American millennials now represent the largest segment of the US workforce with 53.5 million workers — more than one-third.
And ready or not, that number will increase to 75% of the workforce within a decade, according to Jason Haber, a self-described “serial and social entrepreneur” and author of the forthcoming book “The Business of Good: Social Entrepreneurship and the New Bottom Line.”
Today’s business landscape, Haber says, is changing rapidly largely thanks to millennials, or as he refers to them, Generation Now — a group accustomed to “on-demand instant-gratification” whose lives have been “emboldened by technology and moulded by world events.”
Haber asserts that there has been a surge in the development of social enterprises, companies that use business principles to achieve social change. And these “entrepreneurial magnets,” or millennials, are leading the charge.
“Social entrepreneurship is a model that is changing the world,” Haber writes. “It aims to fix the most entrenched problems facing mankind while building successful and profitable business for its owners. … It relies on technology and social media to thrive.” Haber points to companies like TOMS, Warby Parker, Global Poverty Project, and d.light as examples.
The millennials of Generation Now, he says, see incredible value in social enterprises, as people who staunchly believe “that profit and purpose go hand-in-hand.”
In his book, Haber determines that the last 30 years of world crises, coupled with newfound interconnectedness through technology and social media, “has imbued Generation Now with six distinguishing traits … which have powered their central role in social entrepreneurship.”
Up to now, past generations have built the most successful businesses and industries in history, but the landscape is shifting. According to Haber, here are the six reasons why millennials are shaping up to be history’s most important entrepreneurs.
They crave collaboration
Millennials believe in themselves and their peers, says Haber, and they love to work in co-creating environments. Open floor plan offices, entire walls of white boards, and constant teamwork are millennial workplace mainstays.
Haber writes about a Dropbox executive who once told Forbes that when millennials create a brand, service, or product, they do so with the anticipation that their consumers or customers will finish it. They're interested in teamwork at every stage. 'Companies that understand this and figure out ways to engage in this co-creation relationship with millennials will have an edge,' the executive said.
They're academic achievers
In the expanse of US history, millennials are considered the best-educated students to date. The number of students taking the SAT and enrolled in Advanced Placement courses, as well as the sheer number of college applications submitted, has never been higher, according to Haber.
'Millennials are serious about academic achievement,' Haber writes. 'Ninety-four per cent of millennials believe that college is essential to succeed in life.' And while they abhor failure, they don't get stuck in its wrath. Instead, they make a quick recovery and set their sights on the next step.
Entrepreneurship is increasingly attractive to them
Haber points to author William Deresiewicz's assertion in the New York Times that the 'culture hero' of our time is no longer 'the artist or the reformer, not the saint or scientist, but the entrepreneur ... The characteristic art form of our age may be the business plan.'
According to Haber's research, 88% of millennials said in 2014 they would like to work for an entrepreneur, compared to 69% in 2011. And that doesn't mean they aren't driven to be entrepreneurs themselves. In fact, Haber reports, 55% of millennials said they'd like to start a business of their own one day.
They grew up more sheltered than any other generation
As generations before them have noted, millennials grew up sheltered, with more supervised playtime and increased concern for safety, yielding the term 'helicopter parenting.'
But, as Haber notes, that may not have been a bad thing. 'This sheltered environment may explain why millennials are so close to their parents,' he writes. 'Millennials came to know their parents as protectors, defenders, and their vanguard to the rest of the world,' instead of defying and rebelling against them, he says.
To them, technology is always accessible
Technology has gifted society with endless accessibility. Millennials, in particular, are constantly connected through social media, smart phones, computers, tablets -- and probably not TVs, says Haber. 'One recent study found that 60% of millennials rely on social media for keeping tabs on current events,' he writes.
With an annual buying power of $200 billion, according to Haber, millennials are advertisers' key demographic, and the authority on social network engagement. Their greatest asset is that their reliability on technology 'is a two-way street, enabling information to become more accessible while bringing together millions of other millennials,' Haber says.
They are socially and financially responsible
'Millennials have a surprising respect for authority,' Haber claims. 'They question it, but there's no talk of revolution that came to define previous generations.' Millennials take their relationships with authority seriously, especially their parents. In fact, Haber reports, a recent study revealed that 85% of millennials say a parent is one of their best friends.
And despite any criticism of millennials' social habits, Haber says, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and youth-related violent crime rates have all fallen significantly since the early 1990s, the apex of the millennial generation. What's more, they're less likely to have credit card debt and more likely to live within a budget than the generation before them.
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