Understanding the Millennials — Just another generation or indeed a new breed?

Making sense of the insights from the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey and digging deep into what actually makes the Millennials different.

A lot has already been written about Millennials, most of the articles filled with ample research data highlighting how different or rather how alike Millennials are to their previous generations. And then there are articles by Millennials defending their stand. I don’t write this article with the intention of doing either. Instead, this article is an attempt to make sense of some of the insights from the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey. Much of it is derived from my own understanding of my generation (Yes, I’m a Millennial too) and my (yet) brief experience of working in the Corporate world.


For the unaware, Millennials are the people born between 1980 and 2000. They are the Gen Y, following closely the Gen X, which consist of people born between 1960 and 1980. Most of the Millennials today are in their mid twenties to early thirties, thus forming a majority of the young workforce across the world. Every generation brings in different traits (not necessarily the generation gap that we casually talk about) but different attitude, different approach to life. Within the Millennial set itself, many believe, pre & post nineties subsets are two different generations in themselves. However, for this article we’ll limit ourselves to the original Millennial definition.

Why such an interest in the Millennials?

Because, simply put, we Millennials are the leaders of tomorrow. In fact, even today, Millennials form a majority of the workforce in organizations across the world. Dylan Taylor’s article — Why Millennials matter answers this question much in depth. Although the articles draws from the demographics in the US, with India benefiting from the demographic dividend, much of it is applicable to Indian landscape as well.

Insights from the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey

Quoting directly from the survey, the following paragraph, summarizes well the findings of the survey this year -

Millennials, in general, express little loyalty to their current employers and many are planning near-term exits. This “loyalty challenge” is driven by a variety of factors. Millennials feel underutilized and believe they’re not being developed as leaders. They continue to express positive views of businesses’ role in society; they have softened their negative perceptions of corporate motivation and ethics, and cite a strong alignment of values. However, Millennials feel that most businesses have no ambition beyond profit, and there are distinct differences in what they believe the purpose of business should be and what they perceive it to currently be. Millennials often put their personal values ahead of organizational goals, and several have shunned assignments (and potential employers) that conflict with their beliefs.

To start with, the survey states, two-thirds of the Millennials surveyed would quit their current employer by 2020. This % goes up, close to 80% in developing economies — 76% of the 300 Millennials surveyed in India.

Source: 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey

This makes me wonder how do people answer the cliched question in the interviews — “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” ‘Answering this question in a different job interview’, maybe?!

Six out of ten, attribute this behavior to — ‘leadership skills not being fully developed’.

This, according to me, is not actually a revelation but yet the survey has struck gold with this insight. This is indeed one of the most pertinent reason for the Millennials to have little loyalty to their employers. Most of the Millennials do not see their job as just a way to earn their livelihood. They look at it as a stepping stone to what they want to be in the future. This comes mostly from my observations of my fellow Millennials. They believe their job should result in them creating value, which even explains the latent entrepreneurial aspirations in most of them.

The value creation finding is further supported by another insight where Millennials agree, almost unanimously, that businesses must have a positive impact on society, apart from just making profit. The survey concludes with an advice for the employers to — Encourage mentorship, Have purpose beyond profit, Provide developmental opportunities and Create the perfect job, environment.

I wonder though, why are these suggestions to employers specific to Millennials? Did the employers not believe in providing these benefits to their employees earlier? Or did the Gen X not seek them?

A different breed?

This brings us to the pertinent question- are Millennials actually a different breed? IMHO, Millennials a.k.a. the Gen Y are as different from Gen X as Gen X were different from the baby boomers. Then, why do the millennials stand out in their attitude & approach to life, you ask? Its the advancement in technology that needs to be blamed here (or rather thanked?). Think about it. Consider a Gen X growing up, his social circle was limited to the people he interacted physically while in his college/his work place. While when we, millennials, were growing up our social circle was more virtual than just physical. We were connected with our ‘Facebook friends’ across the continent.

So, while the Gen X was busy — day in day out — meeting his fellow Gen X who was living more or less a life similar to he was, the Gen Y was interacting with his fellow Gen Y who was literally living in a different world.

So, while the Gen X was seeking information by going to the libraries & buying the newspapers, the Gen Y got the books delivered to his kindle & the news through the push notifications on his smartphone.

It is this technology advancement that has provided the Gen Y with an abundant information at his disposal & has thus empowered him with ideas & questions on what all his life could be. Isn’t this one of the reasons why Millennials are leading the entrepreneur revolution in the budding(?) start-up ecosystem in India?

The cusp of the information age separates the Millennials from their predecessors. Our evolution is less biological & more induced by the environment that we live in. But Darwin’s principal of survival of the fittest is still applicable & we know it well.

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