HomeTalent and Skills, CHRO

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.

Download the full reportDownload the infographic

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.”¹

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.²

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.

¹ Stein, Joel. “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation.” Time magazine. May 20, 2013. http://www.fandm.edu/uploads/media_items/stein-2013-me-generation.original.pdf

² Feldmann, Derrick and Emily Yu. “Millennials and the Social Sector: What’s Next?” Stanford Social Innovation Review. June 18, 2014. http://www.ssireview.org/blog/entr/millennials_and_the_social_sector_whats_next

Download the full report

How can IBM help you?

IBM delivers outcomes and experiences to help enterprises realize the power of talent.

Learn more about IBM's Talent & Transformation capabilities


Bookmark this Report  



Download the "Myths, exaggerations and uncomfortable truths" infographic


Meet the author:

Carolyn Heller Baird

Connect with author:


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

Related reports
Our research reveals three key strategies to guide human resources executives in closing the skills-related gaps in their organizations.
This study explores how a small cadre of organizations unlock value by creating an inclusive corporate culture where all qualified employees have equal opportunities.
Learn how public and private sector leaders can work together to foster national and regional economic competitiveness in an era of uncertainty.
Innovative public education programs like P-TECH can help bridge the skills gap and fill new collar, 21st century jobs.