January 23, 2012 | last updated June 4, 2012 11:36 am

The rise of the millennials | Tech-savvy, socially-driven youth generation changing the face of traditional workplace

PHOTOS/KRISTINA FALVO
PHOTOS/KRISTINA FALVO
The team from SeeClickFix finds balance between work (bottom) and play (below). They include (from left) Jason Sznol, mobile developer; Emma Richards, community manager; Daniel Stainback, graphic designer; Jeff Blasius, CTO; Jeff Mooney, director of government partnerships; Megan Dalton, community manager; and Greta Hotopp, director of finance and operations.
Carol Kardas, partner, KardasLarson LLC Human Resource Solutions
Kim Pita, managing director, The Pita Group
Ben Berkowitz, CEO and co-founder, SeeClickFix

They are confident, demanding, affluent, diverse, well-educated, passionate, socially-conscious and regard smartphones, Facebook and Twitter as routine ways of life rather than cutting-edge.

They are the millennials, also known as Gen Y, and they now represent nearly half of the workforce — 80 million strong.

Generally born in the late '80's to early '90's and radically different from their parents — or any other generation for that matter — the rapid infusion of millennials into the workforce has left many businesses not only scrambling to attract and retain this unique set of individuals, but also learning to understand the major influence they possess.

"Millennials want to start at the top, or at least be on their way up the corporate ladder shortly after starting a job," said Kim Pita, managing director at The Pita Group in Rocky Hill. "They are quickly becoming the most educated generation."

Millennials aren't interested in the way things "have always been done," rather they thrive on being assigned specific tasks without strict parameters around them.

"This generation is very proficient with all types of technology and demand that they have the latest and greatest tools to do their job," said Carol Kardas of KardasLarson LLC Human Resource Solutions in Avon and past president of the Human Resource Association of Central Connecticut. "They will use online resources to get answers because this is the way they are used to doing it. They will take the task and run with it — while multi-tasking all the time."

"They want to know what is expected of them and then be given the freedom to complete the task. They will ask questions as needed, but realize that this generation tends to be innovative and creative. Allowing this generation to have flexibility and choices will create and retain these millennials."

Ben Berkowitz agrees. He is CEO and co-founder of SeeClickFix, a New Haven social start-up that encourages residents to become active citizens in taking care of and improving their city by reporting non-emergency issues in their neighborhood. The company was named "Most Promising New Internet/New Media Company of the Year" at the Connecticut Tech Council's 2011 Innovation Pipeline Awards.

"This generation may arguably be the most entrepreneurial generation since the Cotton Gin," said Berkowitz. "We try to promote an open and flatter office culture. Millennials are great at multi-tasking and taking on a variety of challenges that are outside of their job descriptions. Loose structure and loose job description and you'll see great results."

SeeClickFix has created an office culture reflective of this belief.

The office, located in downtown New Haven across the street from a co-op food market, is inviting, bright and open — not to mention the ping-pong table, music and occasional beer that can be found in the refrigerator.

It was this flexibility and atmosphere that attracted Emma Richards.

"I was drawn to SeeClickFix because Ben told me right off the bat that my job description wouldn't limit what I was able to take on and accomplish as part of this team," said Richards, a community manager. "Within my first six months on the job, I was running with ideas and building relationships that were completely outside the realm of my 'title.'"

Richards even went to Barcelona to speak about SeeClickFix at a conference — her first time traveling abroad.

"At SeeClickFix, you're encouraged to stay home if you're sick, go to the dentist if you have a toothache, and enjoy your earned vacation time without your cell phone," Richards said. "Everyone on our team works harder and smarter thanks to the flexibility we're offered."

Often, this preference for workplace flexibility and creativity has led to questions about millennials' work ethic. One recent study revealed that 68 percent of older workers think millennials are less motivated to take on responsibility and produce quality work, and 46 percent think millennials are less engaged at work than others.

Megan Dalton, a community manager at SeeClickFix, says this couldn't be further from the truth.

"There's a disconnect between what older workers perceive and what exists in terms of work ethic," Dalton said. "It's something that's personal, not generational. Millennial workers are no less motivated than their older counterparts, but are mistakenly viewed as belonging to this self-centered and entitled 'Generation Me.'"

"Millenials' work style may differ from that of previous generations, but this diversity should be embraced, not discouraged," she said. "Despite entering the job market during economic uncertainty, we maintain our altruism, resourcefulness, curiosity, and most important, adaptability. We're able to multitask, provide novel ways of thinking, and effect change."

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