At 29, Stephond Goler is thriving in his job as a customer service team leader at Concord-based shoe and sole maker Vibram USA, known for its funky, minimalist FiveFingers line of active shoes. But that does not mean he expects to eventually retire from the company with a gold watch.
“My mom has been working at her job for like 23 years,” Goler said.
“I don’t think about being here in 20 years, because the axis is sort of shifting, with people bouncing around. I see it with my friends, and I figure it’s pretty much the norm,’’ he said. “I don’t think I’m going to own the company one day.”
Tyler Allan, a 23-year-old customer service representative at Vibram, passed up another opportunity — “probably for way more money,” he said — because he did not want to spend his days staring at spreadsheets.
“For me, it was a no-brainer,” Allan said on a recent workday, dressed in jeans, a plaid shirt, and sneakers. “I would rather have a job where I like what I do. To think of myself going to work every day in a suit and tie — I don’t think I could do it now.”
Both Goler and Allan exhibit what employers and researchers say are classic traits of the Millennial Generation, or Generation Y, the group born roughly between 1982 and 2002.
In addition to being mobile and amenable to change and placing a high value on their work environment, Millennials are seen as bringing a sense of entitlement to the workplace, with expectations of quick advancement, frequent feedback, and two-way communication with higher-ups.
With the generation’s oldest members entering their 30s and becoming a force in the workplace, area employers say they have to find new ways to attract and accommodate young workers or risk losing out on top talent.
Older generations sometimes find themselves annoyed with Generation Y’s sense of entitlement, said Rachel Reiser, assistant dean at Babson College in Wellesley and author of “Millennials on Board: The Impact of the Rising Generation on the Workplace.”
But young employees are already making positive contributions to their places of work, Reiser said. “The concern about hubris and entitlement is a valid one, and it’s also one that has become overblown. Millennials are really underappreciated in their interest in making an impact right out of the gate.”
Most research on the generation, she added, has focused on people who are from middle-class backgrounds and are more affluent.
Reiser, 43, said the tendency of the Millennials to expect big things right away is attributable in part to being raised by “snowplow parents,” who have pushed aside obstacles for their children, and by “helicopter parents,” who constantly involve themselves in their children’s lives, even to the point of advocating on their behalf with prospective employers.
But this generation’s great expectations have been tempered by the down economy, she said, and younger workers are improving work environments for all generations with their demands for more feedback, and their facility with technology and social media.
She also pointed out that Millennials have high rates of volunteerism, are more comfortable with workplace diversity than their older counterparts, and want to work for socially responsible companies. “I think the positives far outweigh the negatives,” Reiser said.
In Westborough, Virtusa Corp., an information technology services company, is changing how it operates in order to engage its Millennials, who make up 86 percent of its global workforce.
In order to provide more feedback, Virtusa has developed an online platform that tracks productivity and the quality of work by employees. The company also hands out monthly and quarterly awards, and has created its own social network to communicate with employees, rather than sending out one-way missives that are often ignored by younger workers.
Praveen Purushotham, global head of marketing at Virtusa, said that even though young workers are unemployed at nearly double the rate of other age groups, companies cannot simply force Millennials into a corporate culture that does not suit them.
“It just wouldn’t work,” said Purushotham. “They don’t look at organizations nowadays as providers of a long-term career, but rather as places where they can produce a certain quality of work in return for certain benefits.”
Millennials view employers as “service providers,” not much different from a cellphone carrier, Purushotham said. “You can’t say, ‘This is my service, take it or leave it,’ because they will leave it.”Continued...