KAZI - Millennials: what to do with you?

Prejudice abounds concerning millennials. They are lazy, arrogant, demanding... Which of this is true? Millennials now make up one third of the labour force, so it is about time to check the facts...


The critique originates in the dislocations millennials have caused in the employee-employer relationship. Change is hard, we know. Employee engagement no longer comes for free. Millennials assume labour relationships to be among equal parties, in which both sides stand to gain, and not only financially. The millennial feels part of the company's intellectual property and demands to be reumunerated not based on output but on effort and outcome.

Lazy? No sir. Millennials work at least as hard as previous generations: three in four work more than 40 hours a week; one in four has two jobs. And they are prepared to have a longer working life, with retirement steadily being postponed. More than half expects to work until they are 65. 12% expect to work until their dying breath. 

The prejudice against millennials to a large extent derives from the difference in opinion with previous generations where work-life-balance is at stake. Because they expect to have to work more and longer, millennials go for a different type of journey. 84% plans to have significant breaks from work, exchanging the career ladder for so-called career waves. Remarkably, these breaks are not as gender-neutral as one would expect from millennials. Women will take more time off to care for children or family members than men. "Me-time" on the other hand is valued equally among both sexes, mainly to relax and/or go on a holiday, or to focus on personal interests and self-development.


Work is an integral part to life for millennials and is approached with the same attitude. Life is a journey, not a destination, no?

Demanding? Possibly. Millennials are very serious about their career, and their employability in the longer term. They look for lifelong learning and development, both personally and professionally. As they depend for the latter on their professional environment, these young workers (millennial loyalty) expect their employer to provide them with challenges and opportunities to develop their strengths. If their employer is not forthcoming, they will look for them elsewhere. In that respect, their reputation of being job-hoppers is ill-deserved.

Importantly, professional development requires a sense of security: of long-term employment to be able to uphold their standard of living; and of a stable environment in which development can succeed. It is understandable that these new demands are met with some uneasiness but this generation brings with it enormous qualities as well.

They meet the flexibility their employer is willing to offer with a similar degree of flexibility. Three in four currently work full-time but half of them is open to non-traditional regimes such as part-time, freelance or independent contracting.

They are eager and willing to learn. More than nine in ten believes in lifelong learning. Company and employee can set shared goals and map shared growth paths.

Work is an integral part to life for millennials and is approached with the same attitude. Life is a journey, not a destination, no?