Rules for working with Millennials; What makes your kid different?

Some of my friends are sick of being lumped into the Millennial label.

“This doesn’t represent me.”
“I’m not like that.”

Demographers would explain that generational differences develop due to shared life experiences, in the case of Millennials who grew up in Canada, those currently aged 18 to 30 were largely exposed to heightened structure and security throughout their childhood. These are some of the unifying features that define this age group as a whole. However, a lot of the time my friends are right and these generalizations do not seek to define the individual.

Most descriptions of the Millennial generation seek to define differences between generations in a multi-generational work place. Though, claims that seek to describe Millennials as a whole can be difficult to interpret when you have a specific case, or a specific Millennial in mind.

A recently published article in the Financial Post by Rick Spence outlines the need for employers to figure out this generation in a hurry. He summarizes seven tips for respecting Gen Y employees as defined by Graff and Montalbano in a seminar for the Retail Council of Canada.

The following seven tips were defined in Spence’s article:

Bend Most entrepreneurs are proud to change as their customers evolve; now they must shift gears as their workforce changes.

GenY is impressed only by competence They don’t care about titles or traditional authority. “They want leaders who are inspiring, genuine and authentic.”

Learn to collaborate, not dictate Employers tend to create a central strategy and then push it down through the organization. Gen Y-ers crave structure, but they want a say in creating it.

Help Gen Y succeed Gen X may be individualists, but Gen Y want to succeed within the organization. Encourage ambition, Graff and Montalbano say, by offering regular coaching and mentoring, training and cross-training, and formal succession plans.

Live your values For Boomers, it was all about the work. For Gen Y, it’s the meaning of their work. Who are they helping? What values does their employer represent, beyond making money?

Encourage collective work Millennials are loyal — but not to their employer. Raised on preschool, team sports and multiplayer online games, Gen Y are loyal to their groups.

Focus on balance Boomers worked all-out to get ahead; Gen X introduced the concept of work-life balance. Gen Y makes it mandatory.

This is a good list that captures a lot of the important distinctions of Millennials in the workplace. However, we find that these broad descriptions may be more useful for some segments of the Millennial population than others.

While there are important age and life stage differences within this cohort to consider, we have found there to be important personality traits that define Millennial ambitions and expectations. We’ve identified 14 character traits that Millennials use to describe themselves. Through cluster analysis controlling for gender, these descriptions provide the basis for our YSegments, a proprietary segmentation of the Canadian Millennial market. Using these character traits we formed six clusters that help to define the Canadian Millennial group.

Understanding that Millennials interact in the marketplace and in the workplace differently are important to understand when applying tips and suggestions on how this generation works.

To illustrate this, consider two of the Canadian Millennial segments as developed by Abacus Data. The Stampeders and the Simple Lifers are both made up of mostly male Millennials with a similar age distribution.

The Stampeders like to be in the centre of it all and their friends would describe them to be outgoing, athletic, stylish, cultured and adventurous. Stampeders know how to get what they want and are willing to work hard to reach their goals, but they try to stay well rounded and not lose touch with reality. They recognize that their connections are integral to their success and they will dress and act the part to get where they need to go.

The Simple Lifers have worked to get where they are. They are content working for a large company and hope to own a comfortable home someday in the suburbs. They have financial independence as their focus and are guided by their down to earth rationality. They like to keep it simple; if they can avoid the crowds and stick to their own usual routine they’re happy.

These groups are different. They have different perceptions, different goals and different expectations for their role in the work force. While Graff and Montalbano’s suggestions may be a good fit for Millennials as a whole, employers may find that a Focus on Balance is especially important when dealing with their Simple Lifer Employees where Helping Gen Y to Succeed through mentoring and coaching is a make or break deal for Stampeders in any job.

Through our research we have defined six different Canadian Millennial segments. Read more on the YSegments – Canadian Millennial Generation Segmentation and figure out your Millennial by completing our online survey :


Jaime is an Analyst at Abacus Data and a thought leader for its Canadian Millennials research practice.

Contact Jaime Morrison:

T: 613-232-2806



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