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The Growing Millennial Workforce

office workers at cubicles

Millennials will pass boomers as the largest segment of the U.S. workforce in 2015 bringing with them new attitudes and skills.

This year millennials will represent the largest generational segment in the U.S. workforce, according to a study commissioned by Elance-oDesk. The survey of U.S. hiring managers and millennial workers shows we’ll account for 45 percent of the workforce while gen-x and baby boomers will make up 21 and 31 percent respectively. Millennials, which the study defines as individuals born between 1982 and 1993, still represent slightly less than half the overall workforce, but are now clearly the largest generation in the workforce.

The shift in numbers might seem straightforward but the change actually accentuates many ideas we’ve explored on The Reply, and it serves as more than a reminder that traditional workplace norms may need a massive adjustment if millennials are ever going to have large-scale buy-in.

New Attitudes And Skills

It’s no surprise the survey revealed millennials have different views and priorities than boomers or gen-x, but it’s worth checking out what the results found.

It seems the traditional advancement path that sets out a person’s career is outdated. Millennials have new views towards advancement in the workplace. When asked where they see themselves in 10-years time 46 percent of millennials said “senior/middle management.” This means millennials see themselves as management ready by their late 20s or early 30s. Unfortunately, there’s no historical data to compare this to but the survey also said 28 percent of millennials reported they are already managers. It means millennials want more decision-making power earlier in their careers.

Another new attitude millennials are bringing to the workforce is a firm belief in gender equality, with 66 percent of hiring managers agreeing that millennials have a more equal attitude towards gender roles in the workplace.

Hiring managers are also high on the technology skills millennials are bringing to the table, with 82 percent agreeing millennials are more technologically adept than previous generations.

The Gap

Unfortunately, by digging a little past the surface of these results, problems begin to show. In particular is the idea that a majority of hiring managers (53 percent) find it difficult to find and retain millennial staff. The survey isn’t specific about why that may be, but looking at other results there is a clear gap between what hiring managers are expecting and what millennials want.

Today’s hiring managers are focusing on hard skills (and that’s not expected to change any time soon). Furthermore, hiring managers described millennials as narcissistic, open to change and creative, whereas they saw gen-x’ers as team players, confident and optimistic.

The gap between what millennials want and what hiring managers believe they want. Source: Millennial Majority Workforce Study


That focus on hard skills is in fairly sharp contrast to what millennials emphasize. We place a much greater emphasis on areas like people, exciting jobs and mentorship than hiring managers (who seem to be stuck on the idea that earning potential is all that matters).

Starting A Conversation

There’s no quick fix to any of this. It could be that we’re starting to see an evolution of the workplace. Maybe this is the start of a consolidation period for large corporations as they struggle to adapt to new ways of thinking about employees, opportunities and advancement for our generation. We know more millennials are becoming entrepreneurs - even this survey shows that millennials have a high interest in jobs like freelancing.

This year is really only the beginning. As the workforce transitions to one dominated by millennials each of these important issues like advancement and gender equality in traditional workplaces needs to be addressed so that real, sustainable solutions can be developed.

How do you feel about traditional career paths? What values to you look for in an employer? Let us know below. Let’s start the conversation.


Christopher is Co-Founder and Managing Editor at The Reply. He has a fondness for strong coffee, good books and foreign news services. When he was five years old his father helped him raise a family of chipmunks over the winter, you should ask him about it. Professionally, he’s spent time as a technology journalist, PR consultant, and freelance blogger. Christopher’s work has appeared in a lot of trade magazines you’ve probably never heard of and maybe some you have. He has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Toronto and a certificate in Media Foundations from Humber College in Toronto.