Next Generation Leaders: What They Want and Need from the Workplace



Editor’s Note: We here at NPQ are often skeptical when research comes to us that purports to tell us what we need to know about one demographic segment of our workforce or another. Sometimes it feels as though researchers want to define a new species of homo nonprofitus.That’s why when these findings from Terri Klass, Judy Lindenberger, and Jean-Baptiste Marchais about Millennials and the nonprofit workplace came to us, we immediately asked the Millennials on our staff to measure its authenticity. The verdict: spot on. Of course surveys have limitations, and each nonprofit – and more importantly each Millennial – is different, but the consensus in this nonprofit workplace was that the responses recorded here by Lindenberger et al. were surprisingly on target. Hey Millenials, what do you think? Does this sound like you? Or just about everyone in the office?

Have you ever wondered what makes Millennials tick? So did we, so in the fall of 2011 we interviewed Millennials and their managers to learn more about this generation. Because many organizations struggle with how to best integrate Millennials into the workplace, we interviewed Millennials and their managers through face to face and telephone interviews. The people we interviewed came from a variety of organizations and industries, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to small companies. The survey spanned different industries including the drug industry, engineering, biotechnology and financial services.

Just Who are the Millennials?

Born between the years of 1977 and 1997, the Millennials are the youngest generation to enter the workplace. Millennials grew up with school shootings, terrorist attacks, AIDS, the Exxon Valdez spill and the Internet which influenced their view of the world. As children, they experienced everyone getting awards for playing sports and went to school at a time when gold stars were handed out freely. As a result, Millennials want frequent feedback. Millennials grew up with Baby Boomer parents, many who are self-professed workaholics, and therefore desire more work/life balance than their parents had.

They are resourceful and able to multi-task. They can Google, email and write a report at the same time; they can comfortably find information through the Internet. They work well in team environments and are comfortable speaking up. They also want to make an immediate impact in their jobs and move up quickly.

According to the managers who we spoke with, their Millennial employees are energetic and creative. They also are flexible, technology-savvy, resourceful, can retrieve information quickly and efficiently, and are open minded. Millennial employees are not afraid of discovering new things; they want to learn and are eager to try something new.

What Do They Want?

Millennials report that they have a great vision of the world. They consider the world as something positive with a lot of opportunities. Millennials told us things like, “The world has endless possibilities” and “There are so many things to learn and to be exposed to and not enough time to do everything”.

Their attraction to fast-paced environments and their self-confidence allows them to handle multiple tasks without a problem. However, it is important to find a balance regarding workload. Too much of a workload could turn them off, but not enough could reduce their enthusiasm. Also, workplace flexibility is a benefit that Millennials value. We heard comments like, “I usually work eleven hours a day but I am satisfied by the fact that my boss doesn’t demand a strict 9 – 5 schedule.”

One thing that stood out is that many of the Millennials we spoke to are interested in working for an employer whose corporate ethics match their own. We heard comments like, “I want to work for a company that has the same values that I do” and, “I would like to work in a company helps the world and uses green technologies.”

What Frustrates Them?

Something we heard over and over again in talking with the Millennials we interviewed is that they want to hear the truth from their bosses, they want feedback and they want it right away. One Millennial commented, “I want honesty, respect, open communication, to be informed constantly, and to learn my manager’s expectations.”

The time to leverage the talents and welcome the Millennials into organizations is now.

More experienced workers are rapidly nearing retirement age and their accumulated wisdom and expertise could soon be walking out the door. In addition, Millennials are actively asking for more training, coaching and mentoring opportunities. Bringing together older workers’ experience and Millennials’ creativity can lead to groundbreaking innovations. Here are a few ways to provide mentoring for Millennials:

§  Create an open mentoring culture where people learn from each other in a wide variety of formal and informal relationships.

§  Use technology to help people sign up and get connected.

What Gets in the Way?

Managers tell us that Millennials prefer communicating through e-mail; they do not like face to face meetings as much. Millennials tend to lose concentration easily because of technologies, spending time checking texts, e-mails, etc. One manager told us, “They are distracted by technologies and social media.”

Millennials may choose the fastest path to the solution and think they deserve to be promoted quickly. The energy and enthusiasm they can generate can be considered a challenge by their managers. One manager said, “They are highly ambitious, but they have short term goals. They want to reach management quickly and need to be managed very carefully with career paths that keep them from jumping to other companies.”

They are inexperienced at understanding the complexity of politics and process, underestimate them and focus on the short term. A manager said, “They need to understand company policies and work within them as opposed to making up their own rules.” A Millennial said, “I want to understand and manage politics and learn effective project management strategies.”

What do Managers Need to Know to Support and Help Them Develop?

Millennials have a real desire to learn and grow, which is advantageous to organizations because as Baby Boomers and others retire from the workplace there will be a need for Millennials to take over leadership positions more quickly than generations before them. There’s a perfect match between the Millennials’ desire to make an immediate contribution, to be leaders, and to learn and grow in their organizations, and the need for them to quickly take over leadership roles. This means that frequent performance appraisals, mentoring programs, coaching and training will be essential for growing and sustaining leaders. AMillennial said, “I want to know when my manager is happy with the work that is done and if he is expecting more.” Another commented, “I want the opportunity to shadow others and learn about areas outside my scope of responsibility.”

How Can Human Resources Support These Emerging Leaders?

As Millennials move into management and leadership positions, we predict that there will be an emphasis on them asking others for their opinions as opposed to “it’s my way or the highway.” There will be respect for different points of view and different opinions. There will be greater teamwork, a lot of creativity and a lot of having fun as well as working hard.

Some tips for attracting, retaining and growing your Millennial workforce include:

  • Articulate your employer brand – communicate internally and externally what it means to work for your organization;
  • Have a clear statement about corporate responsibility – make this part of your employer brand and be committed to deliver the promise;
  • Think creatively about how technology can be used to engage Millennials e.g. avatars, internal networking sites, etc.;
  • Create an on-boarding experience for Millennials that helps them learn your company culture;
  • Be crystal clear about company policies such as social media;
  • Set clear performance expectations and explain why something needs to be done;
  • Use e-mail and voicemail as primary tools when you cannot meet face-to-face;
  • Don’t force utilization of the chain of command;
  • Don’t talk down to them – they will resent it;
  • Provide them with feedback – early and often;
  • Hold them accountable and let them know when they have screwed up;
  • Tell them what they do well;
  • Judge them by what they accomplish rather than the number of hours they put in;
  • Encourage them to share their ideas with you;
  • Listen;
  • Invest in personal development and training – explore coaching/mentoring programs;
  • Provide variety and fresh challenges – consider promoting cycles of experience in other parts of the organization;
  • Teach your Millennials to become problem solvers;
  • Tell stories, share your wisdom, or teach them something you wish you would have known when you were their age;
  • Think creatively about reward strategies and what motivates Millennials. For example, is it time to shift from cash bonuses and cars to other things?

Organizations today need to understand and support each generation. Providing training on the differences between the generations will reduce conflict and improve communication and interaction. Offering mentoring programs will help grow all of your employees. Don’t delay. Your success depends on it.

  • Seth

    Because they’ve grown up in a world where “everything is possible” and “possibilities are endless,” when Millennials enter the workforce, they are under the assumption that doing the job quickly, efficiently, and better than their peers automatically equates to entitlement. Because this generation focuses so much on merit-based reward, they have trouble understanding the “time-invested” nature of many workplaces. It is difficult for those of this generation to work harder and faster while yielding better results – yet receive less pay and/or responsibility. Likely, this stems from the fact that this is a generation of instant gratification. So, if they can do a job “right now!” they want that job “right now!”

  • Jen Reid

    Seth I have to agree with you on the “entitlement” focus of this generation, though I love the “world is my oyster” they still need to create a path of possibilities in their careers. Seems to boomers and millennials have more in common than the boomers and genx group which has me wondering how business succession – boomers retiring – will take place? Will the traditional middle management genx group move up the ranks in business? Will there be a focus on mentoring millennials?

  • Kelly Bell

    Why shouldn’t Millenials focus on short-term advancement and not care about company politics? Their perception is that nobody stays at any company longer than 2 years anymore, companies (including non-profits) have no loyalty to them, and don’t really care about them. They’ve seen how their parents were treated over the last 10 years, and they’re not as easy to fool because they don’t have as many illusions about employers caring about employees. They’re NOT going to stay at any company that doesn’t give them what they want – they’ll make a move instead and progress that way. Smart, in the current business climate.

    Also, though I’m older than this demo, the “wants”, as you’ve stated them, are WHAT I’VE WANTED MY ENTIRE CAREER. So – consider that people been saying this for a long time, you’re only just now getting around to listening.

    About flex-time or offsite work: the very best people work offsite. I know this first-hand from my company’s recruiting efforts. Instead of resisting, I’m embracing, and the quality of the work my company produces, as well as my bottom line, has improved apace. That’s the next big paradigm shift, IMHO.

    Good luck,
    Kelly Bell
    Gotham City Drupal

  • Keenan Wellar

    With a staff of 10 and at age 42 being the oldest staff member (and co-leader) of the organization, this article does a nice job of capturing the challenges and opportunities in generalizing about the millenial population.

    I think Kelly Bell raises some important issues – to some extent the sense that millenials are not interested in aligning with organizations does come (I believe) from getting the message as a volunteer or as a staff member that they need to embrace ways of doing things that don’t work for them.

    At [url][/url] we have millenials that are EXTREMELY loyal – both staff and volunteers – because the organization is also “them” and we try to make sure they know that by understanding their preferred methods of interacting and contributing.

  • David Hellenthal

    Thank you for this article. I coordinate our Career Development Program at the Salvation Army, striving earnestly to match employees and employers. There is an abundance of information about the qualities of a good employee, yet very little (in comparison) seems to be said about the qualities of a good employer. The qualities you list here should apply across the board to Baby Boomers, GenXers, and Millenials. Employers and Employees need to respect and value each others goals. We do a lot of “business culture” workshops and mentoring for our low income and homeless job candidates because we understand that the values they learn on the streets and as dependents of a benefit system do not transfer smoothly to the workplace. In fairness, we need to also work with employers to empower them to develop workplace environments where people are respected and valued for the work they do and where old school notions like hours worked and embracing company politics and bureaucracy are replaced with efficiency, merit, out of the box thinking, and a voracious appetite for learning and growing and getting the job done well. I hope I have enough symbols left to relay a blog I found when I just went to google to make sure I was spelling bureaucracy correctly. It pretty well sums it up. I am not sure who the author is, but she is pretty good.

    ” Can You Spell Bureaucracy?
    Last week I went to work. I was given a post it with a list of things and instructed to bring these things to the nurse manager. At the GOVERNMENT hospital I work in the dark ages. There is no email in which I find updates from my nurse manager. In fact, I have never met my nurse manager. And when I have spoken to her on the phone, she is always passing me off onto other people. Anyone other than her.

    So this list of things isn’t really a list to deliver to the nurse manager, but the people under her in the staffing office. And what is on the list?

    CPR card
    Copy of certificate of attendance of the Fire safety class
    Copy of physical

    All of these things were given to them 2 months ago when I was hired. So why did they need them now? Because the were making a new file in the staffing office of these items. And why can’t they pull my file from Human Resources and make copies of it? Because that’s in another city. It’s much easier to require me to provide my copy.

    So I offered my CPR card for photocopying. Their copy machine is broken. The physical? I have to call employee health for a copy. Can they fax it? No. The lady in charge of my file leaves at four. And I get off at 3:30. So I had a half an hour to run my ass over there.

    And they had the wrong paper for me. When I repeated what I needed they said I would have to wait until Monday, because they had to get it from my records. In another city. Luckily I found my copy.

    The fire class? I can’t find my paper. They told me I could track down the lady who taught the class. Me, I’m over it. I’m not looking for the bullshit piece of paper. I’m going to tell them I lost it and see what they say. I’d rather find a new job then locate a woman who taught a fire safety class two months ago. Because I have shit to do.

  • PM Williams-Young

    I can identify with much of the description outlined in the article. It does a pretty good job, I think, of acknowledging the positive aspects of the Millenial generation. It also identifies those traits and thought-processes that are seemingly different for a Millenial than someone of another generation and could create challenges in a workplace that is currently used to different habits.

    As a member of the Millenial generation, I would ask all of us to be careful with generalizations and as it directly pertains to this article, I

  • GailGrace

    No. 1 error in this whole research – you’ve gotten the generations mixed up. 1) Millennial’s were born in the NEW Millennium – that’s why they’ve been given that name and they haven’t finished school yet! 2) This article totally mixes up the experiences and expectations of Gen X and Gen Y e.g. anyone born before 1990 did NOT grow up with the internet.
    So I suggest that you get that first before you start spouting off about what they want.

  • Kathleen Wesselink

    The fine young Millennial, PM Williams-Young, who wrote the last comment seems advanced for their years! The thought that we all wish many of those same things which were advanced as specific to the Millennial employees is so true. As someone in the sunset of life, I still wish to find fair treatment in the projects I engage in with others, appreciate honesty from anyone I work with in any manner and like to feel appreciated for my contributions to a project.
    What I feel we may be seeing is that this generation is finally making us all aware of what we all wish and need from each other as we work together. This may be the biggest difference I see in the Millennial generation and those of the past. Yes, each person is unique, no matter what their age and should be respected as such. It really doesn’t work to try to categorize or institutionalize people in any way because of their unique needs and talents. After all, I feel it is what makes us human and a joy to work with.
    It has been my pleasure to work with this upcoming generation and I feel we will all benefit together!!
    As I understand it, patience is a virtue. It is up to the older members to understand the youth and not discourage them because of their inexperience, rather guide, direct and encourage. It’s amazing how far one gets with a little well-placed encouragement, older or younger.
    We only have one life to live–live it to your fullest!

  • Tony

    What is your point. A merit based system is exactly what we should have. Time means nothing. Doing something wrong or poorly for a long time has no value. In my business I would much rather have someone that is talented and able to actually DO something rather than just someone who has put in their time.

  • Sandip Nayak

    This article, and many of previous concepts, have always included the Millennials within Gen Y. One can’t mix them up. The best option would be not to stretch Gen Y beyond the 1990’s and consider those born after 2000 as the Mellennials.

  • ModStod

    Cheers to this comment… hits it spot on for the most part! I’m 50 yo this year, and related to most of this article with respect to my career.

    I see the paradigm shift moving toward hiring and promoting people regardless of whether they have a piece of paper in their hands. The Milleniums might say they know more than most because they graduated college, but the real knowledge come from doing.

  • Heatherm

    Tony-I couldn’t have said it better!

  • Earl Fisher

    I totally agree with Gail. The Generations are mixed up, I’m surprised that this was even published as such with the glaring error. (I’m even more surpised that it was vetted by Millenials. The oldest Millenials – assuming a starting date of 1997 – is 14! This article is really talking about Gen Y.

    AS for GenX (I’m one of them) we form a cross between the baby-boom and the Gen Ys. We understand that time does has value (especially the time value of money) but are also very comfortable with new technology and want things DONE quicker but also done right and accurately the first time.
    JMO~ Earl.

  • Kari Saratovsky

    I appreciate the NPQ giving some attention to the issues surrounding the realities of the rising generation in the workplace. It’s something we have focused a great deal on at the Case Foundation through our white paper and blog, Social Citizens. While there are many conflicting ideas of what defines a Millennial, I wanted to respond to those who have commented that the authors are incorrect in their classification. I have always seen (and myself used) the terms GenY and Millennial interchangeably. One way to think about it is that the said Millennial Generation came of age around the turn of the Millennium. In terms of the years that define GenY or Millennials

  • Kari Saratovsky

    Additionally, for some more color around this issue – you may want to check out today’s post on Social Citizens that references a study by Changing Our World and Future Leaders in Philanthropy, “The Young and the Relentless”

  • EKEG

    As someone born in 1977, I was quite surprised to find myself grouped with the Millenials! I did not have a cell phone until I graduated college, and while we did have email when I got to college, no one else really did, so I wouldn’t say I “grew up” with the internet. In reading this article, it reminds me of those of my younger sisters’ generations – born in 1981 and 1983. I realize there is some debate on the start/end years of generations, but I really do not agree with the birth year range used to define Millenials in this case.

    I will say that Gen Xers (with whom I typically identify) have bridged the gap in many ways – and while we did not grow up with the internet, we are incredibly computer- and social media-savvy, and we certainly can be impatient and merit-driven. Though I think that speaks more to our generation’s ambition and our ability to adapt and keep up, rather than shifting us to an entirely different generation.

    Additionally, I often hear “Gen Y” and “Millenials” used interchangeably.

  • Dr. Richard Biery

    Mmmm…I’ve just finished reviewing marketing research (e.g., Barkley, Boston Consulting, SMG, etc.) and, although researchers vary a bit, they all generally use “Millennial generation” to refer to those Graduating in (or close to) the 21st Century (2000 to present), not born. Cheers.


    Thanks to Nonprofit Quarterly for an insightful read on Millennials in the workplace. is a nonprofit organization built and led by Millennials, and we embody many of the “Millennial” characteristics listed in the article. In response to the discussion of defining our generation, it has become common knowledge that our generation is interchangeably known as both the “Millennial Generation” and “Generation Y”. Though primarily uses the “Millennial Generation,” we do acknowledge both monikers as synonymous. Organizationally, we also define Millennials as being born between 1976 and 1996.

    The mission is to empower and invest in Millennials to create and implement solutions to social problems, and through our work, we purposefully integrate technology and social media into everything we do. As a workplace, all of our staff members are optimistic, ambitious and goal oriented – creating an organizational culture that is very entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial – where everyone is expected to uniquely contribute no matter their level within the organization. We also teach our staff and Millennials within our network ways to become more digitally literate in finding, sharing and analyzing information using new technological tools. is also a very democratic organization, with everyone being involved in the decision-making process. We value innovation and collaboration, key traits of our generation, to achieve our organizational goals. We believe that Millennials are not only the next generation leaders, but the now generation leaders and provide them learning and development opportunities to lead from where they are.

    We hope our perspective adds to the conversation started here. Thanks again to NPQ for publishing such an insightful article, and most importantly, inviting Millennials to respond.

  • AmeriCorps Alums

    Great column and conversation (thanks for pointing us this way Mobilize!)

    I think another good tip for hiring managers is understanding and validating the experience the candidate is coming in with, and allowing it to challenge your assumptions. (and hopefully tweak your expectations re: job description and responsibilities).

    AmeriCorps Alums (my organization – a network for the 600,000+ Americans who have completed a year of AmeriCorps national service) still sees too many employers who aren’t as familiar as they should be with the AmeriCorps experience. Therefore they treat AmeriCorps as “little to no experience” when it actually develops an individuals independence, problem solving, ability to work in teams and other ‘soft skills’ far more in one year compared to two years working in an administrative or entry-level capacity.

    Beyond AmeriCorps, Millennials typically have dynamic resumes packed with internships and other extra-curriculars. Do you treat multiple internships as ‘0-1 years’ experience if you are screening a recent grad? You shouldn’t.

    Ben Duda
    AmeriCorps Alums

  • atom

    In general I would place less emphasis on training the next generation
    of leaders for the nonprofit sector as it stands right now. The
    sector needs to be overhauled – there are too many nonprofits and too little impact.
    As the millennial generation is significantly smaller than the Baby
    Boomers, I predict that the nonprofit sector in the US will contract
    significantly, and change to become more entrepreneurial with L3Cs and
    other social capital ventures becoming more the norm. Hopefully the
    strongest nonprofits will survive, and be able to show greater impacts.

  • Brian oh Brian

    That’s actually not true. “Millennials” is considered synonymous with Generation Y. See:

  • Apple

    This was a great article, and the comments are insightful. Being from the earlier end of the Millennial spectrum (born in 1977), and having a father who was actually born during the Great Depression, I may have a slightly different perspective than peers born later in the same cohort. I think a value that has been lost today is the idea that what we put into our jobs is what we will get from them as well. Education can get you in the door, but your work experience, attitude, and the commitment you give your employer will carry into your future. And never burn your bridges

  • Tanya

    GREAT article!

    As a GenX CEO of a nonprofit arts and culture organization in rural Hawaii, I find this article timely and compelling. I’ve been wanting this same things my whole working life, and finally, it’s happening AND I can take part in making it happen… how exciting!

    After being hired here less than 18 months ago, we brought on a couple millenials, who have incredible energy, enthusiasm, innovative ideas and no fear of change. But for baby boomer employees this has been a big shift in our company culture and clear communication is paramount to our success in working together. There is no longer a “one size fits all” (thank goodness) approach to what employees want and need to stay passionate and productive, but it sure is challenging during this transitional time. I am so glad to see others expressing similar challenges and hopes for the future. Our company is already stronger due to having employees from the different generations – we have the history and wisdom that only time and experience can provide, the innovation and passtion the millentials bring and the ability to intuitively bridge organizational and personal needs by the GenXers. Yay!!

  • Heather L. Carpenter

    This type of research isn’t new and is something that has come up time and time again. The problem is most traditional nonprofit organizations don’t have HR to support millennials or any of their employees for that matter (See 2011 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey Report). Millennials have to get creative and explore alternative ways to get the training and support they need–for example find a supportive organization, get an graduate degree, join YNPN etc.

  • Shawn Matson

    I think you’ve got this wrong, Gail. I was born in 1989. My friends–those who were born as far back as 1984–definitely did grow up with the internet. And computers. And all the other technology buzz words.

    Demographers (and this article) define people born from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s. For me, I’m a little more comfortable with defining the start as the mid-1980s. But let the experts decide that.

    Millennials were not, in fact, born in the new Millennium. Simple logic would disprove that statement. If we’re talking about Millennials entering the workforce, how would the oldest member of the cohort you define be doing that as an 11-year-old?

    I was using the internet by 1995 on my Packard Bell computer. So, the article is indeed correct!

  • Kasey March

    Hi Gail,

    I have to respectfully disagree. Millennials and Gen Y are synonymous terms referring to the same generation.

    I was born in 1987 and I will argue that I grew up with the internet, with a computer in my home, and various other technologies.

    I found the article to be an accurate description of trends in Millennial thinking. No one study can predict the qualities of each Millennial, but broadly, these findings are accurate.

  • Kristin H

    Would any of the authors be interested in contacting me about writing a blog entry for us – ASTD? Thanks. good stuff.

  • Nadine Riopel

    Agreed! Merit based all the way. I heard a good quote on the subject: “Do you have 20 years’ experience, or do you have 1 year of experience, repeated 20 times?” Simply sitting in your chair and following the rules may have been an acceptable strategy during the boomers’ early careers, when there was an excess of manpower. We are no longer in a position to use our human resources so efficiently. Millennials are perfectly justified to reject systems that do not make the most of what they have to offer.

  • Sarah Okeefe

    What happened to the GenXers? Boomers are not retiring (for one reason or another) which leaves little room for the GenXers to move up. They are stuck in middle management, and with little to no opportunity for professional development (PD) opportunities. (Scholarship offerings for PD are often left for the emerging leaders.)

    In my experience I find my fellow GenX colleagues in various nonprofit fields, in at least 3 different states, just leaving and going into the private sector. The question that seems to weighs on the mind of GenXers is why stay when the pay can be better (2 or 3x the amount), the experience generated over the years is recognized and the private sector understands the investment in PD. The struggle to balance the commitment to the (nonprofit) work, pay the bills (ie, student loans), provide for a young family, and find job satisfaction is pervasive among my peers.

    It is sad and difficult situation for the indv. who is deeply dedicated to the nonprofit. Moreover, it is a big loss in the workforce. But honestly, how long must the GenXer hold on to the hopeful promise of advancement and at what potential cost, when it seems the investment and focus is on the millennials?

  • Jason Parker

    I absolutely agree, Heather. There’s a wealth of information and written resources (like this) online, but the best way to acquire knowledge and training is always going to be person-person and person-group mentoring, networking, and learning.

  • Jason Parker

    I’m a few days late reading this wonderful article, but I am glad that discussion is still occurring on it. Gen-Y may be seen as “entitled”, and many members of the generation act like it. Fact is, there’s never been a more educated workforce, and I don’t just mean college-educated. We’ve grown up with the internet, and absorb technology like a second language. We think that we get it (and so many of us absolutely “get it”), and this leads us to confidently feel that we can tackle challenges in a NP environment. We’re technically capable of performing and feel we need the chance to take ownership. We often succeed with managers who allow us to be self-directed and strategic. We want to be in the room with decision-makers and strategy-setters. We want to be leaders, and we will.

    A close client of ours is hosting an event next week for this type of individual. Consider attending to discuss the issues raised in this post and other issues that affect next generation leaders. Here’s the link:

  • Esther

    Kelly is right. We’ve been saying these things for years. The Millenials have indeed learned that the corporate world cares nothing for its workers. Many of them want to open source ideas now and run into obstacles at every turn as corporations run interference through government/legal interventions. Organizations need to foster this sense of innovation and desire to make the world a bettter place!

  • lovetheoldpeople

    I have supervised several and done much to encourage them and retain them. I’m only in my 40s myself and my experience so far: They are entitled brats who don’t want to ever do anything the hard or long way to further or deepen their understanding. They want a title and a big paycheck.

    It’s frustrating as can be.

  • eleanorluna

    This really is why younger leaders have not really found a foothold to success in this corporate environment. With all the bureaucracy of the baby boomers and their stranglehold on the workforce, they have not allowed young leaders to climb up the ladder. I am one on the threshold of genx and millenium. I have over 10 years of qualified business experience in varied industries with over 300 transferable skills. I consider myself highly marketable and have been successful as an entrepreneur. However, when I have worked for companies, non-profit or otherwise, there is a great sense of being kept down. I have leadership qualities, but no one seems to want me to bring them to the table. I get locked into roles that are stagnant and un-motivating, simply to maintain the status quo. It is very frustrating. Even with merit based systems, a manager will try to find anything that you did wrong as an excuse not to give you a raise or promotion, no matter if you learned from a mistake and moved on. I wonder what will happen when leaders of today fail to develop leaders for tomorrow and how businesses are supposed to run themselves with employees who are unable to strongly set foot into the workforce and get the necessary leadership training and mentorship that they should. I remember I was told once early in my career that I would not be trained, I had to learn everything trial by fire, just as my boss did. I respected that, but it lends to a directionless path, unless you forge your own, which isn’t always easy. It’s something for today’s leaders to think about. How will you leave your legacy behind?

  • sean claire

    Thank you for writing this article. This hits home for me. I see a huge shift in the age generation of todays/tomorrow’s business leaders.

    As a Gen Y’er myself(born 81) I feel I have been victim of age discrimination almost my entire career. This two sentences alone resonate with me: Millennials may choose the fastest path to the solution and think they deserve to be promoted quickly. The energy and enthusiasm they can generate can be considered a challenge by their managers.

    Being a younger professional helps to bring fresh new ideas to solve real-world and real-time problems. Often, I’ve challenged the “politics” of an office. As a result, I have had mixed success in my career.

    More times than not, I have been the youngest of my professional peers. My audience were those twice my age/income, and I felt as if they looked down on me and/or didnt view me as an equal.

    Lookout for the paradigm shift as more and more Gen Y’ers dominate the workplace. Business will be conducted much more efficient, decisions will be streamlined and executed faster. More energy/enthusiasm will dominate the work-place and you will see a pay for performance model instead of keeping the same people in seats until retirement.

    Business culture is shifting. This article is just the start.

    Please connect with me on linkedin and twitter.

    Sean Claire


  • Andy Mott

    What’s missing from this dialogue? It doesn’t reflect a concern among fortunate millenials about the massive numbers of people of their generation who are being hit by the closing off of so many avenues of opportunity — rapidly declining public schools being cut farther, youth employment programs drastically reduced, public colleges and community colleges reducing enrollment and hiking tuition, Congress trying to slash Americorps and funding for nonprofits and crucial government programs. Isn’t the chance to work on these issues and help others in their generation the reason people join nonprofits and strive to achieve as much as they can? How can the nonprofit workplace be reshaped to engage millenials — including people of color and people from low-income and working class backgrounds — in the fight to reverse those trends and make sure that others in their generation aren’t left behind? Andy Mott

  • Radhika

    [quote name=”Nadine Riopel”]Agreed! Merit based all the way. I heard a good quote on the subject: “Do you have 20 years’ experience, or do you have 1 year of experience, repeated 20 times?” Simply sitting in your chair and following the rules may have been an acceptable strategy during the boomers’ early careers, when there was an excess of manpower. We are no longer in a position to use our human resources so efficiently. Millennials are perfectly justified to reject systems that do not make the most of what they have to offer.[/quote]

    Nadine, I agree that having a great set of skills IS vastly important but I find the “1 year of experience repeated 20 times” offensive and limited as an accurate description of many non-profit professionals. I have worked in the non-profit arena and it is only with time that I have come to appreciate the importance of accumulated wisdom and the perspective of those of us who have seen and done so much. I can understand the frustrations of a highly skilled and energetic 30 year old when you feel stymied by a system that favors seniority, and yes I do think that we Baby Boomers and GenXers (I fall right in between as I was born in late 1964) need to avoid being stodgy and must challenge ourselves to be open to innovation and new efficiency. Yet it is only with age that I realize how little I knew at 33. Yes I was capable of accomplishing a great deal at the age of 33 yet with all the projects, coalitions, programs, and events I have experienced as a participant and as a leader over the past 22 years, I am a much stronger and wiser worker and I have a more balanced perspective and empathy and life knowledge than a younger worker.

  • Sarah W.

    [quote name=”sean claire”]Being a younger professional helps to bring fresh new ideas to solve real-world and real-time problems. Often, I’ve challenged the “politics” of an office. As a result, I have had mixed success in my career.

    More times than not, I have been the youngest of my professional peers. My audience were those twice my age/income, and I felt as if they looked down on me and/or didnt view me as an equal.[/quote]

    Yes! Thank you. I feel this way too. Especially since I’ve been relatively focused in my career path (museums, in one job or another, since I was 16) and have accumulated a lot of experience. It’s exceedingly frustrating to me to be relegated to part-time jobs with little responsibility particularly when my bosses (who often have less field experience or less variety of experience than I do) seem threatened by new ideas or change.

    Luckily, I’ve had some excellent bosses who’ve believed in me and allowed me to grow. But I’ve also had bosses who’ve tried to hold me back, belittle me, or get rid of me.

    I don’t necessarily want to run the whole show, but I do want my ideas to be at the very least seriously considered!

    I do agree with the work/life balance. And the vision. I don’t agree with the idea that we’ve all grown up with technology. We didn’t get a computer until I was in 7th grade and I didn’t get a cell phone (or a car) until my senior year in college. And while Facebook was created for Harvard kids my freshman year in college, I didn’t get really into it until junior year.

    I consider my little sister (who was born in 1990) to be much more of a millennial than I or my boyfriend (who was born in 1981). She’s constantly texting and she definitely grew up with computers and cell phones.

    I do resent some of the comments that classify millennials as obsessed with instant gratification or being self-entitled. Impatient perhaps, idealistic yes, but also pragmatic and real-world (and real-time: we generally hate bureaucracy and often refuse to accept it). I myself abhor inefficiency and vagueness. And I love plans. I hate it when organizations have no plan. If you don’t know where you’re going or have a goal to work toward, how can you make your work meaningful or focused in any way?

    But I digress. Thought-provoking article. You got a lot right, though I do agree with other commenters that lumping people born in the late 1970s with those born in the late 1990s was kind of a mistake. That’s two decades of completely different culture.

  • Becky

    I have to disagree – I was born before 1990 and I DID grow up with the internet. It may not have been available my whole life, but it was around long enough in my development years to make a significant impact.

  • SaraY

    [quote name=”Kelly Bell”]
    About flex-time or offsite work: the very best people work offsite. I know this first-hand from my company’s recruiting efforts. Instead of resisting, I’m embracing, and the quality of the work my company produces, as well as my bottom line, has improved apace. That’s the next big paradigm shift, IMHO.[/quote]

    Couldn’t agree more with this last part. I used to work at a company that allowed for many different “flex options”. The company I work for now will informally allow it every now and again, but I would love to be able to have 1 day a week to work from home since I work in an open office environment and there are just certain days I need the quite to focus. And the excuse that if they allow me to do it, everyone will want to do it isn’t good enough. They need a policy in place that allows a manager to allow it and restrict it if abused but on a case by case basis not just flat no.

  • EricD

    Reading article after article on Millennials in the workplace and having just passed the 50 mark, Millennials are not much different than boomers or genXers wanting change, recognition for their expertise, feeling they know more than the previous generations, and the desire to work for organizations that share and appreciate their gifts.

    Patience is the big difference. The younger the worker, the more impatient they are, which is probably similar to most any time, except change happens in nanoseconds now. What patience teaches is timing.

    Just because someone, young or ‘old’, can do a job, doesn’t mean there aren’t 50 other people who aren’t standing in line waiting for that same opportunity or that the person doing that task won’t fight to keep their job.

    A sense of entitlement has seeped into many younger workers. That doesn’t mean they will get what they want, when they want it. Move on, don’t move on. As hiring managers become more proficient with the technology tools of the ‘young’, they are less and less impressed with the entitlement attitudes.

    Performance will eventually still rule the day.

  • Becky Real

    interesting / especially the comments