Guide: common millennial characteristics and work tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 3 November 2022

Published 7 December 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As you progress through your career, you may work with lots of different people from varying backgrounds and generations, all with different characteristics, one of which is the millennial generation. If you work with millennials, it can be useful to understand the core characteristics this group shares. You can use these insights to work more effectively alongside your millennial colleagues and to be a better manager if you supervise millennials at work. In this article, we share 10 common millennial characteristics and how these apply to the workplace and provide our top tips on managing or working with millennials.

What are millennial characteristics?

Millennial characteristics are traits shared by the generation known as Generation Y or millennials. Typically, this generation is those born between the early 1980s and the mid-to-late 1990s. This means that in 2021, the oldest millennials are in their early 40s and the youngest are in their early to mid-20s. There are four generations—baby boomers, Generation X, millennials and Generation Z—who are currently active in the workplace, and each one shares certain traits.

Many characteristics of the millennial generation are informed by the fact that they grew up during a period of great technological change and witnessed the rise of the Internet and social media. This has equipped them with technology skills and made them more socially aware and accepting than previous generations. Through the use of technology, they can connect with people, through social media, in varying locations and with different backgrounds.

Related: Millennials vs Gen Z (definition and differences)

10 common millennial characteristics in the workplace

Everyone is different, and it's not possible to define someone based on their generation, but understanding them can make it easier to interact with them at work. Even if you're a millennial yourself, it can be useful to understand some of the key characteristics shared by your generation, to better understand your own working style and ultimately work with colleagues more easily. Here are 10 common characteristics shared by the millennial generation:

1. Socially aware and value meaningful motivation

Millennials generally place a high value on meaningful motivation for their work. Creative work motivates them as does knowing that their work has a positive impact on others. Money may be less of a motivator for millennials than for previous generations, although a passion for their work can and does help them advance in their careers.

Since most millennials grew up with social media, they have always been more exposed to people from different backgrounds than previous generations were. They've had that platform to share and learn about social issues in the world. In the workplace, this might mean that millennials are most motivated by work that allows them to bring about social change.

Related: 5 benefits of corporate social responsibility with examples

2. Challenges the hierarchy and status quo

Millennials typically share their ideas and opinions. They are also more likely to challenge their superiors (when they feel it's warranted) than their Generation X or baby boomer colleagues. This is because millennials tend to believe that companies can see better results through collaboration, idea-sharing and considering all points of view rather than through traditional top-down management.

Millennial characteristics may include being strong believers in working across many functions and placing less importance on job title, level and status than other employees. This means that they may be best suited to organisations that employ a collaborative approach rather than passing orders down a traditional hierarchy.

Related: Top-down vs bottom-up management styles (benefits and uses)

3. Values relationship with superiors

Millennials may find it more important than employees of other generations to have a meaningful relationship with their superiors. One characteristic of millennials is that they see their supervisors or managers as mentors and come to them for advice and guidance about their work and career development. They often find that building a positive rapport with their supervisors helps them to do their best work and achieve their goals.

4. Technologically adept

Since millennials were the first generation to grow up with technological advents such as the Internet, computers, mobile phones and social media, it makes sense that they tend to be technologically adept. From a young age, they're used to performing tasks using computers or mobiles, so these tasks may come more naturally to them than to their older colleagues. This also means that they are able to learn new technological skills and master new programs and software.

Related: IT skills: definitions and examples

5. Open and adaptive to change

Millennials growing up during a period of great technological and societal change, seem to have brought this experience into their working lives. They embrace change, understanding that it's crucial to any business. A characteristic of millennials may include having worked in many roles before they settle on their career of choice. They display adaptability which makes them a great asset for companies, particularly during periods of growth or expansion, when it may be necessary to take on different roles and responsibilities and adapt the way they work.

Related: Creating a healthy corporate culture (with tips)

6. Values flexibility and work-life balance

Millennials tend to place value on tasks rather than on time. While other employees want to know how many hours they have clocked at their desks, millennials are more likely to care about how much they have achieved during this time. This is because millennials have a keen understanding of a healthy work-life balance and strive for this in their working lives. Millennial characteristics may include valuing flexibility and wanting to work outside of the traditional 9–5 schedule according to what allows them to do their best work.

Related: How to engage millennials in the workplace: a useful guide

7. Passion for learning

Greater access to higher education over the past several decades means that many millennials hold university degrees and understand the value of learning. Because of the significant technological changes that marked their youth, millennial characteristics can include learning new skills and being able to apply this ability to the workplace. Millennials exhibit curiosity about the world and a desire to learn more and increase their skills. They also tend to understand the importance of setting, working towards and achieving professional goals to advance their careers and increase their knowledge.

Related: 10 methods to improve employee development in the workplace

8. Receptive to feedback

Most millennials accept feedback willingly and value regular input on how they are performing. They generally appreciate guidance and mentorship from their superiors. This allows them to grow professionally and do everything they can to improve their performance and continue their professional development. Millennials characteristically value recognition, and it's important to them that their managers and superiors appreciate their work. Giving recognition when they have done a job well is a great way to help your millennial employees stay motivated at work.

Related: Positive feedback: why it's important and how to give it

9. Creative problem-solvers

Millennials are generally thought to be more imaginative in their thinking than previous generations. This could be because of the vast array of different technologies available to them or the fact that they grew up during the switch from conventional methods to modern and technological ways of working. Either way, this makes them excellent problem-solvers, who are generally able to find creative and innovative solutions to issues that arise at work.

Related: Problem-solving skills: definitions and examples

10. Values social interactions and teamwork

One millennial characteristic of the generation is they place a great deal of value on working in a team environment. They work best when they are able to collaborate with others, brainstorm on projects and come up with solutions to problems by listening to different points of view. Millennials also value working for a company with a strong culture, which usually means that there is a social side to the workplace. Millennials tend to thrive in environments that are casual, fun, and relaxed and employ a collaborative approach to work.

Related: Generational differences explained (with management tips)

Tips for working with millennials

Now that you understand some of the key characteristics shared by the millennial generation, you are better equipped to manage millennial employees and foster a more productive working relationship with your millennial colleagues. Here are tips for working with millennials:

  • Provide regular feedback and recognition: If you manage millennials, it's a good idea to set aside time to offer valuable feedback on their work and let them know how they can improve. It's also important to give positive feedback and recognition when they do a good job.

  • Respect their time: Since millennials value their work-life balance, they don't appreciate colleagues who email them out of office hours or seem to be wasting their time. If you manage millennials at work, it's a good idea to avoid asking them to work outside of their allotted hours unless this is strictly necessary, which could imply that you don't respect their time.

  • Create a strong company culture: If you manage a millennial team, creating a strong office culture is a great way to ensure they feel motivated and valued at work. This could include organising regular social events or encouraging a flexible and relaxed approach to work.

  • Take advantage of their creativity and tech-savvy: Millennial characteristics include being adept with technology and being able to come up with creative solutions to problems, so don't overlook this if you have millennials in your team. Consider asking your millennial employees to contribute to brainstorming sessions or help decide on new technological processes, even if it's not strictly part of their job description.

  • Encourage collaboration: To help your millennial employees or colleagues flourish at work, try to foster a collaborative environment that values teamwork and offers everyone the chance to give their opinion.

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