How Millennial Are You?


By Susan Case

Texas, USA


There is no denying it, they are coming. The number of Millennials is on the rise and they will soon be a large part of the workforce.   The Millennial generation is comprised of more than 75 million Americans born between 1981 and 2000.1 By 2020, people from this generation are expected to make up 46% of the workforce.2

Understanding the Millennial generation is critical to the success of any manager as the leaders of today have a responsibility to shape the leaders of tomorrow. Despite their claim of independence and self-sufficiency, Millennials can benefit from the guidance and experience of more “seasoned” workers.   But that knowledge transfer will only take place if today’s workers and leaders take the time to understand and build relationships with this young generation.

The ideas and comments shared in this paper stem from books and internet research on Millennials, as well as a Focus Group specifically designed to explore the work environments and preferences of Millennials.

Generational Differences

Every generation thinks they are special. Depending on each individual’s experience, people claim their generation had it better or worse than the current generation. The truth is that each generation is simply different – not better, not worse, just different. The key to being an effective manager or co-worker is understanding the roots of peoples’ perspectives and adjusting your style to theirs as appropriate.

The following table describes the last four generations of workers and their core beliefs. Keep in mind that some of the core foundations are generalizations based on years of research and behavioral studies and may not apply to everyone in that generation.

This Generation Born In Has These Characteristics
Traditionalists 1928 – 1945 ·   World War II generation

·   Go to work, earn a living, and don’t complain

·   Loyal to company, company loyal to them

Baby Boomers 1946 – 1964 ·   Currently leading – and retiring from – today’s organizations

·   Overflowing with experience and insight

·   Promotions earned based on hard work

Generation X 1965 – 1980 ·   Independent and pragmatic

·   Give them work and leave them alone to do it

·   Dislike being micro-managed

Millennials 1981 – 2000 ·   Received constant praise and reward from parents, teachers, coaches, mentors

·   Respect for authority must be earned

·   Highly collaborative, prefer to work in teams

* Some studies suggest different date ranges for the Generation X and Millennial groups, and identify the O Generation as those born between 1998 and 2015. However, most research uses the date ranges noted above.

Characteristics of Millennials

Research shows that Millennials have certain characteristics or traits. All of the following are generalizations and there are, of course, exceptions as everyone has different experiences. However, if a manager or colleague can understand what motives most Millennials or why they behave as they do, steps can be taken to bridge the gap between the generations.

  • Tech Savvy – Millennials have always lived in a world with computers and the internet. They used computers in school. They communicate through texts, posts, tweets, SnapChat, and FaceTime. They invent apps for SmartPhones. In the business world, they expect to use technology. It does not have to be cutting edge, but it should be current.

Quotable Quotes: A wellness program is underway at Company X where a Millennial Focus Group session was conducted. Employees are to track their daily exercise on a printed form. One of the Focus Group participants said, “You can tell this program is designed to get the old people to exercise more. You only have to exercise for 10 minutes at a time. Then you fill out a paper form and fax it to the health center.”3

  • Health Conscious – Many Millennials are health conscious.       They like to be active. They expect gym membership to be a company benefit, and preferably one that is paid for by the company. They expect the gym to be comparable to what they could get outside the company for a similar price.

Millennials prefer healthy lunch and vending machine options. If a cafeteria is available at work, they prefer that lunch be free or subsidized in some way. If they have to pay a high price for something that they could get cheaper outside of work, or if they feel the lunch options are not healthy, they will go off-site for lunch. For many companies, food service is subsidized and a certain amount of revenue is necessary to maintain the option for employees. By providing healthy, affordable breakfast and/or lunch options at work, employees and food service workers will benefit.

  • Educated – Today’s workforce is competitive and many companies require a college degree. Baby boomers could get into a company and move up based on hard work. Gen Ys might have a bachelor’s degree but could get a job without one. They were promoted by demonstrating their expertise or because of their ability to lead / manage others. Today’s Millennials are educated with at least a bachelor’s degree. Older Millennials may have stayed in school longer and completed an advanced degree when jobs were scarce during the economic recession. For others, the market they are entering is so competitive that an advanced degree is required to even be considered for an interview.
  • Achievers – Millennials have played on more sports teams, been involved in more activities, and worked on more school group projects than any other generation. They have taken on leadership roles, volunteered on weekends, and studied Latin all in the name of building a great resume. They are accustomed to excelling and expect to do well on the job from day one.4
  • Sheltered – In the 1950s, parents nurtured their children but may not have shown a lot of outward affection. They were told that picking up a crying baby would only spoil him or her. But in the 1960s, Dr. Benjamin Spock wrote a parenting book that promoted cuddling babies and bestowing affection on children to make them happier and more secure.5 Helicopter parenting came next, and these are the parents of today’s Millennials. Helicopter parents hover over their children, ready to swoop in if anything goes wrong.


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 9th annual University of Texas at Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, Texas, USA in August 2015. It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers.



About the Author


pmwj39-Oct2015-Casey-PHOTOSusan Casey

Texas, USA




Susan Casey is a Project Manager and Agile Coach at FedEx, with a passion for transforming traditional project teams into high-performing, self-organizing agile teams. She has seen first-hand how a more fluid, interactive, and creative environment appeals to employees in the 24-30 year age range. Susan encourages work environment changes, such as open and collaborative spaces, one-on-one sessions at Starbucks, and team meetings conducted outside under the trees on the FedEx campus. She holds brainstorming sessions at off-site locations to encourage a creative and fun environment for employees of all ages. Susan received her Bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, and is working on her Executive MBA degree at The Jack Welch Management Institute. She is a former Project Management Instructor at Southern Methodist University and Collin College in Dallas, Texas, and is a parent to three Millennial boys. Susan holds several PMI and Agile certifications, is a SAFe Program Consultant, and can be contacted at [email protected].