There are lots of reasons on-demand services have taken off in the last few years -- smartphone adoption, mobile payment platforms, social authentication. But one that gets overlooked is a demographic shift in the workforce.

At the Code Conference on Wednesday morning, influential technology analyst Mary Meeker presented her annual Internet Trends report. This year, Meeker, a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, zoomed in on the peer-to-peer, "just-in-time" economy of companies like Uber, Airbnb and Instacart.

A major factor in the rise of these companies, Meeker said, is the arrival of the Millennials as the biggest generation in the workforce. Millennials' attitudes toward work makes on-demand jobs attractive to them in a way they might not be to older workers. 

Having entered the workforce during recession and slow-growth years, they regard jobs as scarce and don't expect them to provide long-term stability. According to surveys, they care more about flexible work hours than they do about more traditional benefits like paid vacation time, childcare or health insurance. More than one-third of them consider themselves freelancers, and 32 percent of them say they expect to be working mostly flexible hours in the future. 

They're also tech-savvy and prefer to work independently. Hiring managers acknowledge that preference as well, although they have a somewhat different interpretation of it: In a 2014 survey, only 27 percent of managers said they would describe Millennial employees as team players, versus 73 percent who would say that about Generation X members. Millennials had an advantage in "entrepreneurial attitude," 55 percent to 45 percent, but they also were four times as likely to be labeled narcissistic (80 percent versus 20 percent).  

Published on: May 27, 2015