They’re a buzzword, really. Millennials. That generation much maligned and analyzed, lauded and dismissed. Did they coin themselves, or did others coin them? You may know one, have one in your family, or even be one! Whatever your relationship to the generation at the center of so much real-time hype, it must be conceded that what they’re doing is shaping the future. We’re all part of a generation, and especially in youth, each generation believes they’re changing the world. And they’re all right. So, what particular challenges do Millennials face when it comes to building on and (hopefully) improving what previous generations have created? If we can understand this fast-paced world Millennials have largely inherited, we can better support and appreciate how this oft-misunderstood generation is fighting to make the world a better place. And, as far as marketing goes, we can perhaps learn a few new tricks that help us reach our target markets (including the Millennials, themselves) in more meaningful ways.

You know those memes that alert the viewer to the year a tv show from their youth debuted, and say, “Feel Old Yet?” Well, while the older folks have been harumphing and yelling at the Millennials to metaphorically “get off our lawn”, they’ve aged. Turns out Millennials aren’t the youngest generation on the scene anymore. Feel old yet? Millennials are beginning to mature and take higher ranking positions. 

You may have heard the Millennial generation described as “me, me, me”, but on the other side of the coin they’re known for their compassionate, emotional natures (safe spaces, anyone?) That may be why they’re looking out for the generation just behind them. Referred to as Generation Z, they’re impressionable, determined, and on their way to the workforce. Millennials currently hold about 20% of all leadership roles, according to a recent Forbes article. Because they’ve tasted the role of the underdog, as well as that of the innovator, Millennials prioritize values, diversity and flexibility, spearheading communication styles that focus on inclusivity and feedback. They likely see themselves mirrored in the wide-eyed determination of Generation Z and will seek to support the continued wave of social change still percolating within the youth. 

Because Millennials are experiencing the notion of “aging” for the first time (having learned to “adult”- a verb Millennials popularized), and are thinking about starting families, they’re beginning to settle down. They’re staying at jobs longer, and with greater loyalty. That means that Millennials are about to have an increasingly profound effect on the future of the workplace. They’ve been working in it, alongside Generation X, and now they’re beginning to create it. They’re quickly becoming the main drivers of workplace changes, with Generation Z stepping up into the entry level positions.

When you think about the changes the world has seen throughout a Millennial’s lifetime it’s easier to understand why they’re thought to be one of the most conflicted generations, particularly on the subject of automation. One of the biggest trends in business in the last decade is the the ever-increasing presence of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Exponentially, automated solutions are growing to be a presence that may require a reckoning in the coming years. It will be the Millennials who decide whether mankind will fully embrace or regulate automation, and surveys show a polarizing combination of hope and fear. It will be interesting to see how these different ideas for the future will meet in the middle. 

So, get to know a Millennial today. Chances are they’ll both confirm and defy their stereotypes, a tangle of contradictions, passion, integrity, and promise- like each generation before them.