Back To Compensation Today

Understanding the Millennial employee

Jessica Miller-Merrell, blogging4jobs The term “Millennial” (also commonly called Generation Y) refers to those individuals who reached young adulthood after the turn of the most recent century—or in other words, those born between 1980 and 2000.

The term “Millennial” (also commonly called Generation Y) refers to those individuals who reached young adulthood after the turn of the most recent century—or in other words, those born between 1980 and 2000.

Now that many Millennials have finished their schooling and begun to establish themselves in careers, we are starting to see the effects. This isn’t unusual. With every generation we’ve seen changes in the workplace, and adjustments have been made by both the incoming and established employees.

Many people of older generations view Millennials as lazy, spoiled, or coddled, perhaps because some Millennials still live with their parents or are unemployed.

To a degree, however, Millennials are a product of their environment. When they were graduating from college or should have been making their entry into the workforce, our country was in a recession. The number of jobs available was significantly lower than in previous generations, making the job market extremely competitive.

Learn More About Our Compensation Software


As we emerge from the recession, Millennials are often pegged as inexperienced or lacking motivation. In truth, if leveraged properly, they have a lot to offer. By 2030 Millennials will occupy 75% of the workforce. Soon it will be their way or the highway. Here are three things about Millennials we can all be grateful for.

#1. Millennials are educated

Millennials are the most educated generation in history. Many pursued advanced degrees as an alternative to finding a job in a bad market. This seemed like a logical choice. If you can’t find a job, why not make yourself more marketable?

Despite their high education levels, however, many Millennials are underemployed. Because of their late entry into the workforce and the increasing number of older employees putting off retirement, the job market contains fewer high-level jobs now than before the recession.

Still, it can be argued Millennials have a thirst for knowledge. Growing up surrounded by technology meant answers were always at their fingertips. Millennials never had to wait to gain understanding. This availability of information has resulted in many as a desire to learn and to retain copious amounts of information.

#2. Millennials are motivated

Millennials are driven and ambitious, but they often seek structure previous generations did not require. Their childhoods were structured, and their schooling was structured. Perhaps those who stayed home longer had a prolonged exposure to these types of structures. In any case, the need for structure has been ingrained in Millennials. They don’t need to have their hands held, but when provided guidance and structure they are less likely to become disengaged or distracted and are better able to stay on task. Because of their positivity and passion, when they stay on task they have the capacity to be extremely productive.

#3. Millennials are relational

Millennials value relationships, whether with their superiors or their fellow employees. This relational focus means many of them have the capacity to thrive within teams and will make an effort to work well with others. Millennials care what others think of them. When they are able to make work activities more social and interactive they do well.

They also have a greater desire for feedback and affirmation. This gives way to greater opportunities for coaching and development. Millennials are eager to learn, eager to succeed, and eager to please.

In short, Millennials have a lot of good qualities that can be used to advance your business.

Learn more about managing generations in the workplace by downloading PayScale’s whitepaper, “Compensation Challenges for a Multi-Generational Workforce,” today!

Jessica Miller-Merrell
Read more from Jessica

Leave a Reply

10 Comments on "Understanding the Millennial employee"

newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Great article. It’s nice to read an article about millennials without a negative feel to it. They bring fresh ideas, enthusiasm and diversity into the workforce.

– Katie Travia

When I graduated from university the common feeling was that people in my generation were lazy & spoiled. Employers seemed to think that we didn’t take direction well, and that we expected to rise up the corporate ladder without actually earning our place at the top. We didn’t fit the prevailing corporate culture and we were more interested in our social lives than in the company we worked for. No, I’m not a millennial, I graduated from university in 1978. I have grandchildren that are millennials. Just about everything negative that I have read about the millennial generation could be… Read more »
Chandra Green



Know the others and respect them, they will engage.

Divya Moudgil

Very Insightful The Millennials value freedom of thought and thrive in a challenging yet fulfilling environment. If an organization is able to win the trust and aspiration of a millennial, they are sure to benefit immensely from their loyalty and commitment.


Wonderful read. Thanks for sharing!

Linda Long, QC

I have actively looked for Millennial employees as a foundation group for my ultimate retirement (29 year lawyer). What might be seen as lazy, I see as a tendency to use technology first to achieve maximum efficiency for our clients. One client once asked me “who are the kids?” when two staff members walked by. I feel incredibly blessed to be working with a group of kids who want my guidance and are willing to put their energy and techno-savy to work for our clients. I see no downsides to mentoring this group of employees.


Wholeheartedly disagree!! Work with more than my share of millennials and they are arrogant – think they know it all, do not have the respect or decency and do not value the experience the older generation has. They think they know better. I will have more than enough time for them if they take their heads out of the clouds.

Re: Amanda

Amanda you do realize that’s pretty much what every generation has said about the younger generation, right? Don’t be bitter and jealous because you’re getting old, and its starting to show. Just accept your aging with dignity and don’t be envious of a younger generation because they too will get old, and complain about younger generations.


On what evidence do you base these rather sweeping claims? I do not see any sources here, and that severely undermines this article’s credibility.

Start the Transformation

We can help you bring modern compensation to life in your organization.