The Millennials Are Coming

How to handle a demographically changing workplace.


Like a digital—but no less important—Paul Revere, this blog serves as a wake-up call for those still asleep. The Millennials are coming!

In less than 10 years the Millennial generation (roughly 1980-2000) will have finally all grown up. When this occurs, Millennials will outnumber Baby Boomers by roughly 20%, becoming the country’s and workforce’s majority demographic.

Similar to when one political party controls Congress and only certain legislation passes, the Millennials will have the power to change the established workplace culture. Whether that means relaxing the dress code, restructuring work hours, or shifting workplace ideology, the message is the same: Millennials are coming, workers of all generations should prepare for a culture change.

A September TIME article dives into the issue causing a significant disconnect between the oldest working generation, the Baby Boomers, and the youngest, Millennials: the age divide.

Growing up at a certain time shapes what an individual’s personal worldview eventually becomes, and Boomers and Millennials come from wildly different worlds. Boomers were young for the first televisions and the civil rights era. Millennials were young for the first cell phones that played television and the reelection of the first black president.

Not surprisingly, Millennials have a different expectation when it comes to work. A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers cited in the article finds that while Millennials are committed to their jobs, “they view work as a ‘thing’ and not a ‘place.’” Baby Boomers and Generation X go to work. Millennials go to do work.

The Millennial World View

Millennials view the world a certain way. They prefer relaxed clothes, late nights, and later mornings. Possibly worse, according to the article, in 10 years the Millennial majority may make flip-flops at the office common.

Well, not for all of us. For credit unions and other businesses in the service industry, dress codes are a non-negotiable item; the very thing that exudes professionalism or expertise to the member. Imagine walking into a credit union and seeing a teller wearing flip-flops. No way.

Credit unions face a challenge when attracting Millennial workers: How to strike a balance between the necessary, service-oriented credit union ideology and the progressive millennial attitude?

Flip-flops are out of the question, but what about khaki’s, jeans, or business casual? Maybe not every day, but for many Millennials (myself included), relaxed dress can improve productivity and engagement, especially important considering our perceived likelihood to be lazy and narcissistic. But most businesses, credit unions included, do some form of this already.

If not the dress code, then the idea of a kinetic work schedule is certainly something worth discussing. Millennials no longer believe in working the ol’ 9-5. Work is not a verb, it’s a noun. It has become a tangible thing that one can complete, not a place to be for an arbitrary 8 hour period. Does no work happen before 9 or after 5? Millennials like to both stay up and wake up late, why not take advantage of this and implement later hours at certain branches or call centers and staff them will Millennials. With the increase in hours of operation, members will surely feel a greater convenience.

Companies are beginning to shift ideologies to better sync with Millennials anyway, according to the article. “[Companies] are cutting a deal with this generation to retain the best of them,” the article states. “Maybe it doesn’t matter if a young worker is in the office all day—as long as the job gets done. Maybe it doesn’t matter if they pay attention to everything going on at a meeting—as long as they are up to speed on what they need to perform well.”

Still, some Millennials may resist changing their personal ideologies or habits, making their adjustment to the workforce more difficult. But before Boomers or other generations write them off as lazy or narcissistic, they would be wise to recognize their similarities. Every employed adult understands the opportunity a full-time job provides, especially during uncertain economic times. It’s an opportunity anyone, regardless of generation, would be un-wise to waste.    

Millennials come to the office each day with the same goals as anyone else: to get work done, to be productive, and to add value to the business. Adapting Millennials to suit the workplace culture—or vice versa—will be a challenge, but know there is common ground on which to start.


Oct. 3, 2013


  • Our credit union has a disproportionate number of Gen Y members and a growing number of young staff. An email was recently sent out to our management group, which I'm in and I'm also a Millennial, that really struck a nerve with me. HR claimed that we could no longer wear leggings as back office managers because it was "out of code". By leggings, I don't mean see-through tights. What I wear would be considered perfectly acceptable among any Gen-Y-centric, progressive business. My nice blouses, purchased from professional retailers like The Loft and Gap, cover my rear end and reach down to my mid-thigh and my leggings are entirely opaque. Yes, they are fitting, however my body-types allows for this without creating an unpleasant sights. I dress these up with tall boots along with nice jewelry. There are several other people in my department who wear similar outfits, including two well-dressed fashionable 40-something woman. They're professional, trendy and it makes us stand out from the stuffy, smarmy banking attitudes you so commonly find in the corporate world. Many questions arose from that email asking "what is considered a legging?" or "can we wear them if a long blouse covers our rear end?". Ultimately, HR literally dictated to us that if we were to wear a long blouse with leggings, that would be considered a skirt rather, and that all skirts must come down to the knee. Seriously? Who owns a skirt that comes to your knee? Are we in 1975? My point is this: Why does a Boomer's sense of fashion and opinion of professional dress overrule that of their younger counterparts who comprise the majority of the credit union? Seems imbalanced to me. I may think the outdated long jean skirt isn't professional, however I'm not in a position to dictate someone's fashion if they are comfortable and thing it looks nice. I agree with the comment above that club-wear is a clear line from professional wear, I'm just asking for some compromise and understanding.
  • I must have been a Millennial before the term was penned. I always did my best work later in the night, working well past the traditional 5 PM closing time. Being a night owl I often would bring my work home and work deep into the night. And I am the father of three Millennials so you can guess my age group. Dress code -- I am the CEO of a rather small rural credit union in PA. When I arrived on the scene the staff was concerned about my implementing a strong dress code. I do not believe blue jeans belong in the workplace except on special occasions. With the staff participation and support of our membership we use the occasional jeans day as a way to raise funds for local charities. But I also can see the benefit of more casual dress than the traditional three piece suit and tie I wore for 20 or more years in the commercial banking industry. As my client base loosen up in dress so did I especially when I did plant visits. Definitely the floor of a metal processing shop is no place for an expensive suit. As I aged I discovered the more comfortable my daily dress the more productive I was. A necktie now feels like a noose around my neck strangling my creative productivity. But as I told the staff on the first day if you can wear it out clubbing don't wear it to the office. I believe business casual, or as I prefer country club casual, can be appropriate for both male and female employees. Company logo'ed attire can help advertise your business at lunch or the market even when you don't speak directly to the public.
  • I work for a credit union with a relaxed dress code - jeans, logo tops, appropriate shoes - and our members have mentioned time and time again how much more comfortable they feel when they come to one of our branches. My credit union is in a rural, agriculturally based area and our members don't work in offices. They work in fields and on farms, they drive log trucks and work at various trade-mills in the area (Sanderson Farms, Georgia Pacific, etc.). When they come in to discuss their financial needs/wants, they like that we're approachable. Imagine walking into your local branch in your dirty work jeans and steel-toe boots, and having to sit across from someone in a dress suit to discuss your financial situation. For many, not just the rural blue-collar worker, being able to speak to someone who they feel is "on their level" means a better rapport is possible and a lasting relationship is more likely. I think the dress for any workplace should be a reflection of the area they serve, not just the corporate expectation. We're not banks, anyway. We're credit unions, we do things differently...why shouldn't our appearance be the same? PS. I have professionally-colored blue hair, several visible tattoos, and alternative piercings (tragus, nose) - I'm a grant-winning technical writer and I'm currently working on my master's degree while completing my 15th year of credit union work. My CEO understands that artistic appearance doesn't change a thing about someone's intelligence, integrity, or ability. Just tossing that out there :)
  • Traci, Thanks for reading and thanks for your reply. I love the idea of using a dress code to better operate on the same level as your members. That, in a nutshell, is the credit union difference. Keep up the good work!
    Erik Payne