Busting the millennial myth

“When I join a new company, I give it three months. If I don’t like it, I leave.” This is what a twenty-something speaker told the audience during a conference that I recently attended. The speaker, who talked about millennials in the workplace, further blurted that “we millennials want to be happy…we millennials are like this and like that’…blah blah blah. It was more like a spoiled brat ranting rather than a representative millennial giving insights.

Millennials have been in the workforce for two decades now. In fact, the oldest is turning 37 years this year. But still people talk about them – from marketing, to human resources, to business executives – boxing this seemingly unique generation to a stereotypical self-entitled group. But are they really?

I’ve been dealing and interacting with millennials in and out of the workplace – managing and supervising them and teaching them in graduate school. I questioned the broken-record-like myth that’s been circulating in mainstream press and public fora. There’s enough evidence now to bust these myths.

Myth: Millennials are slackers and lazy

Older generations often gripe endlessly about the laziness of millennials. They grew up glued to their gadgets and phones and having easy access to information. They always Google anything they need to know about anything and use apps to do the work for them.

Fact: Millennials are willing to work hard for an employer who supports them

Several studies support this. A recent poll of 747 Insights poll in the US revealed that millennials are “more willing than members of other generations to catch up on work during their personal time.” They are also competitive at work, according to consulting firm CEB, which finds that 59% of millennials said that competition is “what gets them up in the morning,” compared with 50% of baby-boomers. A Deloitte study of Filipino millennials revealed key values in the workplace such as hard work, dedication, patience and flexibility. Based on my observations, experience working with millennials, and interviews with employers, millennials are indeed hard workers, if given the proper guidance and coaching from their supervisors.

Myth: Millennials want to be freelancers and start-up founders

This is coming from the concept of the gig economy where organization contract servicers rather than employ, evidenced by the growth of freelancers in Upwork.com. There is also an observable growth in start-ups not only in the country but all over the world driven by millennials wanting to be like Mark Zuckerberg. Millennials are channelling their passion by putting up their own business or doing what they love to do.

Fact: Millennials still work for companies instead of becoming entrepreneurs

Boston Globe reported that “a mere 2 percent of us reported being self-employed in 2016, and entrepreneurship among young people has dropped by 10 percent since 1997, despite the successes of Zuck, Airbnb’s Brian Chesky, and other millennials.” In the Philippines, Deloitte’s survey revealed that only 36 percent of Filipino millennials would prefer freelance work over full-time employment and just 31 percentof their global peers prefer consultative employment.

Myth: Millennials don’t stay long in the job

This is coming from stereotyping millennials as call center and business process outsourcing (BPO) workers who jump from one company to another, where the turnover rate is still in the high double-digit.

Fact: Millennial employees stay in the company, which provides them opportunities for learning and growth

While this may be true for the BPO sector, in general 4 out of 10 Filipino millennial employees resign within 2 years, but this is mostly because they desire to beef up their leadership skills, according to a Deloitte study. Anecdotally, several service companies in insurance I spoke with report high retention rates among millennials when the company provides the proper employee engagement.

As Filipino millennials make up one-third of the country’s total population, they already occupya significant part of the workforce and have the potential to shape the direction of the economy. Hence, it’s important that employers help millennials become better in the workplace.

Employers can harness the drive and desire of Filipino millennials to contribute and succeed in the workplace by engaging them in meaningful work. This can be achieved through coaching from their supervisors, promoting a collaborative environment, and making sure they are heard by the organization.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of FINEX.The author may be emailed at reylugtu@gmail.com.

The author is President & CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consultancy, Inc., a digital and culture transformation firm. He is the Chairman of the ICT Committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX). He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University.

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