How Millennials Will Make Today’s Organizational Cultures Obsolete

Marissa Levin
Marissa Levin
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June272014-MillennialsAt the Inc. Women’s Summit in New York last month, the most insightful panel was “The Great Millennial Debate: How to Work and Profit Together.” The millennial generation entered adulthood at the turn of the 21st century. The panel moderator was millennial Christine Lagorio-Chafkin, a senior writer at Inc. She interviewed:


  • Stacey Ferreira, co-Founder and CEO of AdMoar, and co-author of $2 Billion under 20
  • Regan Schouwenburg, co-Founder of SOLS
  • Rodney Williams, founder and CEO of Lsnr


The three panelists shared insights about what their generation will and will not tolerate when it comes to work and life.


In 10 years, 75% of the global workforce will be millennials, so we need to pay attention. More than one-in-three American workers today are Millennials (adults ages 18 to 34 in 2015), and this year they surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce, according to new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. This milestone occurred in the first quarter of 2015, as the 53.5 million-strong Millennial workforce has risen rapidly. The Millennial labor force had last year surpassed that of the Baby Boom, which has declined as Boomers retire.

Millennials will be building & running companies, and they will also be engaging with your company in some aspect, as an employee, partner, or customer. They won’t be doing it your way, however. Millennials approach life and work completely differently than the generations preceding them. They have watched their parents burn the candle at both ends, sacrifice quality of life, sacrifice health, and sacrifice relationships so that they can climb a corporate ladder.

Millennials watched their parents wear 70-hour workweeks like badges of honor, and fail miserably at finding work-life balance simply to fulfill marching orders often doled out by a leadership team they may not even know.


In tomorrow’s workforce, the concept of “Work-Life Balance” will cease to exist because millennials will accept nothing less than a fully integrated life. Balance will not be something for which to strive. It will not be the holy grail of happiness. It will be a given, because work will be wrapped around the Millennial lifestyle.


In the workplace, Millennials will seize every opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way. They are less motivated by money, and more motivated by mission. When given a responsibility, they don’t want micromanagement. They want full ownership, and an environment that gives them a sense of control over their own entrepreneurial journey.


Jason Dorsey, Lead Millennials Researcher at the Center for Generational Kinetics, explained that “Millennials are completely outcome driven. You can’t ask them to start at step one of a seven-step process. They need to see the result. So, start at the end, and share how your steps help them reach the desired outcome.”


Leaders who employ millennials will need to connect the mission of the organization to something personal that is embedded in each employee. They will need to create an environment that allows its employees to feel driven by purpose and a measurable goal.


Leaders will need to accept the fact that the average job duration for a millennial is 2 years. They will need to be OK with creating an organization where their employees will thrive, but will also likely move on much sooner than “older” workers.


key-factors-of-influenceMillennials have been unfairly chastised. They have been labeled as self-absorbed and lazy. They are not self-absorbed simply because they are focused on their own missions. On the contrary, they are incredibly philanthropic & charitable, and feel deeply tied to their communities. They will give 110% to causes & missions they support. It just may show up differently than how others would do things.


Millennials have been falsely labeled as “disconnected” because they always have their heads down in their phones. They are extremely connected – in a different way. They crave communication. Their friendships are their lifelines, and they take every opportunity to engage and support one another. While others may view the “selfie generation” as narcissistic, they are actually deeply committed to providing social and emotional support to their peer groups. They understand the power of technology-based communication, and leverage it to nurture their own relationships as well as causes they care about.


According to Dorsey, millennials are not “tech-savvy,” but instead are “tech-dependent.” This is a critical insight because it helps other generations understand that technology is not a novelty, but rather a lifeline. Their communication methods are not “worse” than previous generations that relied on face-to-face connection. They are simply different.


They have been accused of having “bad work ethics.” Again, not true. The concept of a “bad” work ethic requires us to compare it against the current work ethic which we define as “good.” Why is one work ethic “good” and one “bad?” Will they be committed to showing up at an office for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, climbing the corporate ladder, and “earning” vacation time? Absolutely not. To them, this is an archaic, obsolete model. This doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t work “hard.”  It also doesn’t mean that they don’t “respect” older workers because they are unwilling to “pay their dues” or because they don’t believe in business dress. It simply means they are not going to do it the same way.


Personally, I am excited for millennials to take over the world and the workforce. This generation makes joy a priority. As one who has worked for 20+ years to find the Holy Grail of work-life balance, I embrace any mindset that considers quality life as important, or more important, than a 10-hour work day.


Companies have been gradually making changes to accommodate the millennial workforce. Policies such as BYOD (bring your own device), liberal telecommuting policies, and encouragement of mission-based volunteerism all contribute to a millennial-focused workplace.  As baby boomers retire, and the traditional grinding ways of working slowly dissipate, it will be the millennials that step up to take their places. Not only is it highly likely they will be working for you one day; it is also highly likely you may be working for them.


Are you ready?

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About Successful Culture
We work with business owners, CEOs, and leadership teams that want to achieve their greatest personal & organizational potential. Through coaching, strategic consulting, retreat facilitation, and workshops, we equip leaders & emerging leaders with the mindset, tools, strategies, and processes they need to excel.

Ready to move forward? Email us today at [email protected].

Connect with me on Instragram, Facebook, and Twitter. Engage with me during my morning Periscope sessions as well (@marissalevin).

Please check out my Inc. Magazine columns on my Author Page too.
– In my latest Inc, article, I share The Essential Guide to Avoiding Workplace Text, Email, & Social Media Disasters.
– Learn about the 9 Leadership Behaviors that Lose Employee Trust & Respect here.

~Marissa Levin
CEO, Successful Culture
“Taking Leaders from Triage to Transformation.”

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