By Bob Nelson

Known by a variety of names (Gen Y, the Nintendo Generation, the Microwave Generation, Generation Next, the Net Generation, Generation Why, the Echo Boomers, and the Trophy Generation), Millennials are well-educated, have high aspirations for themselves and their careers, and have a lofty sense that who they are and what they do matters. They love all things high-tech, have and expect instant connections, and are highly optimistic and socially responsible.

Millennials bring some tremendous skills and attributes to the workplace, which can at times be offset by perceived negatives of their generation.

Looking at the upsides

Millennials have a lot to offer, and if you can play to their strengths, you and your company will reap enormous benefits. They are techno wizards; they are not only at complete ease with today’s technology, but they are also avid users, more so than any generation to come before them. They are quick learners and very resourceful — good at finding answers from whomever and wherever.

They are multitaskers, able to quickly change focus from one item to the next and then back again as needed. They are optimistic, hardworking, and high-achieving, systematically setting and then achieving goals in rapid sequence.

Although high achievers of any age or in any generation can possess these characteristics, a majority of Millennials has these traits, not just a select few. And better yet, these attributes all happen to be ideal characteristics that almost every employer needs from its employees to be competitive today.

Checking out the downsides

Millennials also tend to have a downside as well. Knowing the challenges that Millennials can present in the workplace enables you to better work through those challenges. For starters, Millennials expect to have meaning and purpose in their jobs from the very first day of work. They look to be challenged — some might say entertained — constantly.

They tend to have an inflated opinion of themselves and are overconfident, especially given their limited work experience. They want to earn more sooner and to have both job status and respect, regardless whether either has been earned. They are impatient and not interested in “paying their dues” to earn such respect. Notably, they need and demand instant feedback and praise on an ongoing, daily basis.

Other generations tend to react negatively to these attributes, feeling that Millennials are a generation of spoiled, entitled youth that need to wake up to the realities of work in which everything does not revolve around them. They need to “pay their dues” and earn the respect of their colleagues and management before they are trusted with greater responsibility.

However, if managers can look past or work through Millennials’ perceived shortcomings, they will have an easier time tapping into the vast potential this generation has to offer.