What Is the Current Business Climate for Millennials?

by | 27 February 2015

Millennials. So much has been written about them the past 10 years that to write anything that contributes to the existing literature in meaningful ways is difficult. Nevertheless, with repeated waves of Baby Boomers entering retirement and with members of the larger Millennial generation (80 million according to the US Census Bureau) poised to replace many of those older workers, a cultural shift is at hand that will determine a host of factors affecting business operations. As the war for talent continues, how best to attract and retain Millennials?

Also: Don’t dread the advance of Millennials in the workplace

Welcome to the first in a series of four blog posts aimed at explaining how to attract and retain Millennials by examining workplace attributes. We will start by exploring the macro business shifts that created the current business climate in which Millennials find themselves operating. Then we explain key learnings about Millennials that numerous studies have revealed. Finally, using the business context and these learnings, we’ll explore the workplace attributes that will help your organization attract and retain your future workforce.

Plus: Are Millennials renters by choice? | Community ‘living space’ and the progressive retail experience

In order to understand how Millennials are operating in a business context, we first need to touch on some of the macro business trends that have shaped the American business landscape over these past 20 years. While an in-depth exploration of all the trends is far beyond the scope of this blog post, many of the trends that have led us to where we are today as a national economic powerhouse have unwittingly conspired to create an extremely difficult job landscape to enter.

The technological revolution has brought us, as an economy, untold gifts: a dramatic increase in information and analytics, the ability to shrink and flatten the world to work across time zones and geographies, and the ability to empower teams to self-manage. It has also helped foster a relentless drive to push cost out of organizations. These efforts have resulted in the outright elimination of middle management jobs in the United States. With no ladder to bridge from “apprentice” to “master,” Millennials find themselves entering the workplace without a defined career path, forced to act immediately as masters for fear of elimination.

This need to enter the workplace as masters has pushed this generation (Generation Y) to college and to advanced degrees. This need has also saddled Millennials with more debt than any other generation before it. Job prospects are just as bleak, with almost half of college graduates working jobs that don’t require a college degree, and 40 percent of grads from the nation’s top 100 colleges unable to find jobs in their chosen field.

Millennials have witnessed instability in the workplace, business scandals and their parents’ jobs being downsized after loyal years of service. The recession and globalization have changed the composition and size of the working population, and current market conditions, unemployment rates (almost twice that of all workers) and cyclical factors are affecting youth labor force participation.

Despite all this, however, this generation is still described as optimistic. As Millennials remain the eventual torchbearers of the economy, attracting and retaining them is of paramount importance to the future of an organization. Given all the research that has been done on this generation, there are certainly some lessons that can be applied to the workplace, which we will explore in my next post.

Ron is Managing Director of Strategy & Innovation for Corporate Solutions for Colliers International in the Americas. Connect with Ron on Twitter or LinkedIn. In his spare time, he runs … around the house after his infant daughter.