Millennials — yes, the mysterious generation that every marketer, news outlet and member of any previous generation are still trying to understand — have become the biggest cohort in today’s American workforce.
According to Pew Research Center, more than 35 percent of the U.S. workforce is made up of millennials. And they are making their presence felt.
As millennials continue to dominate the labor market, they will also grow into leadership roles, create new companies and alter the way business is done on a broad scale. Businesses will have to conform their processes and strategies to this largest generation in American history.
Here’s how the millennial generation will change the business landscape as we know it:
Startups and entrepreneurship
Millennials want badly to work for themselves, and highly value entrepreneurship.
According to a study from EY, 72 percent of millennials believe startups and entrepreneurship are essential to driving jobs and innovation in the economy. This has led many to believe that millennials will usher in a new age of self-employment and startups, but it turns out while they revere the idea, they’re a bit weary of actually taking the leap.
59 percent believe that the government makes it difficult to start a business, and as of 2014 just under 2 percent were self-employed, compared with 7.6 percent of Gen Xers and over 8 percent of baby boomers.
There’s a gap between how much millennials would like to start their businesses, and actually feeling enabled to do it. This could usher in a wave of VC firms aimed at attracting millennials and turning them into startup founders, creating products that will resonate with their peers. If executed well, private equity investors could become the catalysts of a new generation of entrepreneurs.
And as millennials age and money becomes less of a barrier, we can expect that many more will follow through on their desire to become an entrepreneur — especially since 62 percent say they’ve considered doing so already.
Millennials grew up during the Great Recession, in many cases watching their parents’ investments dissipate. Yet while it’s led to more saving and putting off expensive major life events, millennials are unquestionably optimistic about the economy, especially those in business leadership roles.
Seven out of 10 millennials in business leadership roles say they’re optimistic about their local economies, and 84 percent of millennial business owners are optimistic about their own company’s prospects, according to a recent survey.
This is great news for businesses across the spectrum, as the economy thrives on confidence. With millennials feeling optimistic, economic growth is likely to continue, meaning more jobs, higher wages and more opportunities for everyone in the market.
Non-traditional work environments
Businesses have either already found themselves creating more flexible work environments or will be doing so soon.
According to a recent report, 82 percent of millennials say they’d be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options, like the ability to work from home or flexible working hours. And a majority say they’d be more productive working from home.
This is going to have a huge impact on how companies do business. In fact, working from home is already on a steady incline, and there are companies popping up who forego the cost of maintaining an office entirely, opting for purely remote options.
It’s likely that we’ll see much more of this approach as millennials grow into leadership positions. It’s less important to them where they are when the work gets done than the quality of the work itself.
And as the only generation to have grown up in both analogue and digital worlds, millennials understand how technology can make non-traditional work environments efficient, cost-effective and attractive for attracting their talented peers.
Go ahead, call them entitled, but millennials are actually big believers in simply working hard to get ahead.
According to EY, a whopping 88 percent say that working hard is important in getting ahead in life, and a majority would be willing to relocate or add to their commute for a better job.
Despite what you might hear, millennials are willing to put in the time and effort to work towards attaining their business goals. They don’t expect anything to be handed to them.
This might be reflected in the form of millennials quickly rising through the ranks and becoming managers of generations older than them, as well as increased overall productivity in the workplace.
It also shows that companies should be fighting tooth and nail to attract millennial workers: It’s a talent pool full of educated, hard-working people.
Millennials will turn companies into responsible world citizens.
A recent study says that 94 percent of millennials want to use their skills to benefit a cause. Companies which value causes like protecting the environment are more likely to attract loyal millennial workers, and it’s likely we’ll see more and more companies supporting social causes in the coming years.
Do your thing, it’s what you want to do
It’s true that millennials value independence and want to follow their passion, but some business leaders might be surprised by what really drives them.
It will be critical in the coming years for businesses to take data around millennials into account as they not only continue to dominate the labor market but grow in spending power and begin to take the reins of leadership and executive roles.
One thing that is clear: businesses will need to adapt to millennials, not the other way around. They have the leverage, and they aren’t afraid to wield their power. Just ask the guy that criticized them for eating too much avocado toast.