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Millennials Aren’t Turning Into Their Parents

MillennialsMillennials. That word generally brings to mind images of hipsters with horn-rimmed glasses who can’t stop looking at their mobile device. Or maybe a smart but socially disengaged kid who can run an online business but doesn’t shave and isn’t comfortable in a conversation about current events. But don’t worry, everyone said they would “grow up” and be more like their parents and then everything would be fine.


There’s two problems with that: That’s not who Millennials are, and they are not growing up to be their parents (Tweet this!). So now what do we do? For starters, we need to understand Millennials (generally accepted as having been born between 1979-1994) as not only potential employees but also as potential clients, customers and donors. And they make great donors if you can engage them.

Recently, The Case Foundation and Achieve compiled their report, “The 2013 Millennial Impact Report” studying how Millennials connect, get involved and give. The findings are interesting in that their habits, while once considered strange and temporary, are following them into adulthood indicating that their peculiarities are here to stay.


This is bad news for those whose marketing and engagement philosophies became rigidly entrenched in the last century. However, this is great news for those willing to adapt and engage a vibrant group of people more socially conscious that anyone in the last 40 years. Some of the findings are interesting:

  • Millennials would rather share information about the cause instead of the organization. Because of this, organizations are better served by becoming experts on the cause by virtue of the information and content they share.
  • Smartphone usage is growing dramatically thanks to the mobility of Millennials. Your site and all communications must be mobile friendly or you won’t get much traction.
  • Millennials typically only make a meaningful connection with 1-5 organizations. In a world where there is so much digital “noise” you have to put extra effort into building relationships. Social media is their tool of choice for this.
  • Millennials view volunteer endeavors social activity as much as activism. They enjoy connecting beyond technology with like-minded people to work for the common good. Keep this in mind when developing volunteer opportunities.
  • Millennials are more likely to give digitally (via websites and social media campaigns) than traditional means. They generally detest telemarketing. Hey, so do I!
  • They don’t have tons of money so they don’t give in large amounts. However, significantly more Millennials give what they have. As high as 52% of them.

There is quite a bit more in the Executive Summary and more still in the Full Report.


So what about the Millennials in your organization? Rick Seigmund at The Leadership Forge wrote an article about what Millennials need from you as an employer. Here are a few excerpts:

  • They want and need the truth. This connected generation can look up and research things faster than you can drink your first cup of coffee. Don’t try to manipulate and spin things with them. They’ll know it, and lose respect for you.
  • Well defined boundaries. Let them know what is acceptable, and what is not. They are still learning and growing, so be the example. They will learn a lot from you and the others they work with. Don’t put up with older dirtbags, and you won’t turn your millennials into one themselves.
  • Let them know that their opinions count. I’m not saying for you to give them free rein, but allow them to have a voice. They have ways of looking and thinking that are WAY outside your own box.
  • Give them something big to work towards. No one wants to invest their time and their lives on smallness. Show them that with you, they CAN change the world. The’ve been waiting to do this their whole lives!
  • Don’t handle them with kid gloves. When you give them work, give them responsibility, and expect from them great things. They are craving responsibility and the chance to prove themselves. If you already embrace the idea that failures are a good thing (unless it kills you) then you will be giving them the keys to their own growth and success.
  • Recognize them. This is how you speak their language. Throw out you six month reviews, and start doing small check-ups about once a month. If their doing a good job, tell them. And then stop. Don’t gush praise and treat them like a twelve-year-old. Use your big people words, but use them. Millennials are used to being given feedback, so give it.
  • Have fun! This should transcend this topic of millennials, but it is now your opportunity to make the correction. Is your place of business a fun place to be? A healthy environment for anyone to work at? Do your people get along? Or, is it gossip filled, moody, and disgruntled?  Fix it now!

So maybe we should stop lamenting the changes that are already here and embrace our Millennial brothers and sisters. Yes, they don’t think like some of us “older” folks do, but isn’t that how things change? There is plenty of work to do in the world and it will take all of us to make a difference. And besides, I think it was Albert Einstein who said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

What are some of your experiences with Millennials?


Scott Wilson is currently a Customer Experience Principal at a Fortune 50 company. He is also a marketing and business strategy consultant for small businesses and writes about Leadership, Communication, and Marketing on his blog at scottkwilson.com.

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