In April of this year, I had the privilege to once again join the Forbes Under 30 Summit, this time for the EMEA edition in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel. It was my third summit.
Like the experience in Philadelphia and Boston, Israel left me optimistic, recharged, and motivated to continue viewing the world with opportunity and gratitude. It also reiterated trends I had observed during prior summits: that Millennials are the most creative, selfless, driven people I have ever met. That they are innately curious. That they are restless in the best way. And that they are going to change the world drastically - because they already are.
Millennials see the world differently. They are the anti 9-to-5, boundary-averse, digitally inclined, socially conscious, and change-oriented generation. Where you may see defiance, laziness, waning focus, excessive social nature, or lack of respect for authority and rules, Millennials see opportunity for collaboration (team building and engagement), learning new skills (increasing competitiveness), identifying new trends (capitalizing on market opportunities), leveraging diversity in product and culture (cross functional development), and global engagement (networking and market reconnaissance). As this timely article by Forbes explains, Millennials adapted because they had no choice: they are social, collaborative, and resilient.
We are the generation who grew up watching our parents dutifully work for companies that later laid them off. We listened as they shelved away dreams in favour of the "security" of a steady paycheque. We observed boomers save for a safe and comfortable retirement, only to learn a terminal illness or market crash would cut their dreams short. And we learned.
In turn, Millennials have taken the world in their hands and embraced what is "now". In a world that changes so rapidly, this generation has learned to seize (or create) opportunity and run with it. At times it may not make business sense - it's a pursuit of passion - but as we gain appreciation about the notion of "authenticity" we are increasingly learning that those with enough courage to follow their passions are those bearing fruit (for example, Lokai, Barnana, and Better Walk).
What does this all mean?
If you want to understand the Millennial "secret", there are just a few elements - DNA if you will. Feeding the DNA of a restless generation may not set you free, but it will certainly change your levels of engagement and understanding for the better:
- Purpose: Millennials want to know their work has meaning - that it counts for something and has impact on the world (for the better). Link their work to purposeful outcomes and/or strategies that touch your team, city, market... and so on. If they have earned it, give them increased exposure. Roles and responsibilities with a position to influence are important. It does not have to be significant influence, but Millennials want to be heard. Listen to their ideas, feedback and concerns. You don't have to put it all into action - but the simple act of consideration will go a long way, and their loyalty and creativity will grow.
- Passion: Millennials want to fulfill their deepest passions through work. The categories of work and life are not mutually exclusive for this cohort. Help them identify areas of interest, passion, and talent, and let them explore. Need a corporate social responsibility strategy? Give it to Millennials. Need champions to spearhead a community giving and engagement strategy? Give it to Millennials. Need a task force to explore product and market innovation? Give it to Millennials. Letting them exhibit leadership and creativity to "own" a project and unleash passions will rarely yield disappointment.
- Agility: Millennials are restless. They want to see the world. They want to learn, experience, and reflect on different cultures, people, markets, and trends. They want opportunity to connect with other leaders, doers, and dreamers - an international tribe of peers. It is no surprise the concept of working from home, working remotely, or working from multiple cities is growing. They take new learning into account and connections into play, whether leading their own business or developing new products and markets for corporations. They are not afraid to take on multiple challenges or businesses at once, and they are hyperconnected (almost to a fault), meaning you have responsiveness and productivity far beyond the "9 to 5". Agility is not about working less, it's about making work and life work together - it's a seamless divide for Millennials.
Millennials are earnest and driven. They have an innate sense of community and an endless curiousity about the world. They crave mentorship and learning, and understand that longterm prosperity requires sowing seeds of sustainable business now.
The only secret to Millennials is understanding nuances in motivation, and appreciating the different perspective they bring to the table. Like anyone else, they're looking to make their mark on the world.