IBM Study Challenges Assumptions About Millennials

Don't believe the hype about Millennials, a new report from IBM advises. While it has become conventional wisdom among those examining the workplace that workers aged 21 to 34 tend to be entitled and self-absorbed - in much more pronounced ways than their older colleagues - a new study finds that there is little ground for these beliefs. 

The multigenerational study drew on the responses of 1,784 workers from organizations across 12 countries, comparing preferences and behaviors between Millennials to those in Generation X (aged 35 to 49) and Baby Boomers (aged 50 to 60). "Our research debunks five common myths about Millennials," stated the report's author, from IBM Talent and Change. 

The first "myth" questioned by the report is that Millennials are notably different in their career goals, that they seek out exciting work over financial security. In fact, the data found that on the career goals to "Do work I am passionate about," Millennials actually agreed less (20 percent) than Gen X (21 percent) or Baby Boomers (23 percent). The exact same proportion (18 percent) across all three generations said they would like to "Become a senior leader," and almost identical proportions agreed that financial security was a priority.

"Millennials desire financial security and seniority just as much as Gen X and Baby Boomers," states the report. "Gen X and Baby Boomers are just as interested as Millennials in working with a diverse group of people."

Another belief questioned by IBM is whether Millennials in fact need more frequent recognition and rewards than the older generation. Respondents were asked to name the top three attributes of their perfect boss, and Millennials cited employers who are ethical and fair, transparent, and dependable and consistent, as their top three attributes. While "Recognizes my accomplishments" was the sixth-most-cited attribute for Millennials, that generation did point to it in greater numbers (29 percent) than Gen X (26 percent) and Baby Boomers (23 percent). 

The report also investigates assumptions such as Millennials are "digital addicts," that they rely more than older colleagues on getting outside opinions, and that they are more likely to leave a job if it doesn't fulfill their passions. The complete results can be found here.