Movin’ On Up: Millennials in the Workforce

In my last article, I asked the question, Are You Ready for Generation Z?  I think many would have to answer that question with a firm no. After all, it seems many organizations are still trying to figure out how to manage their Gen Y workers, the so-called millennials. Well, while some of you are still scratching your heads about millennials, they’re advancing up the workforce ladder in droves.


It was several years ago that only 13% of all millennials in the workforce had become managers. But a more recent study by Elance-oDesk and Millennial Branding has revealed the following about millennials:

  • 28% are managers
  • 5% are senior management
  • 2% are executives

Clearly, millennials are movin’ on up, and they want to go further. As many as 47% want to reach either management or senior management over the next 10 years, while another 7% want to be executives and 15% want to own their own businesses.

In the big picture, 2015 will be the year that Gen Y workers become the most numerous of the generations in the workforce, finally overtaking Baby Boomers, who are beginning to retire en masse. About 10,000 Boomers reach the age of 65 each day, which is a trend that will continue for the next 15 years. As of this year, 2015, fully 33% of the entire workforce is eligible to retire, and that figure includes 48% of America’s supervisors.

Gen Y workers seem to be willing to take on the additional responsibility, but are they capable of doing so?

Millennials are by far the tech-savviest generation to enter the workforce. They find 73% of their jobs through social media, which means they’re connected and used to being social in that way. But there’s more to supervising and managing than being comfortable with the digital era. There are some potential problems with millennials in charge that warrant caution, such as the following identified in a CareerBuilder study:

  • Younger managers may assume they know more than experienced workers.
  • They may show favoritism to younger workers.
  • Some show signs of defensiveness if their decisions are questioned.
  • There’s often an implicit assumption that older workers don’t “get” technology.

These kinds of uncomfortable situations can be avoided, for the most part, with adequate training when younger workers are suddenly promoted to management or supervisory positions. While there is a strong business case for promoting from within, the benefits are lost if those newly promoted managers and supervisors haven’t been equipped with the skills to succeed.

With the upcoming retirement of so many Boomers, many of which are supervisors and managers, these problems are only going to be magnified in coming years.

Although this so-called death by promotion has traditionally been a persistent problem in the sales and IT functions of organizations, I believe there is the potential for it to become widespread throughout all areas in companies.

HR and talent management departments throughout organizations today bear a special responsibility for making sure that the up-and-coming millennials receive the training they need to make a smooth transition in to leadership and management positions. Is your organization ready to rise to the challenge?

January 17, 2015   Updated :March 17, 2015   generation y, millennials, talent management   

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