Millennials. Just saying the word stirs up a variety of emotions. Ask the Baby Boomers or the Gen X'ers and you'll spark a conversation with a passion akin to politics. Talk to the millennials and you'll get a few eye rolls and a whole lot of "please stop labeling me a millennial!"
To be fair, as Generation X leaders, we had to put up with resistance and criticism as we entered the workforce as well. Without sounding too much like we had to walk uphill both ways to school, we once had to hold our own through scrutiny. So we get it.
According to a recent report, 67 percent of millennials plan to skip climbing the corporate ladder and aim to start their own ventures. So what does that mean for our innovation ecosystem? It means we need to stop complaining, and start figuring out how to work cohesively to innovate future industries and current markets.
Here are four things every 90s adult should know about 90s kids:
They have all the feels
Thanks to companies like Toms and Warby Parker, doing good in the world has become as important as doing well financially. Millennial founders set the vision for their companies around a larger purpose of social responsibility, attracting like-minded consumers who become loyal to the brands that stir something in them emotionally.
If you are trying to sell a product or partner with a millennial in business, be sure that they understand you and your offering's story. Millennials will buy into something they're proud of, so be authentic in your communication and know how to take the focus off of your product and put it onto your larger reason for being in your communication.
They can't even
By 2018, Millennials will make up 50 percent of the workforce. Scary, right? More frightening than the proliferation of the younger generation is the staggering number of them that are dissatisfied in the workplace - estimates as high as 71 percent.
It's not all too surprising when you think about it: a generation reared on social media has a skewed view of their peers' accomplishments and quality of life, makes comparisons to their own realities based on these glimpses, and feels inadequate.
That's why so many millennials have taken it upon themselves to carve out the work lives they want and not be confined to perceived boxes of Generation X's uninspiring corporate world (crazy to think, isn't it?).
"We move fast and keep our culture focused on results, not time spent," says Jeremy Ellens, the 26-year-old co-founder of LeadQuizzes. "We expect our team to take responsibility for their actions and support the rest of the team, and we want them to take ownership of our whole company culture."
Perhaps it's because they're a generation that's more comfortable sharing their lives, but expect a village to accompany a millennial founder. No generation better understands the importance of employee feedback, and decision-making is often a team effort from across disciplines. Involvement breeds engagement, which is a precious commodity in the millennial workplace.
They're sorry they're not sorry
Millennials are such a head-scratcher for older generations that "millennial expert" is now a legitimate job title within the very real field of "generational consulting." Some founders believe pervasive stereotypes have forced millennial entrepreneurs to start from well behind the gates.
"Because our product is a mobile app, the first question I get from Baby Boomers is, 'do you make any money?' From Gen X'ers, it's 'yeah you're making money, but when will you wake up and get a real job?'" says Sean Holladay, who co-founded Crowd Mics along with his brother Tim. "Millennials cut right to it. They believe in what we're doing and ask how they can add value."
Millennials know the current moves against them in the business world, but they also know the tides are changing. With so many of their peers starting successful businesses on their own terms, the younger generation is snapping the corporate ladder in half and burning it like a pyre at Coachella.
They never feel tied down to their circumstance and they dream big, which is a nightmare for established companies trying to retain young talent but a godsend for smart businesses looking to partner with whip smart entrepreneurs in the midst of living out their desires.
They're not throwbacks (unless it's Thursday)
One generation's reckless is another generation's ho-hum. Expect to work with founders who didn't go to college, or live with five roommates in a two-bedroom house, or text their employees "on the reg" because they're actually pals.
"Risk can be calculated with hustle and street cred," says Holladay. "We get in early with the right circles, meet people, expect to fail and maybe show some growth every now and then. We don't need the MBA, we have a proven track record of scale and results instead. You can argue that this generation has more street cred and overall knowledge than any other. My mom always thought school was the only way until four of her sons worked in startups and crushed it."
Like it or not, there is a shift in thinking in just about everything with millennials. However, one thing remains the same: we all want to succeed. How we define it and get there is where we will differ, but is that really a bad thing?