Power of Millenials
There’s a lot of buzz in all industries about “what to do with Millenials”, “how to manage Millenials”, “what industries Millenials are destroying” and frankly I’m tired of the negative attitude other generations have on us. It’s particularly frustrating to be at conferences where there are workshops of leaders discussing how to handle the entitlement of their Millenial employees. While I understand that these maybe purely in the spirit of continuous improvement to host articles and workshops on these topics for current management, the word choices for describing the Millenial generation is almost always negative.
Millenials are of age and training to take leadership roles in the world and be change agents in the workforce and culture of this country. Millenials, at least in the United States, have inherited some tough social and economic environments that we will need to find solutions for but had very little stake in their causes. Healthcare access and affordability, student loan debt, work conditions challenges, and intersectional awareness (or lack thereof). However, as with most situations, it’s not our problems that define us but rather how we respond to them.
As one of the “older” Millenials (circa late 1980's), I’ve come up with this list of traits that I believe make Millenials strong.
1. Seeking purpose over product. There are a lot of articles out there about the demands of Millenials as employees and how we are changing work. We want flexibility in hours, remote work options, and other benefits like healthcare and paid family leave (maternal and paternal). Women are also having demands that accommodate equality as well as choice to not choose between family and career. We've learned our parents and past generations and understand the need to put food on the table. But with other lessons we've come to know that we have to have fulfilling lives outside of work as well.
2. Social responsibility. I saw an article about the industries Millenials are killing. Why are Millenials the ones ruining these industries when in the capitalist society we have in the USA, the businesses should adapt to the customer base to stay in business? In addition to products adapting to the Millenial generation, Millenials are also challenging the values of businesses. We pay attention to how industries take care of their customers and employees. We challenge business values that are self-interested and don’t benefit the greater good.
3. Activism. We’ve seen what happens with social/political/cultural complacency. We are living it today and are in the midst of revolution in many ways. Instead of riding the waves, we are making them. We’re waking up with full force and understanding the system to make change from both the inside and the outside. We’re realizing the value of our voice and action to replace those with undeserved and inappropriately leveraged power privilege. We don’t just shout for change but are the agents that implement and optimize change.
4. Innovation. We grew up with the world more accessible than any other generation before us. Since I’m one of the “older” ones, I still remember dial-up (shout out to AOL and NetZero!) and before Apple iPhone (Blackberry girl all the way). But because we’ve grown up in such transformational change in all industries, we understand the value of innovation and challenging the status quo.
5. Adaptability. Millenials have been raised in an environment where the rates of change are exponentially increasing. As a result, we can respond to change and while uncomfortable, we don’t resist it. We embrace it and see it as a challenge to find the solution. We have entrepreneurial spirits that allow us to adapt to situations outside of our control, and create new spaces that we can.
If you believe in the Strauss-Howe generational theory, Millenials are part of the “fourth turn” and will experience world crisis. With that, we will also be the ones to solve the problems of the world with increasing civic engagement and a re-evaluation of behaviors so the next generation can flourish. I hear in negative tones how Millenials want to travel the world, will leave our jobs if we're not happy with them, and are constantly on our phones. I challenge those statements not for accuracy in content but in tone, and encourage others to think from a different perspective - a more positive one. The world is at our fingertips in ways it never used to be, and with that comes perspective and open-mindedness for others different from ourselves. With the challenges placed upon us by generations before us and desire for progress, Millenials will rise up to lead the charge back in the right direction for generations after us.
I'm proud to be a Millenial and am excited to see what we do over the next few decades.