There has been much written about the accomplishments of the Baby Boomer generation but executives tasked with hiring college graduates today say the “Millennial Generation,” also known as Gen Y, couldn’t be any more different than their parents and grandparents.
Dr. Stephen Graves who describes himself as an organizational strategist, pragmatic theologian and social capitalist, has studied the Milliennials and now counsels with top CEOs and business owners on ways to link-up with this intriguing demographic.
According to Graves, Millennials are “hot-wired” with a deep appetite for giving back. This concept of a “greater cause is baked into their being” and while their parent’s generation might try and sprinkle it on — the two are not the same, he said.
“They (Millennials) are not performance driven like their parents, because it is who they are,” Graves said during a recent speech at the TEDx Bentonville event.
Jeff Amerine, adjunct professor and technology licensing officer at the University of Arkansas, often works with Millennials as a mentor and angel investor and also spoke at TEDx Bentonville.
He sees unbridled passion in this demographic born during the 1980s and mid 90s saying many possess a healthy impatience for not wanting to wait their turn.
“They don’t ask permission to do something, if they see a need they just fill it, which is why so many of them are opting to engineer their own destiny after college and not settle for some comfortable corporate job,” Amerine explained.
Last week top female executives held a panel discussion at the Emerging Trends in Retail Conference at the University of Arkansas. Dr. Carol Reeves, professor of entrepreneurism at the UA, was the moderator. A common theme that emerged from what was supposed to be an “Empowering Women” topic was a major talent shortage in the corporate business world despite higher levels of college enrollment and improved graduation rates.
This Pew Research Center reports there are roughly 50 million Millennials who span the ages of 18 to 29 – a generation that is highly educated with a diverse set of interests.
Tanya Domier, president of Advantage Sales & Marketing, supervises some 30,000 employees. She said the talent pool is shallow and the days of really bright college graduates lining up for entry-level jobs are no longer the norm.
She said more women and men have taken time off to raise families, which has left a gap in the veteran leadership of some companies. She said those waiting in the wings are talented and just as happy running a non-profit, or launching their tech start-up as they are working a 50-hour week in the corporate world.
According to Domier, “The kids interviewing today grew up with a cell phone in their hand and getting their news online so they just can’t understand why we don’t issue company Blackberry’s and laptops to all new hires. ‘Are you kidding me?' they say.”
Gina Boswell, executive vice president of the personal care division at Unilever, reiterated that Millennials are purpose driven and by and large are caring individuals who often throw themselves into a cause for the greater good.
Boswell and Domier say mentoring this demographic is key because there is a great deal of knowledge that can be transferred between Gen X leaders and the Gen Y demographic. Both said their companies made mentoring a priority because ongoing communication is needed to fully understand appreciate the major differences between the generations.
MILLENNIALS IN ACTION
Jeannette Balleza, director for the Ark Challenge competition, is a Millennial herself and works hand-in-hand with them daily.
“Millennials are all about finding meaningful work that promotes the social good. There are a number of teams in the Ark Challenge whose business platforms tap that energy,” Balleza said.
She said Natasia Malaihollo and Nikka Umil, each left law school at Berkley to take part in the 14-week Ark Challenge competition because they felt so strongly about their own business platform, Sooligan.
Sooligan helps elevate word-of-mouth to the masses in a digital channel. This mobile application makes it easier, quicker, and fun for users to find and share information about any city in the world with newcomers and locals.
Graves said that is the kind of behavior non-Millennials just can’t grasp because of their goal and performance-driven mentality. He said Millennials will try a start-up and never think twice about it failing. If the first prototype doesn’t work out, they just pivot to another version and move on because they aren’t constrained by the need for immediate success as long as they find the work meaningful.
Aron Shelton and Alyssa Snyder graduated from the Walton College of Business in 2009 and are one of the 15 teams in the Ark Challenge. Their business model – Spare Time – is an engagement platform for advancing social good that provides organizations with a way to market their projects to Millennials. Shelton said he worked as a financial representative and later did some consulting with a local law firm but did not find fulfillment in those jobs.
“I began searching for a way to plug into the local community but found long waiting lists and a bureaucratic system for getting work done. That’s when Alyssa Snyder and I decided to do our own thing. We launched Seeds that Feed and help deliver 16,000 pounds of fresh produce to local families in need the first year.” Shelton said.
That premise was the foundation for Spare Time. Snyder said she always wanted to work in non-profits but since there wasn’t a business degree in that field, she opted to major in entrepreneurism.
The team hopes to connect their platform with local charities and small to mid-size companies that want to create a giving culture, because that’s what most Millennials are looking for in terms of a career.
Duncan MacNaughton, chief merchandising officer for Walmart US, also spoke at the recent retail conference. In his final remarks MacNaughton said he was encouraged by the passion seen in the Millennials and felt impressed to reach out more and engage them in conversation in the days ahead.
All of the executives speaking at both the retail conference and TEDx Bentonville noted the Millennials will likely unleash amazing innovation in the coming years because of their fearless disposition and incredible need make the world a better place.
Graves said the best thing Gen Xers and Boomers can do is “engage Millennials in intimate conversation about how they can serve and you can help, then ask them to be patient with the rest of us.”
75% have created a profile on a social networking site.
20% have posted a video of themselves online.
40% have tattoos – most of the have more than one.
25% have body piercings.
52% being a good parent
30% having a successful marriage
21% helping others in need
20% owning a home
15% having a high-paying career
1% being famous
Source: Pew Research Center