A team discussing demographs asking the question, who are milennials?
Managing people

Who are millennials?

Given the moniker ‘millennials’, this generation came of age at the turn of the new century.

Deloitte global survey, of almost 8,000 millennials across 30 countries, revealed how millennials think and feel, and what motivates, engages, and empowers them.

We have such high expectations for this demographic. They’re said to be transforming the workplace – the generation of bright young things touted as holding the future of business in their hands (along with their iPod, iPhone, iPad). 

The first global-centric generation, they’ve come of age during the rapid growth of the internet and an increase in global terrorism. They’re the largest generation, and on track to become the most educated generation in Western history. When leading millennials, remember that they are a team-centric generation is having grown up at a time where their lives were programmed with sports, music, and recreational activities to keep them occupied while their baby boomer parents focused on work.

They’re the fastest-growing generation of customers in the marketplace, exhibiting different attitudes towards employment, sales, management, and marketing, all of which are challenging many conventional strategies and approaches.

The negative stereotypes surrounding millennials

Millennials are also much-maligned and variously described as Generation Me, Generation Rent, Generation WE, the Boomerang Generation, the Nintendo Generation and The Peter Pan Generation. They’re described as lazy, entitled, self-centred, cynical, self-serving, and more than comfortable sharing their entire life online. 

In 2013 Time Magazine released an article titled “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation”, which described millennials as narcissistic, lazy, entitled, selfish, and shallow, and explained that they have difficulty with criticism.

Those from this age range also apparently expect a promotion every two years, regardless of performance.

They’re also the least engaged generation in the workplace according to a Gallup report in 2016. 

Stereotypes can be jarring, but it’s important to remember that not everyone in this age range fits that mold.

Typical millennial characteristics 


  • inherently fun-lov­ing, collaborative, and social

  • seamlessly able to com­bine and balance work with play, with a strong desire for work-life balance


  • digital junkies who live and breathe technology and who’ve grown up with Google, Facebook, and Twitter – tools that provide instant access to an enormous wealth of information

  • con­stantly online, networked, and addict­ed to gadgets and apps of all types

Personal development

  • eager to continue expanding skill sets and amassing knowledge

Work style and attitude

  • task (not time) oriented, measuring productivity by work completed, and preferring to choose when and where they work

  • have a real desire to learn and grow, and to make an immediate contribution

  • motivated by building relationships, having meaningful work, and making a difference.

  • Have a ‘can-do attitude’ 

  • motivated by intellectual stimulation

  • resourceful multi-taskers, Googling, emailing, writing a report and listening to music simultaneously

  • seek the faster, easier way to do something, and will throw tradition or process aside for an unconventional method if it improves efficiency

  • value having input into decisions and actions, and favour inclusive management

  • have a less formal, task-oriented approach to work, they want and expect their workplace to be social and fun

  • team-oriented, banding together to socialise in groups

  • challenge hierarchical structures. Aren’t afraid to share opinions and ideas, nor challenge those of superiors 

  • believe a cross-functional way of working provides the best possible outcome for the company

  • expect praise and recognition for hard work and achievements 

  • need to feel valuable

  • consider the career ladder as having different options to fit different people at different points in their lives

  • comfortable with change, growing up in a world that’s transforming continuously

  • their “let’s just give it a go” attitude is at odds with older generations’ attitudes of “why don’t we stick with the plan”

  • want to be able to ask their boss for feedback and advice, and have a rapport of frequent communication

  • prepared to go up, around, across or even down the organisation to try out different job opportunities

Ethical viewpoint

  • constantly on the lookout for a job that provides meaningful work

  • don’t consider pay as important as a job that matches their values and ethics, has meaning, they enjoy and suits their abilities and interests

  • consider it’s more important to make a positive difference in the world than receive professional recognition

  • favour working for businesses that aren’t focused on their own agendas to the detriment of improving society

Jessica Trad, Marketing & Communications Executive at Statewide Mutual explains, “I think the best organisations are those with a multi-generational team. Each generation brings a different set of skills and experiences that are valuable and that can be dynamite when effectively united. 

“It's easy to pigeon-hole a team member based on their age but it really does go beyond this and if your team possess united values and attitudes, age makes no difference. If there is a mutual respect between all generations it makes for a multidimensional team that can tackle any market environment. 

“I have been in organisations with only Gen Y's and it was a nightmare of an experience. I missed the structure and stability the older generations can provide.”

Millennials don’t support business leaders who take divisive positions, or aim for radical transformation rather than gradual change. They’re more comfortable with plain, straight-talking language from those who lead them

What do millennials expect of the future?

Over the last few years of research, millennials have received flack for not being big on loyalty, job-hopping every three years or so, and having no problem leaving a job for one that will be more accommodating to their personal values and ambitions. This was considered more important than career advancement and is in stark contrast to previous generations such as Baby Boomers.

Pessimism now rears its ugly head 

According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017, after 12 months of global political and social upheaval, millennials’ ambitions appear to have been tempered. They’re now less likely to leave the security of their job and aren’t optimistic about future prospects.

Pro-business but expecting more

76% of millennials say businesses, in general, are having a positive impact on the wider society. However, they also believe multinational businesses aren’t fully realising their potential to alleviate society’s biggest challenges.

Making an impact through their employer

Millennials feel accountable for many issues in both the workplace and the wider world. However, it’s primarily via the workplace that they feel most able to make an impact. 

Opportunities to be involved with good causes at the local level, many of which are enabled by employers, provide them with a greater feeling of influence.

A preference for plain talk and inclusiveness

Millennials don’t support business leaders who take divisive positions or aim for radical transformation rather than gradual change. They’re more comfortable with plain, straight-talking language from those who lead them, respond to passionate opinions, and identify with leaders who appeal to anyone who might feel “left out” or isolated.

Freelance flexibility with full-time stability 

Surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of millennials said they prefer full-time employment to part-time or consultancy work. Not surprisingly, they prefer flexible working options.

hands using laptop keyboard at table to research who are millennials

Events that have shaped millennials and their world views

Millennials have grown up in a timeline of rapid technological change, globalisation, disruption and turbulence across all aspects of life, giving them priorities and expectations quite different from those of older generations.

Just some of the momentous things they’ve witnessed are:

  • the Australia Act, making Australian lawfully independent of the British parliament and legal system

  • the Republican referendum defeated

  • growth of environmental groups

  • the Port Arthur massacre resulting in sweeping new gun ownership legislation

  • the growth of the internet, home and workplace computers

  • a global recession

  • the increase of unemployment and inflation rates

  • Sydney hosting the Olympic Games

  • ‘boat people’ being turned away

  • the Bali bombing

  • a no-confidence motion against PM, John Howard

  • race riots in Sydney

  • the threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq

  • devastating bushfires, floods and drought

  • Australia providing peacekeeping forces in the Solomon Islands and East Timor

  • a formal apology to Indigenous Australians for past wrongs

  • the end of sending asylum seekers into detention on small Pacific Islands

  • our first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard

  • a carbon tax

  • the growth of immigration and cultural diversity

  • Japan and Australia agreement over a trade deal to lower tariffs

  • terrorism attacks

  • the first Indigenous woman elected to parliament.

What makes millennials tick?

Millennials’ affinity for technology is reshaping the retail space. They thrive in a sharing economy and love free online services. They’re used to having product information, reviews, and price comparisons at their fingertips. They aren’t necessarily swayed by strong brands, but seek brands that offer maximum convenience at lower cost.

Wellness is a daily, active pursuit. They’re exercising more, eating smarter and smoking less than earlier generations. They’re using apps to track training data, and online information to find the healthiest food. This is the one space where they’re willing to spend money on compelling brands.

Do you need the latest policies and resources at your fingertips? My Business Workplace has over 200 documents ready to download. 

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