Older generations may have a difficult time understanding what makes them tick, but millennials are an undeniable and rapidly growing contingent of the workforce. In fact, according to Elance, millennials are on pace to make up the majority of the workforce by 2015.

As other generations of workers grow older and retire, companies will rely even more on these younger employees moving in to fill positions. This means that understanding millennials – what they want, how they work and what they want out of their job – is of paramount importance.

Pragmatism is a virtue
The growing student debt problem is hardly a secret, and it’s impacting how this generation’s college students and graduates approach their life decisions. According to Human Resource Executive Online, 82 percent of millennials surveyed indicated that the availability of jobs in a given field of study was a deciding factor in which major to pursue at college, and 72 percent have participated in internships.

This pragmatism, along with the inherent technological savvy that seems to be native to this generation, positions millennials to be ideal problem-solvers in the office.

Searching for meaning
One of the most significant, but also one of the most seemingly difficult, defining characteristics of millennials is that they are a purpose-driven generation. What this translates to in the workplace is a contingent of employees who desire the knowledge that they’re doing meaningful, impactful work. Millennials are far less likely to be happy or content working a job that they can’t see the immediate positive effects of.

Additionally, millennials prefer to work for small companies, HRE Online noted. This isn’t necessary a measure of how many employees a business has, but rather the values, culture and ideas that the company demonstrates. Flexibility, autonomy and communication are all highly important for younger people entering the workforce.

“When we dive into what they really want, we find they’re looking for the attributes of small companies,” Katherine LaVelle, managing director of Accenture Strategy, told the source. “Grads want not only the informal feel and close-knit feeling of being part of something small, but also the ability to see the impact of the work they’re doing.”

This may sound daunting, but in reality all it means is that it’s important to show these employees how their contribution directly benefits the company or the community at large.

For managers who are having difficulties adapting the workplace to allow their millennial employees to flourish, PEO companies can offer valuable insight into effective HR solutions in a cost-effective way.