Rebels, hippies, slackers, cynics. Every generation has its stereotyped labels, and millennials are no exception. Critics call them entitled, lazy and narcissistic – but for every shallow, selfie-obsessed millennial you meet, I’d wager there are dozens of hard-working, civic-minded activist-doers out there.

Don’t take my word for it (as a millennial, I could be biased); check out the research: the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that for millennials, personal values and morals are the most influential factor when making decisions at work, and the Case Foundation’s Millennial Impact Report shows that millennials’ primary motivator is an intrinsic passion for a cause.

When it comes to the workplace, millennials (defined as people born between 1980 and 2000) differ significantly from previous generations. While Baby Boomers and other generations compartmentalize their work and personal lives – a job is what they do, not who they are – work is part of a millennial’s identity. It is, for example, as natural for a millennial to answer personal emails at work as it is to answer work emails at home.
This merged view of job and self means that:

  • Millennials want to work smarter. They use technology and everything around them to connect more easily to people and information.
  • Millennials want to make a positive impact – within their company, as well as on the environment, society and even the world. They need meaning behind what they are doing.
  • Millennials aren’t afraid to job hop. Unlike previous generations, they don’t stay put in a job for the sake of stability. But if they feel valued, they’ll invest themselves fully in their work.

Millennials are already a majority in the workforce, and by 2020, an estimated 70% of all workers will hail from this generation. For employers, the imperative is clear: learn how the giving generation thinks and works – now.

Companies can look at research results for some important insights. For example, when Deloitte asked millennials to name the most important values for businesses to follow for long-term success, the top responses included “putting employees first” and “having a solid foundation of trust and integrity.” Also ranking high in importance were customer care, high-quality products, attention to the environment and social responsibility.”*

Smart companies will adapt themselves to take advantage of the skills, enthusiasm and passion found in the best of millennials.

A few key takeaways to successfully lead this generation:

  • Screen them properly to find the hard workers.
  • Listen to their input; they want to be viewed as equals.
  • Treat them like responsible adults. (At Lucas Group, for example, employees have unlimited vacation as long as they’re performing.)

Don’t dismiss this group based off of preconceived assumptions around the negative. Engage with them, and figure out how to use some of these generational differences to enhance your organization

*The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, page 10.