Workforce 2020: What You Need To Know Now

By Debra Donston-Miller

Millennials may be the most studied generation in history. Research shows they put an emphasis on corporate social responsibility, have a great reverence for the environment, place higher worth on acquiring experiences than material things, and are adept at building communities around shared interests.

In short, they want to be highly engaged by what they do and smart leaders will harness their sense of mission or risk losing these employees to more purpose-driven companies.

Much has been written about how these preferences play out in the workplace today. But what about five years from now, when more and more senior and executive positions are held by Millennials? And how will the corporate landscape look when their influence is felt not just on the company but also on the generation coming up behind them?

According to the Governance Studies at Brookings report “How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America,” Millennials will comprise more than one of three adult Americans by 2020 and 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. “The distinctive and widely shared attitudes and beliefs of this generation will slowly, but surely, reshape corporations in its image and end the confrontational and bottom-line oriented world that Boomers and Gen-Xers have created,” noted the report authors, Morley Winograd and Michael Hais.

Ann Fishman, president of Generational Targeted Marketing, a marketing firm focused on providing insights into the preferences, trends and buying habits of different generations, believes that the qualities often ascribed to Millennials will be a boon for companies as they develop products and practices in an increasingly digital, customer-driven and fast-moving business environment.

“They are team players who, as HR pros and other exec-level managers, will encourage team spirit," said Fishman, author of the book Marketing to the Millennial Woman. "They are good corporate employees who check with others before starting a project that might involve them, are eager to offer ideas and listen to the ideas of others, and want the company to achieve great success on their watch."

Teamwork And The Millennials’ “Grand Statement”

The Millennial focus on teamwork was cultivated on the playground and in the classroom, encouraged by teachers and coaches who emphasized “personal best" and “group dynamics." This has created an emerging workforce in which employees are able to work better together to achieve a goal, Fishman said.

This will only continue as Millennials grow into their careers and Baby Boomers and Gen Xers retire or take on different roles.

“Baby Boomers and Gen Xers focused on the individual rather than the group, each for its own history-driven reasons,” said Fishman. “So Millennials' reign as leaders will be good for corporate America. They intend to make a grand statement with their lives."

That “grand statement" often includes dedicating a chunk of their talent and time to social issues. Millennials' proclivity for philanthropy has already made a big impact on companies looking to woo them as consumers.

A study by Cone Communications found, for example, that nine out of 10 Millennials would switch brands to support a particular cause and 87 percent would purchase a product with a social or environmental benefit.

Fishman said Millennials have left a big mark already, and will continue to do so.

“Increased corporate philanthropy, at home and internationally, is a direct result of Millennial values," she said. “Millennials care about the environment, want to help others, and expect corporations to address the needs of people throughout the world. Just walk through any Whole Foods store and read the banners describing their worldwide philanthropic efforts. That's in-your-face Millennial power in action.… Millennials intend to make real