Leadership - The Millennials Impact on Business

The Millennials, also known as GenY, are defined as those born between 1980 and 2000.  According to a 2007 BSG Alliance Concourse Institute research study there are approximately 70 million Millennials in the U.S. today.  For comparison, the boomer generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, measures in at 79.6 million according to the 2000 U.S. Census. There is an odd fascination with this generation, its rapid adoption of technology and how they fit into the business world.


At the web site Employee Evolution, http://employeeevolution.com/ a site specific to Millennial career concerns, the general themes are around career mapping, the value of mentorship and staying employable.  Couple the information found there, with information highlighted by Geoff Gloeckler in his BusinessWeek article, The Millennials Invade the B-Schools http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_47/b4109046025427.htm, the Small Business Administration’s report on where job creation is occurring http://www.sba.gov/advo/research/sb_econ2007.pdf, and FiveThirtyEight's http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/ analysis of the youth vote, and we get a clear picture of the impact the Millennials are making in the world.


As noted at several of the sites identified above, Gen-Y is focused on obtaining the information they need, on any one of a number of intelligent devices, immediately. This generation is frequently credited with driving the social networking uptake, but we have to ask ourselves if this is an accurate citation.  Afterall, technology and technology-based collaboration has been driven by the boomer generation and even GenX. 


If Gen-Y is to be credited with any technology adoption, it should be video-based communication as evidenced by the wildly successful YouTube. Beyond technology there are a few areas that I think Gen-Y should be credited with pushing forward. 


First, the idea that careers will span multiple companies. Business in the 21st century is all about flexibility and collaboration.  Just as business skill set requirements change, so do personal life situations.  No one on either side of the hiring table should assume the position is permanent, or even that there is a career path within the hiring firm.


Second, the execution of work/life balance.  Gen-Yers watched their boomer parents work their tails off nights and weekends only to get laid off at the first sign of market slowdowns.  The excessive hours levied a heavy burden on the boomers including time away from the family, not pursuing goals as well as health impacts.  The Millennials don't hesitate to go back to school to develop new skills, take extended vacations to travel and leave work at a reasonable time to spend time with their family and friends. This attitude, while perceived as "entitled" by the boomers and GenX, is actually a much healthier approach to life and attaining satisfaction.


Third, that business must be conducted in a sustainable manner.  Sustainable emphasizes global stewardship, but also includes the ability to be long-lasting.  We won't see a dot-com-like bubble from the Gen-Ys, but to paraphrase Thomas Friedman, writer and author, we can expect to see an alternative energy bubble. An economic bubble based on sustainable, alternative energy would be consistent with the values of Gen-Y.


The Millennials are still young, but their impacts in business are starting to be felt. The impacts are less related to technology influences, and more related to how to approach the business of work and play.  As they matriculate through business schools across the country, we can expect to see their impact on businesses in creative, unusual ways.


In the interest of full disclosure, I am the parent of three Millennials.

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