If you were born between 1980 and 2000, guess what – you're a Millennial, the generation that came of age during the digital, cellular, and social media revolutions. You likely don't remember a world without cable television, if you can't get what you want "on-demand," it's not worth getting, and you just sent three texts, updated your Facebook status, and posted two photos to Instagram in the time it took to read this sentence. Many social pundits say you're bolder, more socially aware, and more confident that previous generations. Oh, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you currently make up about one-third of the U.S. workforce, a number that's expected to grow to nearly half (46%) within the next six years*.

So what does that mean for change practitioners? The left-hand column outlines some common attributes associated with the Millennial generation** and the right-hand column shows the impact of those attributes from a change management perspective.

Common Millennial Characteristics

Change Management Impact

Ask a lot of questions and do not have a problem asking them directly to management.

  • Establish a vision and burning platform—i.e., articulate where is the change taking us and what makes it critical now.
  • Ensure senior leaders are prepared to speak to the underlying rationale for change.
  • Perform a stakeholder analysis to anticipate where in the organization the questions and concerns going to come from.

Excel in collaborative work environments.

  • One size does not fit all—change management approach needs to adapt depending on the audience.
  • Provide hands-on opportunities to experience what the future state will be like.
  • Consider getting Millennials actively involved in defining and shaping the future state.

Comfortable with a variety of forms of technology, both as work tools and as communication channels in their personal lives.

  • Leverage a variety of communication channels—social media, YouTube, mobile, etc.

Prefer "high-touch" communication with consistent, honest feedback on performance.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate! Make sure audiences are receiving steady, consistent messages throughout the change.
  • Provide feedback loops so that the conversation isn't so one-sided.

Value flexibility and often embrace, rather than fear, change.

  • Consider recruiting Millennials as change agents or trainers who can assist others in preparation for change.

Research suggests that Millennials seem to understand more so than previous generations that change is a fundamental part of their work environment, and therefore are less wary or fearful of organization change. As a result, change management practitioners have a real opportunity then to leverage this younger generation's natural ability to adapt. But, as the right-hand column above hopefully suggests, that doesn't mean a well thought-out and executed change management strategy will eventually become less important as our capacity to change seems to increase. If anything, this suggests to me that practitioners and sponsors need to be even more on their game because audiences are now expecting that level of support when corporate changes occur.

*Cited in the 2012 Kenan-Flagler Business School report, Maximizing Millennials in the Workplace

**These are based on research from the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) as well as the 2014 Annual SHRM Conference, which included a session called "Change Management Unplugged: Four Essential Rules for Managing the Millennial Movement"