Older generations tend to criticize millennials a lot. People accuse our younger generations of spending too much time on their phones or for having an aura of entitlement, among other things. Regardless of stereotypes, millennials are now the largest segment in the workforce, making up 35 percent.

This is part of the reason why Boomers (and maybe a few Gen Xers) are increasingly aware that dismissing millennials is detrimental. Instead, older generations and business owners should take the time to understand younger workers because you will inevitably work with them.

Here are six things to remember as you take the necessary steps to understanding millennials coworkers.

1. They grew up in the technological age.

Older generations remember the days without cell phones, ubiquitous computing and a connected world. Millennials, on the other hand, don't remember life without it. People judge them for frequent phone and media use, even though it's what almost everyone does now.

Instead of condemning millennials on this tech "obsession," think about ways it could benefit your business.

Need to boost your social media presence? A younger employee might have some insight on how to optimize that because they probably spent more time on it in the last few months than you do in a year. Struggling to organize an Excel spreadsheet or build a website? You know where to turn to. These insights could be the key to taking your business to the next level.

2. They probably know more about the world.

In my experience millennials are an empowered generation. They are going to protests, speaking up for their beliefs, and taking charge. Their heavily connected lives have shown them that the world is small and we all share it.

Every week I meet entrepreneurs in the their 20s, and frankly they talk about the rest of the world more than older folks I know. They know about issues facing communities in Africa, South America, Asia and the Middle East.

This helps explain why many millennials want jobs that help others around the world or fulfill an inspiring mission. Entrepreneurs who want to expand internationally or stay informed about volatile economic pressures worldwide would be well advised to tap that global, millennial perspective.

3. They are highly influenced by the media.

Noticing the media's influence on millennials is vital to understanding them. Today, we are all bombarded by information constantly. For older generations though that was not always the case. Growing up in a world of instant gratification search engines and Instagram followers strongly affected millennials.

Their attention span is often shorter. Their concept of what it means to be happy may be different. For example, their Instagram feeds bombard them with celebrity wealth, something almost impossible to obtain through the traditional 9 to 5 job the Boomers embodied.

Obviously young people have to face reality and simply work hard. But, you can address their listlessness at least to some degree by offering more captivating and meaningful work. It may keep them more interested as well as help bring new energy to your team.

4. They may have less respect for traditional authority.

Is what you're perceiving as disrespect actually self-confidence? If so, should it be considered a negative trait?

Many millennials are pegged as narcissistic, entitled, and arrogant. They're told by older generations that they haven't earned the right to expect certain rewards, whether it's respect, money, or autonomy.

But in fact, many young people are learning on their own. They take the initiative to think outside the box. In the workplace, consider letting them try things their own way, and even make mistakes. Perhaps once they do, they'll be more likely to step back and turn to established employees for guidance.

5. Their life goals may not align with yours, and that's okay.

For older generations, success may have looked like a single family home, two kids, a comfortable retirement plan, and the annual family vacation.

Many of today's young people are spending their 20s and 30s traveling the world, going to happy hours, and posting on Instagram. They're getting married and starting families later (if at all). They want freedom, in the workplace and in their lives.

Business owners may find greater success accepting this employee lifestyle, instead of rebuking it. Know this if you're hiring or considering allowing workers more flexible hours or remote work.

6. At the end of the day, they still have the same core desires.  

For as much as millennials appear different than older generations, at the core, their desires are similar. They want to feel valued and see value in their work.  

Despite attributes one might consider negative, millennials add much value. They're young, energetic, and determined to make a difference. If you're still struggling to understand them, remember one thing--it's not easy to be a millennial, either. They're up against misconceptions and doing their best to prove their worth in today's modern workplace.

Published on: Jul 25, 2018