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Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers share many workplace preferences and behavior patterns

Our research debunks common myths about Millennials and makes practical recommendations for helping a multigenerational workforce thrive.

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Over the past few years, numerous reports have been published predicting how Millennials (those aged 21–34) would revolutionize the workplace. All have one common feature: they assume that Millennials are somehow different from their predecessors.

The fundamental distinction between Millennials and older employees is their digital proficiency. Millennials are the first generation to grow up immersed in a digital world. Using mobile and social technologies, immediately accessing data, ideas, and inspiration and instantly communicating and collaborating is second nature for these digital natives.

Yet the buzz about Millennials suggests that the differences go much deeper. The most unflattering commentaries claim that Millennials are “lazy, entitled, selfish, and shallow.”

More complimentary assertions paint Millennials as open-minded with a strong sense of community fueled by the digital networks they’ve formed and committed to saving the world.

So, what’s the real story?

We decided it was time to take stock, now that the first Millennials are reaching the top echelons and making—or influencing—major business decisions. In a multigenerational study of 1,784 employees from organizations across 12 countries and 6 industries, we compared the preferences and behavioral patterns of Millennials with those of Gen X (aged 35–49) and Baby Boomers (aged 50–60). We discovered that Millennials want many of the same things their older colleagues do. While there are some distinctions among the generations, Millennials’ attitudes are not poles apart from those of other employees.

Our research debunks five common myths about Millennials. We’ve also uncovered three “uncomfortable truths” that apply to employees of all ages. Lastly, this report makes five practical recommendations for helping a multigenerational workforce thrive in today’s volatile work environment.


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Meet the author

Carolyn Heller Baird, Global Research Leader for Customer Experience and Design, IBM Institute for Business Value

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