Spoon-fed technology, children of the digital age, now in their prime (18-34), millennials are arguably the most impactful generation in today’s society and economy. Currently, the generation makes up 1/3 of America’s workforce (Fortune), anticipated to be 50% by 2020 (pwc) and 75% by 2030 (wired magazine). They’re responsible for taking the ‘gig economy’ to new heights, building unparalleled connections through social platforms, putting craft coffee and beer on the map and breathing new life into American cities through mass urbanization. When asked what is most important in life, the general consensus was to lead a balanced and healthy lifestyle, to find a challenging and engaging profession, to be socially and culturally connected and to continue to grow emotionally and mentally through new experiences, travels and relationships (gallup).
As millennials pursue a more flexible life, the traditional economic conditions must adapt. The Independent Workforce (self-employed/freelancers) is growing 5% per year. It has doubled from 2005 to 2015 (UpWork). Employers are pressing reset and scrambling to implement new identities that appeal to this talented workforce. The larger corporations that have dominated for decades are struggling, as they are less nimble and engaging. Talented millennials instead are looking to smaller companies and/or start-ups that were built around the core values and environmental conditions that emerged from their own generation. That, or they are taking their future into their own hands and creating, innovating, consulting, freelancing or founding.
The workplace is changing as well. Millennials are mobile, they are tech-savvy and connected 24/7. Private, secluded offices kill collaboration. This is a generation that is project oriented, adverse to professional silos and the traditional business hierarchy. Fulfillment comes from engagement and identification with fellow employees, the company’s leadership, brand and impact on society. Success is not simply security or monetary gain. It is a feeling of place, doing something innovative, inflicting positive change and challenging the norm. If all of this aspiring towards personal fulfillment and work/life balance talk doesn’t have you convinced, a recent poll from the Brookings Institute found “almost two-thirds (64 percent) of millennials said they would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring.”
Point is, this generation has momentum. It has the world noticing, adapting, reconfiguring. It is taking an active role in society, in climate control, in business, in politics. Certainly, no one can predict where exactly we are headed, but this generation is incredibly resilient having come through 9/11 and the Great Recession. Optimism is one of its defining characteristics. A lot can come from a generation that is statistically better educated, more diverse and more independent, so let us all hope that this generation is one that elevates human kind and paves way for future generations of prosperity.