Okay, so in total it will be way more than three words but by the end of this article you will have the three words I believe best truly describe millennials. What may surprise you is that they are not going to be words like lazy, selfish, or entitled. No, I believe these words should be tossed out of the millennial conversation all together. I mean, are there lazy, selfish, and entitled millennials? Sure thing! But really no more than any other generation has had. Which is why I really do not understand the bad reputation this generation gets. If you by into the millennial trashing you are missing out and I am here to change your mind!
So, now, onto those three words!
Millennial Word One:
The first word I am going to use is, misunderstood. Yes, millennials really are just misunderstood. They are motivated by vastly different things than previous generations. I think the main reason for this is, thanks to technology and social media, they have more tools to cause more change easier at a smaller scale.
In previous generations there was a pecking order of sorts. You worked hard, made money, and then you turned to philanthropy. Well, millennials don’t have to follow that model anymore and they know it. They can find a cause, create a movement around it, market that movement, make money doing it, and change the world. There are countless programs out there that are millennial run and operated that have built schools, provided food and clean water, provided clothing, vaccinations, housing, and even employment to the less fortunate around the world.
What some see as just bumming around the world on donations and profits from “cheap” products is really an individual hell-bent on making a difference in the world through the best mechanism they have to do so. Don’t dismiss millennial endeavors just because you don’t understand what makes them tick!
Now, lets talk a little bit about the lazy part. There is a magic statistic that everyone loves to quote that millennials “quit” their job every 4 years on average. That isn’t entirely true. They don’t quit as much as they outgrow their current positions at that rate. The reason they leave is most organizations are not nimble enough to take advantage of that growth.
Millennials are driven by two words that are near and dear to veterans like myself. Those are task and purpose. They are driven by the purpose that calls to them and are loyal to the tasks that help them reach that purpose. If you and your organization do not fill those roles then they will find a place that will.
Finally, they do not tolerate bad business and/or bad leadership. As an entrepreneur today you have an immense pressure to provide a great, purpose driven business model and lead them well. If you don’t someone else will, or, they will strike out on their own and lead themselves.
The point of this section is that all the problems we like to lump on the millennial generation are as much, if not more, our problems than they are theirs. Take a look at yourself and your business before you just blame it on a “lazy and entitled generation.”
Millennial Word Two:
The second word I am going to use is, disruptive. Now, you have no doubt heard this word a LOT lately. And I do mean a LOT! Well, millennials are nothing if not disruptive and I mean that in all the best possible ways the word can be taken.
You see, that misunderstood passion for creating world change coupled with the technological leaps and the ease of messaging through social media have allowed millennials to disrupt the status quo in ways no other generation has ever been able to before. They disrupt through problem solving and they do it regularly.
Homeless people don’t have shoes due to cost? Give a motivated millennial a half a second and they will be connecting you with cheap shoes made in a small village half the globe away that will not only enable the homeless to have shoes but provide employment to the villagers. And they believe they can because they have been inspired by those who came before them just at the tail end of Gen X, sometimes referred to as “cuspers” because they are on the cusp of the generational transition point, like Blake MyCoskie of Toms.
Truth is, if you see a problem today and you want to fix it you NEED to have millennials on your team.
Millennial Word Three:
The third word I will use is, greatest 2.0. And, yes, in the modern era that is still one word!
Remember you heard it from me that the millennial generation will go down in history as The Greatest Generation 2.0. Millennials comprise over 70% of the active duty U.S. military and have now been at war longer than any other generation in U.S. history. When you couple the natural resourcefulness and problem solving I spoke about earlier with the discipline and leadership skills instilled by military service and combat experience you have the next Greatest Generation and they are already living up to that name you just haven’t realized it because they don’t fit the stereotype.
Just look around you at the number of veteran run businesses that pop up. They are businesses that are innovating their fields and changing lives.
Misunderstood, Disruptive, Greatest 2.0
So, the next time you feel like cracking jokes and belittling millennials just remember these three words. Take the time to understand them. Don’t be afraid of their disruption. Above all else, recognize them for all their generation has actually lived through already and understand that you are witnessing The Greatest Generation 2.0 finding their feet and beginning to reshape the world!