Some call them millennials. Others, generation Y. No matter what you call them, those born between 1980 and early 2000 will soon be the biggest group in workforce, which means we need to start paying attention to their likes, dislikes and what it means to our businesses. Rather than criticize, now is the time to start listening.

Still not convinced? It is estimated that by 2020, a mere six years from now, millennials will compose almost 50 percent of the workforce. Some reports peg them at 80 million strong, a bigger force than the 76 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. Companies have to start paying attention to how this generation thinks.

So what do millennials like?

A recent survey from The Intelligence Group of the Creative Artists Agency discovered some fascinating millennial traits:

  • 64 percent say it’s their priority to make the world a better place.
  • 72 percent want to be their own boss.
  • If they have to work for someone else, 79 percent want the boss to be a coach or mentor.
  • 88 percent favor a collaborative work environment rather than a competitive one.
  • 74 percent want flexible work schedules.
  • 88 percent want work-life integration not work-life balance. Work and life must flow together seamlessly.

Their perfect job: To work for company that is making a difference, which means they would be making a difference. They also tend to be less materialistic than past generations, more connected to the Earth, and eager to help those in need.

Technology

Millennials grew up with technology, social media and e-commerce. They use technology in every facet of their lives, constantly documenting and communicating via social media. They can’t imagine life without the Internet or a Smartphone at their fingertips. Remember PDAs, land lines and letter writing? They don’t.

They crave engagement and want to stay connected. Millennials would rather text than email. And picking up a phone to have a conversation is not in their DNA. Their Generation X brothers and sisters find them flaky and not willing to pay their dues.

Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer for The Center for Generational Kinetics in Texas, told the National Association of Realtors that the first defining moment for this group was the space shuttle Challenger’s explosion in 1986, while the end defining moment was Sept. 11, 2001.

The good news for relocation

  • Around 83 percent of millennials are willing to relocate, as long as they think the position is worth the move.
  • A Bankrate survey found that millennials are more likely to relocate to find better and/or cheaper health insurance. Forty-two percent of respondents said that finding better insurance, possibly with cheaper rates or more options, would be a reason to move.
  • Currently, the typical millennial is single, or married with no children, and prefers to rent rather than own. Of course, as millennials age, the idea of home ownership might become more attractive.
  • Around 60 percent of millennials prefer their housing to be near shops, restaurants, offices and transportation, according to a recent report by the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing.
  • Past generations couldn’t wait to get their driver’s licenses. In 2008, only 77 percent of 19-year-olds had a driver’s license, compared to 92 percent in 1978, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In addition, many millennials choose not to own a car, favoring mass transportation, walking, using a car-sharing service or biking as their means to get around.
  • They like immediate action (texting!), and are used to making snap decisions.
  • Since they are comfortable with technology, many millennials search for their own apartments or homes, and might not even consider using a real estate agent. Realtors we spoke with say that they have to be extremely proactive when working with a millennial, in addition to acting quickly when searching for a place for them to live. They also must communicate via texts.

Where millennials live

Washington, D.C., tops the list as the favored place for millennials to live, followed by Denver, Colo., Portland, Ore., Houston, and then Austin, Texas.

The news we hope will change

Based on raw Census data, 2012 Quarter 3, 31.4 percent of millennials lived with their parents. A year later, that percentage rose to 31.6 percent. As the job market keeps improving, and the baby boomers continue retiring, that trend should begin to reverse.

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