ‘Me' generation."

And the truth of the matter is millennials are also now the largest generation in the U.S. Come 2015, they'll be the largest percentage of the U.S. workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And Schawbel says that could be a good thing. For one? The millennial generation is more educated and more diverse than any other generation, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Here, five more ways Gen Y is currently changing the workplace-for the better.

1. They're Slimming the Wage Gap

Yes, there's still a wage gap between men and women, but when corrected for job choice, experience, and hours worked, the gender wage gap is smaller for members of Generation Y at all job levels than either Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, according to a recent study conducted by Millennial Branding and PayScale. "Millennials are the first generation that isn't afraid to fight for equality in the workplace and this study confirms that they are starting to close the gender pay gap that has existed in the American society for decades," says Schawbel. (Here, 4 Weird Things That Affect Your Salary.)

2. They're Fast on Their Toes

They may be branded lazy, but 72 percent of millennials value the chance to learn new skills, compared to just 48 percent of Boomers and 62 percent of Gen Xers, the same study found. Additionally, "millennials are the generation considered best at key skills businesses require to remain agile and innovative," concludes a study from Elance-oDesk and Millennial Branding. The report shows that 72 percent of millennials possess an openness to change, compared to 28 percent of Gen Xers, and 60 percent are adaptable, compared to 40 percent of Gen Xers. The report also states that 60 percent of hiring managers agree that millennials are quick learners. Why is all of this so important? Not only does constantly evolving technology demand the ability to quickly master new skill sets, adapability is also a crucial skill for any leader, whether it's changing their management style to meeting the needs of employees or handling an unexpected crisis situation.

3. They Think Outside the Box

The same Elance-oDesk study also finds that millennials are both more creative and entrepreneurial than Gen X (check out the graphic below). These attributes are crucial for two reasons. First, the ability to find creative, forward-thinking solutions is essential to even the most traditional of companies who wish to keep up with their competitors. Second, it's entrepreneurs who drive America's economy, accounting for the majority of our nation's new job creation and innovations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.


4. They Aren't as Selfish as Everyone Thinks

While growing up with Mark Zuckerberg as a model may make millennials feel more pressured to reach success at a young age compared to their older counterparts, they're also more willing to give back. (If you want to stop feeling anxious over the swarm of millennial millionaires, here's How to Overcome Age Obsession.) In fact, 84 percent percent of millennials say that helping to make a positive difference in the world is more important than professional recognition, reports Bentley University's Center For Women And Business. Additionally, according to the White House's October report on millennials, high school seniors today are more likely than previous generations to state that making a contribution to society is very important to them. Yes, this makes millennials good people, but what about the bottom line? Well, research shows employer-supported volunteering is directly correlated to increased revenues and customer loyalty, not to mention the fact that companies who help engage in their communities reap the benefit of enhanced reputation.

5. They Can Build a Mean Network

One of the frequently cited complaints against millennials is the lack of company loyalty. (Here, 10 Ways to Be Happier at Work Without Changing Jobs.) Looking at the numbers, 58 percent of millennials expect to leave their jobs in three years or less, according to the Elance-oDesk study. But these exits may not necessarily be due to a lack of loyalty, per say. Millennials are having a much harder time achieving financial independence, the PayScale and Millenial Branding study finds, which may lead graduates with large student loans to accept a less-than-ideal first job. The silver lining: "Millennials who job hop have new perspectives on business and contacts they can leverage to their company's benefit," says Schawbel. Thus, job hopping millennials can forge mutually beneficial connections between companies, ultimately creating better products and services.

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