The Millennial Generation: Business and Entrepreneurship

millennialsbusinessThis article is the first in a series on the Millennial Generation based on data from recent studies that I have reviewed. Previously, I wrote three well-read entries on who Millennials are, what disengages them at work, and how to engage them as a customer. In this series, I will reflect first on the Millennial and business, secondly on the Millennial and selfhood, thirdly on the Millennial at work, and finally on the Millennial as a customer.

Despite the economic challenges facing them, Millennials are the most optimistic generation alive today, and this optimism floods over into measured good feelings about business and our economic future.

The Millennials and Business

The Business Civil Leadership Center and the US Chamber of Commerce recently released a report “What Will Millennials Think of American Business?” The good news is that Millennials are more positive about the direction of the country than those over 30 years of age, and therefore they are not quite as cynical of institutions or business. 41% of Millennials are satisfied with the direction of the country, in comparison to 26% for those over age 30. They also have a positive view of capitalism, free markets and entrepreneurship in comparison to older generations. 94% view free enterprise favorably, and 88% have a positive view of entrepreneurship. Due their penchant for group progress over individual progress, the generation views socialism in a more positive light than older generations by almost a 2:1 margin, with over 51% viewing socialism positively.


Many Millennials aspire to be entrepreneurs like their start-up cultural and business heroes, with over 66% of Gen Y saying in a 2014 Deloitte study that they would like to own their own business (also similar in this Bentley study), and a recent O Desk study found that 58% of Millennials view themselves as entrepreneurs, even if they are working in a full-time job (In other words, if you wish to keep Millennials, the job structure should feel entrepreneurial with plenty of opportunity and adventure). According to the US Chamber, 27% of Gen Y already are self-employed, with males, blacks and Latinos most apt to start a new business. In 2011, Millennials launched 160,000 start-ups each month, and 29% of all entrepreneurs were age 20-34. Donna Fen states in her book Upstart! that Gen Y is the most entrepreneurial generation in history.

The Millennials and Employment

The Great Recession and financial collapse impacted Gen Y more than any other generation, leaving a high percentage unemployed, underemployed and still living at home. Among those age 18-34, 16.6% are underemployed (28.6% for those 18-24), and 34% of those age 25-29 are living back at home with their parents. 37.5% of whites age 18-34 were unemployed in 2011, in comparison to 70.3% of African-Americans age 18-34, and 53.3% of Hispanics. The result is that many Millennials are working in jobs beneath their capacity or educational level, and especially below their aspirations. This, in turn, likely results in an higher degree of disengagement at work. Millennials report an higher amount of personal distraction on the job and having to take time off for personal or financial issues than older workers. The Deloitte study showed that 28% of Milennials feel that their talents are not being tapped in their current job roles.

The Millennials, Education and Workplace Training

The Millennials are the most educated of the generations, with over 72% earning an high school degree and 40% earning a college degree. The New York Times reported this week that, as of 2012, “33.5 percent of Americans ages 25 to 29 had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 24.7 percent in 1995, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 1975, the share was 21.9 percent. The number of two-year college degrees, master’s degrees and doctorates has also risen recently.” With this education has come high loan debt, leaving the average Gen Y American saddled with $25,000 in loan debt and monthly payments that eat away at their discretionary income as well as basic income for auto and rent. They prefer learning environments that are less structured, that utilize technology in hybrid models, and that encourage peer learning but show an higher degree of curiosity and desire for learning, as well as teaching, than other generations.

Later this week … Millennials and the work/life balance.


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