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Millennials reshaping workplace culture

June 22nd, 2014

News Coverage:

Published: June 22, 2014 3:00 a.m.

Millennials reshaping workplace culture

Generations working together can keep companies productive

Sonya Snellenberger

Millennials will comprise more than a third of adult Americans by 2020. And it’s estimated that by 2025 as much as 75 percent of the workforce could belong to the millennial generation.

A recent article in The Journal Gazette, “The young and unreliable (May 19),” called the work ethic of millennials into question and alleged that millennials can’t be counted on in the workplace.

As a millennial who is committed to shaping the future of our community, I found that the article unfairly typecasts my generation. It indicated to me that some of today’s employers don’t recognize what motivates millennials in the workplace and are missing an opportunity to tap into the minds, and productivity, of their younger employees.

A paper released by the Governance Studies at Brookings Institution titled “How Millennials could upend Wall Street and corporate America” states, “The generation’s distinctive culture and approach to life present such a sharp break from the recent past that it is often perceived by older generations to be an alien, even dangerously different, change in American society.”

Connections over cash

Millennials form a hard-working and deeply committed generation that is not primarily motivated by the salary a job offers. We are willing to start at the bottom of the organizational chart and work our way up, but we want to be as valued as our more established co-workers. If you treat younger employees like a valued member of team, they will be more invested in and attached to the company.

Mentors play a big part in building attachment to an organization. Supervisors and co-workers can help millennials see potential growth opportunities. After school years filled with coaches, helicopter parents, tutors and teachers, millennials have been groomed to seek feedback and be great mentees. It presents the opportunity to mold new employees into the management material employers will need in the future.

For proof that mentoring works, look at Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana, which is developing the region’s 20- and 30-somethings into community and business leaders, and Millennial 2020, which bridges the generational gap between emerging millennial leaders and existing regional leaders.

9ish to 5ish

Growing up with technology always at our fingertips, millennials don’t feel tied to a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule.

We appreciate a flexible schedule that allows us to balance our work and personal lives.

That could be misinterpreted by employers as not being reliable, but millennials are willing to stay late, work from home and put in hours on the weekends to fulfill their responsibilities.

A company with heart

The Governance Studies paper also points out that millennials have a desire for their daily work to reflect and be a part of their societal concerns.

When job searching, millennials seek out openings at companies that are socially responsible. Whether that’s the core mission of the company or a longstanding reputation for giving back to the community, millennials want to know the company they work for is focused on more than just making a profit.

It’s also why so many of us volunteer our time and talents while we are in school and look for those opportunities when we enter the workforce.

For example, multiple communities in northeast Indiana have youth councils that work with city government officials on community service projects, including raising funds for infrastructure improvements and holding community events. Millennials want to be involved, want to make a difference and are willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears to get things done.

Cultural shift

Millennials have a different career outlook than previous generations. As more and more millennials enter the workforce, they and members of older generations must work to understand each other’s expectations. Finding fault in one generation will only cause a deeper divide. We need to keep the communication lines open and find common ground across generational lines.


Sonya Snellenberger is the Millennial 2020 Specialist at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.