Pretty much everything you thought you knew about Millennials could well be wrong. At least according to a new IBM study. 

The authors say it reveals that much of the hype about Millennial employees simply isn’t true, that they aren’t the “lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow” workers many believe them to be.

In the multi-generational study of 1,784 employees from organizations across 12 countries and six industries, IBM compared the preferences and behavioral patterns of Millennials with those of Gen X (aged 35–49) and Baby Boomers (aged 50–60). 

Myths, Exaggerations and Uncomfortable Truths” found that the fundamental distinction between Millennials and older employees is simply "digital proficiency." That obviously comes from growing up immersed in a digital world. 

Beyond that though, for things such as career goals, employee engagement, preferred leadership styles and recognition, the study shows that Millennials share many of the same attitudes as Gen X'ers and Baby Boomers. 

And in case you don't know or simply forgot why we should all care, in just five short years Millennials will comprise approximately 50% percent of the U.S. workforce.

Workplace experts say employers of all types need to begin planning for this shift by creating a workplace environment that will maximize the Millennial generation’s unique strengths. 

The IBM study's authors contend that to do that, you must first separate fact from fiction when it comes to figuring out what Millennial employees are really all about. 

To get that process started, the IBM Institute for Business Value examined five commonly held beliefs about Millennials.

Myth 1: Millennials’ career goals and expectations are different from their elders (i.e. unrealistic) 

Not so the study says. Millennials want financial security and a diverse workplace just as much as their older colleagues.

Myth 2: Millennials need endless praise and think everyone should get a trophy

Millennials’ idea of a perfect boss isn’t someone who pats them on the back. They’re looking for an ethical and fair boss who shares information. Thirty-five percent of Boomers and Millennials listed this as the top quality they seek in a boss. Last on the priority list for Millennials? A boss who asks for their input. 

As it turns out, it’s Gen X employees, not Millennials, who are more likely to think everyone on a successful team should be rewarded.

Myth 3: Millennials are digital addicts with no boundaries between work and play

Millennials are less likely than older generations to use their personal social media accounts for business purposes. Twenty-seven percent of Millennials never do so -- compared to only 7% of Boomers. 

Millennials enter the workforce with a strong social presence and personal social media strategy. They know what they want to communicate, where they want to share it and how it best suits their audience. 

Myth 4: Millennials can’t make a decision without crowdsourcing

Millennials value others’ input, but are no more likely to seek advice when making work decisions than Gen X. And, even though they think gaining consensus is important, more than 50% of Millennials believe that their leaders are most qualified to make business decisions.

Myth 5: Millennials are more likely to jump ship if a job doesn’t fulfill their passions

Millennials change jobs for the same reasons other generations do, and they are no more likely than older colleagues to leave a job to follow their passion. 

In fact, Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are all two times more likely to leave a job to enter the fast lane – i.e. to make more money and work in a more innovative environment -- than any other reason, including saving the world. 

So what’s an employer to do? 

The authors of the IMB study say employers can’t rely on generational stereotypes when planning and serving their workforce. 

Instead, everyone needs robust, nuanced talent strategies and analytics to better understand employees as individuals to make the most of their skills, and to enable HR and business leaders to make smarter, more effective decisions.

Access the full Millennial Study findings at http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/thoughtleadership/millennialworkplace/