A new research report claims that the attitudes of today’s young people are not a unique generational trait, they simply relate to their age and career stage –

Millennial workers are often depicted as a unique and hard-to-manage generation, however a new study by Kenexa claims that isn’t the case. The new report found that the attitudes of today’s young people are very similar to those of previous generations at the same stages of their life and career.

Millennials – or generation Y – are those born between 1982 and 2003. Business experts and the media often say that the work attitudes, values and personality traits of this generation differ from its predecessors: generation X (born 1961-1981) and baby boomers (born 1943-1960). In particular, we’re told that millennials expect to be praised for every small accomplishment, they have little tolerance for menial tasks, they’re rarely satisfied and if they don’t like their job, they walk.

Dr Rena Rasch, research manager at the Kenexa High Performance Institute, who co-authored the white paper with her colleague Brenda Kowske, said: “Upstart generations, with their brash attitudes and behaviour, have always been a source of consternation for older workers. Millennials are often depicted as a collective group of malcontents but our research shows that their attitudes stem from their career stage or their youth. The reality is that, generationally-speaking, millennials are much like their predecessors when they were the same age. In fact, millennials today are little different from the hippies of the sixties and the next generation of workers is likely to be much the same.”

Kenexa’s study shows that in 2009, 31 percent of 27 year-old millennials were considering leaving their organisation. However, it also shows that nearly two decades earlier, in 1990, 31 percent of 27-year-old generation Xers were also considering leaving.

“Younger workers have always been inclined to leave organisations,” said Rena Rasch. “Life is full of opportunities and young people aren’t afraid to explore them. This is an age-related difference, not a generational trait that’s unique to millennials.”

“In some key areas, millennials may even turn out to be better employees and, eventually, better employers than their predecessors,” said Rena Rasch. “A key implication of this study is that HR practitioners and managers may not need to develop paradigm-shifting strategies exclusively for millennials.”