Boomers Changed the World, Now It’s Millennials’ Turn

By Lavonne Leong, reporter for Hawaii Business

Eight ways that Millennials are different from previous generations, and how those differences are changing Hawaii’s workplaces – and life overall.

In the 24/7 global marketplace, where the game changes overnight and social media amplifies your message and your mistakes, here come the Millennials, the generation raised to thrive in this world.


Just about everyone has strong feelings about Millennials. The generation born roughly between 1980 and 2000, whose oldest members will turn 35 this year, has been derided as “The Slackoisie” – young people who feel entitled to an interesting job or good pay without really working for them.


Hawaii managers have their opinions: “They always think they know better.” “They only want to work when they want to work.” “They need so much hand holding. Can’t they just figure it out?”


Feelings also ran high at Hawaii Businesss Wahine Forum in October, when panelist Ashley Lukens, 33, told a packed ballroom that her office hours were from 10 to 4 and that she zealously guards her daily yoga hour. Lukens, a program director for the Hawaii Center for Food Safety, then cheerfully pointed out to the audience that her generation was going to be running Hawaii’s companies in the not-too-distant future. It seemed everyone in the audience had a powerful reaction, with Millennials leaning forward in their seats and nodding, and people in other generations leaning back with their arms crossed and eyebrows raised. Afterward, the post-panel buzz included sarcasm: “Must be nice to be her,” and “Wonder how long that’s going to last?”


Millennials are 74 million strong, a generation almost as large as the Boomers, so it’s likely that they will get their way – just as Boomers did – and their influence will last a long time. An Ernst & Young report predicts that by 2020, nearly half (46 percent) of America’s workforce will be Millennials. They are already changing workplaces in Hawaii and around the nation.


“Millennials aren’t better or worse, they’re just different,” says Courtney Templin, COO of JB Training Solutions, a national consulting organization specializing in the challenges of the intergenerational workplace. “Boomers and Xers tend to see Millennials as entitled, lazy and narcissistic, but much of this tension comes from how each generation was raised and the world in which they grew up.”











When Millennials were being born, there were so many of them they were called the Echo Boom. They grew up in a world that was globalizing and digitizing at an unprecedented pace, marked by cataclysmic events such as 9/11 and the worst recession since the Great Depression. They are simultaneously the most educated American generation to date and the generation with the most student debt (college costs have skyrocketed 538 percent since 1985, while the Consumer Price Index rose only 121 percent). The Pew Research Center says Millennials are also the first generation in the modern era to have lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations had at the same stage of their life cycles.


The other great divide between Millennials and their forebears is technology. As the first generation that came of age with smartphone in hand, Millennials “understand technology as an extension of personal identity,” says Lindsey Gibson, an assistant professor of organizational management at Hawaii Pacific University. “The main way they communicate with each other is through technology.”


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In the News
February 15, 2015