NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Businesses looking to maintain — or create — a competitive edge may want to gear their hiring toward the youngest sector of the workforce.

That’s at least according to a new survey of hiring managers released by online workplace Elance-oDesk and consulting firm Millennial Branding. The survey shows nearly seven out of ten managers say Millennials have skills prior generations do not, and 82% said they feel Millennials are technologically adept. Six out of ten also agreed Millennials are quick learners.

“That Millennials are different is to be expected -- they need to be,” said Jaleh Bisharat, SVP of marketing at Elance-oDesk. “They are inventing what it means to be successful in a technology-driven world where workdays are infinite, [a [person] needs to change on a dime, and independence and flexibility are at a premium.”

The survey finds with jobs openings at their highest level in a decade, hiring managers are prioritizing skills over personality — with 55% saying they focus more on skills when hiring, and only 21% focusing more on attitude or personality. In fact, just under half expect to be become even more skills-focused in ten years.


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Companies also are adopting new hiring methods, with more than 40% of managers planning to hire more freelancers in the next five years — citing the ability to start work immediately, access to specific skills and scaling as needs change, as the top benefits to such hiring practices.

“It’s absurd that while we see a record level of job openings, Millennials are struggling to find jobs and companies struggle to hire them,” said Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding. “Clearly, something is broken."

“Technology has forever changed where, when and how we work,” Schawbel added. “Millennials are already more adaptable and focused on flexibility than generations before them. Businesses need to move more in this direction as well.”

More than half of managers reported difficulty finding and retaining Millennial talent — more than triple the number who say it is "easy" to fill spots.

Despite the struggle managers face filling jobs — and the struggles many Millennials say they have in find one — Millennials will become the largest generation in the U.S. workforce in 2015. More than a quarter of Millennials also said they already are in management positions, and two-thirds said they expect to be in management by 2024.

While Millennials are finding themselves in better positions and hiring managers say they bring the required skills to keep companies agile and innovative, they are still perceived negatively. Eight out of ten hiring managers said they perceive Millennials as being narcissistic, and 65% said they are money driven. Those same managers think only 20 percent of Gen-Xers — those born between 1965 and 1981 — are narcissistic and only 35% think they are money driven.

On the other side, those managers think Millennials are open to change — 72% — and creative — 66%.

“HR professionals express the unflattering belief that Millennials are more narcissistic than the previous generation,” Bisharat said. “At the same time, they view Millennials as more open to change, creative and entrepreneurial, the very qualities that fuel agility and innovation.”

The research also shows Millennials do not let the grass grow under their feet at work. Nearly 60% of Millennials expect to stay in their jobs fewer than three years. This is quite different than the five years most Gen X-ers on average stay at a job or the seven years most Baby Boomers do likewise.

--Written by Chris Metinko for MainStreet