According to a Pew study, the Millennials are finally here, making up a majority of employees. According to the Pew Center, Millennials now make up 53.5% of all workers, compared to 52.7% for Gen Xers and 44.6% for Boomers.
Pew also released a study on attitudes by Millennials (people born after 1980) about work, institutions, religion, politics…well, about life in general. For those of us who have been terribly interested in this enormous generation of digital natives for a while (see my report about Millennials here for the Case Foundation) there isn’t anything new here about their attitudes. They have always been wary of institutions and fiercely independent politically, religiously and philanthropically.
Part of what has makes the discussion of Millennials challenging is trying to distinguish between their unique characteristics and the fact that they are young people. But there are data here that are beginning to harden the picture of how these young people will behave in the future. For instance, the fact that this is the most racially mixed generation makes Millennials much more open to work relationships and friendships with people from different cultural backgrounds (Hurrah, we can stop fighting old fights!) And the fact that they have enormous student debt and came of age during a financial meltdown makes them poorer and more cautious financially than Gen X.
So, now that they are finally here, what changes? What happens to organizations when people inside of these institutions are fundamentally opposed to institutions? What changes the most: the people or the institutions?
I think that last of institutional loyalty, to political parties, causes or employers, is going to have the greatest impact on how we live and work together. It will make politics much more volatile. When the majority of voters are independents, they will vote for people and not parties, causing a constant flipping of legislative bodies between parties. It means that causes like breast cancer will continue to draw a lot of attention, but that donations will largely happen as impulse gives for a campaign that catches someone attention online.
I think this is great. It will require all institutions to work hard to, well, make people feel like they matter!