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Millennials: Canada’s New Majority Workforce (And Why You Shouldn’t Panic)

Posted by Roger Ryall


Do you believe, as many do, that millennials are an entitled, praise-obsessed generation ready to abandon your organization at the drop of a hat? Does the thought of your company being mostly staffed by millennials fill you with dread? Do the words ‘motivated’ and ‘millennial’ seem out of place in a sentence together to you? Well I have bad news and good news.

The bad news (which you’ll see in a moment, isn’t so bad) is that as of 2014, millennials make up the primary group within the Canadian workforce at 36.8%. Gen X is in second at 33.9% and Baby Boomers are in third at 31.1%. The gap between millennials and boomers will continue to grow as more boomers retire and millennials take their place.

The good news is that a lot of the stereotypes surrounding the generation are misattributed or simply wrong.

3 Key Things You Need to Know About the Newest Generation

There have been numerous articles in the past criticizing the latest generation for being lazy, entitled, in need of constant reassurance, and unreliable. However the truth of the matter is that these criticisms are not unique to millennials. Every generation has levelled these criticisms at subsequent periods pretty much without fail (See TrueTV’s Adam Conover’s presentation “Millennials Don’t Exist” for numerous examples throughout history).

Instead of going by stereotypes, let’s look at the facts about millennials:

  1. They are the most diverse generations to date with 42% of American millennials identifying as a race or ethnicity that’s non-white
  2. 61% have attended college making them the most educated generation (compared to the 46% of boomers)
  3. Despite entering the job during one of the worst recessions in recent history, the millennials as a group are more optimistic about their future than other generations

The Secret to Avoid an Expensive Turnover

By and large, millennials don’t expect anything special. In fact, what they want is what their parents wanted when they entered the job market.

There are some differences, but these are reflections of the changing job market and not something inherent to the generation. For example, 70% of millennial employees say they would rather work remotely, but this could stem from the fact that offices can be terrible places to work.

Organizational loyalty is another sore spot for managers. Yes, two thirds of millennials plan to leave their job in the next few years, but flakiness is really not the point. Underemployment, temporary contract positions, lousy pay, and never-ending “internships” have eroded their expectations, and in turn, given them a more pragmatic attitude towards employers. Add to this that Canada’s workforce is shrinking overall. Employers will struggle to hire and retain good employees. So no, job hopping is not a problem unique to millennials.

Millennials Are Not the Future, They Are the Reality

Millennials are different than their boomer predecessors, but not in the way the negative stereotypes would have you believe. There are differences in best practices when leading, motivating, and retaining a millennial workforce, but those topics are best left for future posts.

What we wanted to focus on in this post is that a millennial majority workforce is already a reality. It is something employers and managers will need to get over and adapt to as they’ll soon comprise nearly half of all workers in the next few years. By clinging to dated stereotypes, employers and managers are losing out on important resources to the future success of their organizations.

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