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Millennials and your business

Date: May 21 2017
Millennials and your business

I was born to boomers, I’m a mother to centennials and a generation X myself. When you consider that our sense of ‘purpose’ is defined by the time we are 13, it’s no wonder we all find it hard to understand each other’s viewpoints at times. Just think about being 13 in the 1950s, 1980s, 2000s and 2020 and beyond for a minute… The contrast is huge, with different experiences, technologies and work.

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to go to ‘Simon Sinek in conversation with Reggie Yates’. They discussed purpose, millennials in the workplace and some of the criticisms following that now infamous video.

Great conversation, company and venue Rachel Miller, Trudy Lewis, Me and Jenni Field

I was in great company and the evening was a real fan girl moment. We all waited until the end to get our books signed and left inspired and activated.

Managers have expressed concern about working with millennials. They may find them frustrating or difficult to manage because they are seen as demanding and entitled. It’s little wonder that millennials think they’re ‘broken’. But businesses and leaders need to understand where millennials are coming from, just like we do with anyone we care about. Millennials are not broken, they’ve grown up in a world that anyone older is still trying to grasp.

According to Sinek, there are four key themes to help us understand millennials:


We’ve given them everything they want and made them think they can have anything they want if they just go out and get it.


They’ve grown up in the internet age, with the tech that means everything is instant. But the most valuable things in life take time. Love, relationships, meaningful work take time to nurture. This is a tough lesson to learn.


Millennials have grown up in the world of tech where we’re interrupted every four minutes by our tech, and we even self-interrupt – by just checking for alerts. Add to this social media and the endorsement of likes and RTs which are fuelling dopamine to our brains, just like drink and drugs do. Tech is of course great, but by allowing it to interrupt us, or be a source of personal approval and boost to our dopamine levels, we are letting it have a negative impact our lives. Giving ourselves deep focused time to deliver great work and turning off the tech to make real relationships is hard. We all need to learn to leave the phone behind sometimes, not just millennials.

Work environment

Businesses often care more about short term gains than the people who make their business work. Corporate environments do not help people build their confidence, learn the skills they want to learn and find balance in their lives. Our corporate structures are based on thinking that’s 100 years old. Strategies place shareholders and profits before people and no job is sacred.

I’ve been thinking about what Simon Sinek talked about and how that works for businesses now which are already employing millennials, and in the next ten years when they’ll be employing centennials like my kids. Add to this, a recent article in People Management suggests that 50% of the workforce will be freelance in 12 years time… Businesses really need to change the way they work if they’re going to survive.

This raises a lot of questions

  • How will this impact traditional businesses?
  • How will they adapt for a workforce of millennials and then centennials?
  • What can they do to help future workers learn the skills needed?
  • How can businesses help people better manage the tech that empowers them to work anywhere?
  • How can we teach patience and nurture the need to work more deeply to get lasting and meaningful results and relationships with work?
  • How will they cope with their people being independent workers?
  • How will businesses be able to connect with and retain the right people to do the work?
  • How will people find the right work for them and make sure they’re in the right place at the right time to find the work?


When I consider this challenge, I look to my children, and see that they are already activists (I have no idea where they get it from ?) who want to do ‘work like Mummy’ (or be YouTubers!). To be fair, they don’t really understand my work yet, but they know I work flexibly, I’m there for them and I get to work with great people on interesting projects in cool places.

Now as I work independently I can follow the path that I always believed in since I started work in the 90s, if not before with the paper round and the weekend work I used to do. I’m following my own path of ‘activism’ about work and making it work better for all of us.

Over the years of my work both employed and self-employed, I’ve seen management on a scale from brilliant to down-right weird and control freaky. I’ve seen how it impacts the teams and their work. And the control freak behaviour, really isn’t a force for good. It’s destructive, it creates fear (and we don’t do our best when we are afraid) and will just make anyone with ambition and passion for their work leave the business and work for someone else.

I’ve also seen the other side where management is laissez faire but has no handle on what’s needed to activate teams to make things happen.

There needs to be balance about getting things done at work without micro-managing and unnecessary rules. Managers who truly lead, empower and enable their teams to deliver are undoubtedly more successful. But often managers can themselves be restrained by what they think a manager does.

What will help businesses and managers make a difference and make work better for all of us?

Businesses need to step up their game on how they attract talent and show them what they really stand for. Understand your business culture, what really makes it tick and what you need to make it more successful. What are the values and purpose of your business?

Look at your job adverts, your recruitment process and beyond. Does it reflect the brand and what you really stand for? And then when people start working for you, is their experience in line with the recruitment ad they responded to or was that just the gloss and now it’s time for a different reality?

Get out there, find out what your people really think about your business and what it stands for. Then be clear about what you stand for in what you say (online and face-to-face) and do. Walk the talk and tell your story so your people know and understand what binds your business together. Find out what matters to young people (your future workforce). Take inspiration from them and get your business ahead of the game.


Thanks for stopping by and reading my thoughts. I hope you’ll be inspired.

I work with businesses of all shapes and sizes to help them communicate clearly, reveal the human connections that matter and get meaningful results. If you would like to find out what people think and feel about your business, get in touch.