Millennial Fever | What do they want?

a mrc

I just gave a guest lecture about triple bottom line business practices to an MBA class studying sustainability at the University of Southern Maine, those coveted Millennials whose generation is shaping business and culture.

Everyone’s talking about Millennials (born roughly between 1980-2000). Any Google news search will uncover a litany of headlines about their influence:

Millennials, money and marriage
Millennials’ bad habits: Coffee, burgers and booze
Millennials are very conservative investors
Millennials travel more and prefer private accommodations
Sneakernomics: How Golf Lost The Millennials
Future of electric utilities may be changing if Millennials have their say

Research shows this generation not only cares about corporate responsibility, they are its leading workplace practitioners and its discriminating consumers. According to a recent Deloitte survey, 78% of business leaders (probably more Generation X) rate retention and engagement of Millennials as urgent or important.

My small sample of Millennial MBA candidates are representative of this finding. They believe that business has fundamental responsibilities to multiple stakeholders with an emphasis on employees and the environment – and that authenticity is paramount. They support employee volunteerism and cause marketing, but see through attempts to white wash company shortcomings and challenges.

They embrace purpose-driven companies. They see small, sustainable upstarts as a path to change the way business is conducted, not as a competitor to the traditional model, but as a target for impact investing, as a candidate to be acquired by the larger traditional enterprise.

That’s one of their demonstrations of doing well by doing good. Of course we can’t make blanket stereotypes. Indeed for every millennial waiting to get married you can find a young bride and groom, and while one is hung over while another is blending a kale smoothie. But there is cause for optimism that tomorrow’s leaders are here and ready to step up and see the workplace as a vehicle to make a positive social impact.


About christengraham

President of Giving Strong, Inc. Christen advises businesses, foundations and families for how to make a greater social impact.