How Youth are Already Reshaping Your Business


By Catherine Bell

A Millennial is often defined as anyone born between the late 1970s and the mid-1990s. “Youth,” for the purposes of this article, is anyone between the ages of 12 and 18. These are important demographics to know about in business because we can look to them for trends to help us organize more awakened companies with more joy, excitement, and energy — and they are the people who hold the keys to our future productive society.

I have had the benefit of working with Millennials, hiring them for large and entrepreneurial organizations, and of having two boys ages 10 and 12 (and observing their tribe). Here are three top trends among these younger generations that businesses should pay attention to:

1 - THEY WANT DIRECT, UNFETTERED ACCESS

Millennials and Youth typically do not have to physically search for data. I remember the pain of going to the public or university library for my research. They want access to data, and they want it now — and they have it. Watching my sons work on their science projects shows me this trend firsthand, and demonstrates how data are only a few keystrokes away.

They also want to be able to tweet to their favorite brands and receive some type of response. They want to be seen, heard, and noticed; to know that they have a strong voice in shaping our world; and they want personal stories.

On the other hand, we have a whole generation being provided with in-depth and intensive training in being distracted. Email, texts, and social media constantly distract most of us, and the general perception of immediacy on the Internet reinforces this distraction. This tendency underscores the importance of being intensively trained in presence practices.

Implications for the future

We will all have more direct access to and personal interactions with businesses, artists, and authors, and the importance of developing discernment and wisdom with respect to the Internet will increase; how do we know that what we find on the Internet is accurate? How will we in the future? Training in being mindful will become key to leading in a distracted world.

2 - THEY WANT TO BE RESPECTED AND HEARD

Millennials and Youth do not want lectures from people who have graduated from the school of hard knocks. They each believe their voice should be counted, and counted now. They do not turn to experts as readily; rather, they rely on themselves and their social networks, which are mostly online. They also want to be their own bosses and in charge of their own time.

But it is vital that they listen and read with an open mind, allowing personal experience and research to guide them. To encourage and increase engagement, we need to create structures and freedoms for Millennials and Youth to see and be their best, most remarkable selves and also build strong relationships.

Implications for the future

This trend will have a large impact on traditional work structures, altering and increasing the scope and nature of vacation, working remotely, and collaboration. Entrepreneurial enterprises will become more common, as will workstations where people from different companies work together.

3 - THEY GENUINELY CARE, AND WANT A DEEPER REASON FOR BEING INVOLVED IN AN ORGANIZATION

Everyone in every organization must begin to operate from a place of knowing why they are there; knowing their purpose and believing in it relieves the disengagement issues people might otherwise have in their jobs. Millennials, especially, want to make a difference and are willing to do so.

They want to be part of a company that has a strong vision and values; to perform stimulating and challenging work for an organization that has a meaningful impact on the world. Their desire to be part of something greater than themselves is even reflected in their consumer habits: they tend to shop online and buy things that matter to them and make a statement.

Implications for the future

There will be more B Corps, more emphasis on buying from conscious companies and on every organization being some form of social enterprise; more interdependence, less stuff, and more of what is really needed. International interdependence will become more important, along with leaders in business being clear about their company’s vision and values, thereby creating that deeper meaning in their existence.

This is a very hopeful time to be alive. Although Millennials and Youth are readily distracted (aren’t we all?), they want and need to be engaged in their organizations. It is up to leaders to create deep purpose in their organizations, be transparent, and provide instant access to company information if they are to capture the hearts and minds of the younger generations.

We cannot forget that Millennials and Youth are all individuals, and we need to treat them as such. Perhaps this is the most important lesson of all. It is time we all see how remarkable we are, and let that shine through.

This article appeared in Issue 7 | May/June 2016

Issue 7 features exciting interviews and profiles all focusing on youth and Millennials including: Sweetgreen; Radha and Miki Agrawal; Nisolo; a spotlight on the higher education system including a look at the student debt crisis and the top 15 sustainable MBA programs; and our inspiring cover story — Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez of one of the most exciting food companies in the nation, Back to the Roots.

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