If you spent much time in 2015 reading about the future of work, you undoubtedly came across countless articles about millennials and why they are so entitled, lazy, passionate, difficult to work with, etc. The list goes on and on but the fact remains: millennials are not a monolithic generation of ne’er do wells. And if you’re part of an older generation like me, understanding them can take a bit more time and effort.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you bring millennial workers into your company or partner with them on projects. After all, having an understanding of where the other person is coming from is the first step in a productive relationship.

Check your negative stereotypes at the door. If you’re interviewing a candidate who happens to be under the age of 30, you might miss out on someone great if you assume they have certain negative qualities before you get a feel for who they actually are. Don’t project what you’ve read onto people you’ve only just met. Until proven otherwise, treat them like any other person you deal with on a professional level.

Technology is not turning us into robots. Yes, technology has done a lot of things to us socially, many of them questionable or just downright negative. But it has also allowed for unprecedented access to information, which in turn can lead to a wide variety of developed and passionate people, not simply hedonistic pop culture automatons. Find out what they’re interested in and assess their level of engagement.

They do seek a greater purpose, but that doesn’t mean they all want to save the world. I view it as an evolutionary event. For a generation now, we’ve been fortunate not to have to worry about starvation. Our basic needs are, for the most part, taken care of. This frees up our minds to strive after deeper psychological fulfillment. As I said, you don’t have to be in the business of saving the rainforest (or whales or whatever) to inspire them.

The most important aspect of working with millennials is looking at them as individuals, not because they demand it, but because they are not all the same and you will miss out on promising talent if you pigeonhole them into being all the same. Keep these few things in mind and I’m willing to bet that in short time you’ll have numerous millennials who are indispensable parts of your team.

photo credit: Scull via photopin (license)