As Baby Boomers retire and immigration to the U.S. continues to grow, Millennials—those born between 1982 and 2003—are expected to make up 75 percent of the American workforce by 2025, according to a report by the Brookings Institution.
That’s right. That needy, overpraised, entitled, highly opinionated generation will be dominating cubicles and corner offices across the country 10 years from now.
A little concerned?
I think a lot of the ink that has been spilled about this demographic group’s obsession with materialism and comfort is just plain bull. I devote an entire chapter in my book, Through the Fires, on how Millennials—perhaps the most misunderstood generation in recent history—have gotten a bum rap.
The young people I see joining my company and receiving our scholarships demonstrate a sense of purpose, a superior set of technological skills and an eagerness to get along with others. This is a generation of people who think for themselves. They’re optimistic about the future, ready to contribute now and driven by opportunities.
It is said that by understanding this particular population’s values and needs we can gain a window into the future of corporate America. Which means we need to start paying better attention.
Deloitte’s 2015 Millennial Survey reveals that Millennials overwhelmingly believe that business needs a reset in terms of paying as much attention to people and purpose as it does products and profit. Seventy-five percent of Millennials believe businesses are too fixated on their own agendas and not focused enough on helping to improve society.
When asked what they look for in their leaders, they look for openness, inclusion and diversity.
Millennials also look to businesses to drive innovation and enable progress. They expect business to be good for individuals by offering employment, and to have a positive impact on wider society.
I couldn’t agree more.
I write in my book that Stanford professor and philanthropy expert, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, has described Millennials as having more social consciousness than any other generation. She points to a study that shows 72 percent of college students in 2012 believe they can derive happiness for working for a firm that creates some sort of positive social impact. And she has noted 65 percent of these workers would take a cut in pay to work for such a company.
According to the Brookings Institution, the key millennial values shaping the future of the American economy include:
- Interest in daily work being a reflection and part of larger societal concerns.
- Emphasis on corporate social responsibility, ethical causes and stronger brand loyalty for companies offering solutions to specific social problems.
- A greater reverence for the environment, even in the absence of major environmental disaster.
- Higher worth placed on experiences over acquisition of material things.
- Ability to build communities around shared interests rather than geographical proximity, bridging otherwise disparate groups.
I believe in the minds of the Millennials and I believe they are going to lead the way. We are just going to need to change our priorities if we want to attract and retain these young people, and draw on their talents to strengthen the workforce.
One way is through reverse mentoring—or pairing senior executives with tech-savvy young people to bring the older generation up to speed with social media and the like.
We’re going to need to maintain more open communication, provide frequent feedback and offer more flexibility to provide them with a better work/life balance than their Baby Boomer or Gen X parents. And we’re going to need to identify more opportunities to give back to society.
“This is the most high-maintenance workforce in the history of the world,” says Bruce Tulgan, founder of leading generational-research firm, RainmakerThinking. “The good news is they’re also going to be the most high-performing workforce in the history of the world. They walk in with more information in their heads, more information at their fingertips—and, sure, they have high expectations, but they have the highest expectations first and foremost for themselves.”
It’s time to re-think the workplace to better adapt to the realities of the next generation. At Heartland we’ve begun taking action to accomplish this as it becomes more and more apparent that the workforce of the future deserves something better than what is available now.