Millennials and Entrepreneurship

Most of the people I know who work in the idea management and/or innovation space are in their thirties and beyond.  We may employ the younger generation, often into junior roles as they start their career but do we really cater for their needs and listen to their ideas?  Is it any wonder that an increasing number of millennials are venturing into entrepreneurship, with the thought of flexible hours, being their own boss and not being constrained by traditional red tape and process?

Whether innovating the next best-selling product or building an online business, millennials are fast becoming the generation of business thinkers, wanting more creative fulfilment than the traditional 9 to 5 can offer.  As a forty something, I know my limitations on this subject, so who better to share their wisdom than an actual millennial – Lauren Bargiacchi, who has been working with ideasUK this summer before embarking on her final year at Cardiff University…

Who are Millennials?

Generally, it is accepted that those born between the early 1980s to the late 1990s are considered millennials, also known as Generation Y. So what is it about this generation that makes them more innovative and business inclined? Contrary to the stereotype that millennials are lazy individuals who were born with silver spoons in their mouths, the majority of millennials are extremely hardworking and economically conscious; wanting to make their mark on the world while also caring about social and environmental issues such as ethics, rights, and sustainability. Commonly, millennials are also career confident, with a desire to contribute and a thirst for flexibility in their careers.  These characteristics mean millennials are turning to entrepreneurship to generate a more creatively fulfilling career.

One of the most famous millennial entrepreneurs, Mark Zuckerberg, has built an online empire estimated to be worth more than $70 billion, after launching Facebook from his dorm room at Harvard University back in 2004. In 2015, 52,000 millennials followed in Zuckerberg’s footsteps and set up their own businesses before even graduating university, with a further 15% of undergraduates planning to set up their own company on graduation. Nolan Bushnell, an entrepreneur and engineer, said “the true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer” and this seems true of the millennial generation.

Moreover, a study, conducted in 2016, highlighted that 85% of millennials understand that entrepreneurship, while offering a chance to be your own boss and work more innovatively, is at large, a huge gamble. Not only are millennials willing to take that risk in order to embrace more creative pursuits, but they understand the risk and are prepared to fail, learning from the process.

The Changing Workplace and the Rise of Social Media

Technological advancements, global change, and cultural and political shifts have ultimately affected not only the types of jobs available, but also the way in which we work. In a time where we are being told to work longer hours and that being constantly exhausted and overworked is glamorised, millennials are looking for ways to work smarter, not harder. Millennial entrepreneurs are driven by their need for flexibility both creatively and through the ‘way’ they work.

Moreover, growing up in the digital age, I, like many other millennials, are guilty of constantly being online across a variety of platforms. While this can be our downfall, not looking up and sensing what’s actually going on around us, it has also enabled millennials to utilise these channels to market and promote their businesses. Constantly being attached to our phones, can be a benefit for employers too, as a study found that 89% of millennials who own a smartphone regularly check their email outside of the normal working hours.

With the rise of social media, it has never been easier to start your own business. YouTube sensation, Zoella, who has over 11 million subscribers, has used social media to build a globally recognised brand, with products ranging from her published novel series, ‘Girl Online,’ to her range of lifestyle and stationery products.

What Does This Mean for Organisations?

The millennial generation, defined by the digital revolution, ignited a wave of cultural and organisational change, and it is this change that companies need to acknowledge. In such a progressive business environment, things are constantly evolving, and so must organisations if they want to appeal to the millennial generation and ensure their long term survival.

Millennials have their finger on the pulse of current and future business trends. Organisations should be aware of how millennial’s social media expertise, combined with their strong work ethic, can help create a more diverse and innovative conversation that ultimately helps keep organisations forward-looking, enabling them to continually flourish and remain informed.

While not all millennials will launch into entrepreneurship, the majority share fundamental character traits that prove them to be a hard-working and progressive generation, looking for greater flexibility within their career. So the question for organisations today is, how can you attract and support the millennial generation who in turn can apply their digital know-how and ambition to improve your organisational culture and performance?  Or will you just get left behind?