Why Millennials Understand The Future Of Work Better Than Anyone Else

writing on a wall 

We can learn a lot about the future of work from how millennials are approaching and redefining their careers.

The 9-to-5 grind is over.

I call that traditional view, “Big Work,” and millennials intuitively understand that’s not where the future is. They are, in a sense, the first generation of freelance natives. They’re embracing freelancing in a way no other generation has. And now, they’re the majority of the workforce.

They are a generation with markedly diverse interests––they’re into design, tech, activism, the arts, everything. They’ve been told their whole lives that they can and should pursue as many of those interests as they want. The Internet has opened more doors to this generation than any other.

That’s why the idea of a portfolio of work comes naturally to them. They’re doing web design for their mom’s coworkers after they’re done studying. They’re teaching themselves FinalCut and picking up video editing gigs to complement their shift at the bookstore. They’re aiming for a more meaningful work-life, not necessarily what their parents would call a “traditional career.”

That natural flexibility positions millennials to take advantage of this new economy without fear. They are the most likely age group to freelance––38% of millennials are freelancing, compared to 32% of all others, according to a national survey conducted last year by Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk.

Millennials also expressed by far the most confidence about this new way of working, with 82% of young freelancers saying they’re optimistic about the future of freelancing.

THE CONNECTED GENERATION

Why? Because they understand networks and hubs better than anyone––and networks and hubs are what make for successful freelancers. They grew up connected across global platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YikYak. They’re the most connected generation in human history.

They understand the power of affiliations, even the loose connections more traditional generations would have dismissed. Ask any freelancer and they’ll tell you the secret to success is the power of those loose ties.

Millennials are putting that understanding of the power of networks to impressive use. In Spain, the millennial-founded Podemos is the fastest-growing political party in the country, and one of the Europe’s most prominent for social justice and economic equality. Here in the U.S., the Occupy movement took up the same causes, building a networked infrastructure to advance their politics. We’re seeing the new activist wave starting co-operatives and social-purpose businesses at a remarkable rate.

THEIR NEXT STEPS

But of course, millennials are, by definition, still young. Many aren’t raising families yet, or buying houses, or saving for retirement. It’s reasonable to wonder how aging will shape their priorities and their ideas about work.

But what we’ve seen so far is encouraging. Many young people are following in the footsteps of the “millennials” of the 20th century, the workers who were coming of age as the Industrial Revolution truly kicked in. It was the workers of the 1910s and 1920s who saw the rapidly changing economy and built the labor movement in response.

They pioneered the social unionism movement. They banded together to build worker-owned banks, housing, insurance companies, and even vacation camps. Today’s millennials are building support systems and co-working spaces.

With their comfort within the freelance economy and their understanding of networks, millennials are perfectly positioned to create the sustainable independent work economy that we–and they–need. -By Sara Horowitz

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6 Forces Driving the Next Generation of Your Business

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At 2 billion strong, Gen Z is rewriting the rules for how we live, work, and play.

2015 will be an extraordinary year; it’s the first year that Gen Z, individuals born in 1995 and beyond will begin entering the workforce.

At two billion strong globally Z is the single largest cohort to ever sweep through civilization. Hyperconnected, wielding extreme social influence, and ignoring virtually every obstacle in their way Z is going to rock your world, and forever alter the way you do business.

Gen Z is going to slam a whole new set of behaviors onto the table; behaviors, built on technologies, such as social media, wearables, implants, augmented reality; behaviors that seem strange and alien to older generations, which ironically built the technologies that have shaped Gen Z’s behavior.

These behaviors are driving six forces that are shaping the future of business; pay attention and you will seize the opportunity of the century.

1-Hyperconnecting

This is the defining force driving Gen Z. Soon every person, machine, and object will be connected–creating a near frictionless engine of innovation. Consider that by 2100 we will have 100 times as many computing devices as there are grains of sand on all the world’s beaches. Unimaginable? Not that long ago so were the ten billion computing devices (7 billion of which are mobile) that we today take for granted.

What this Means to you: If you can’t use the abundance of data and sensors to intimately understand a customer’s behavior and personalize every interaction something is very wrong with your business.

 

2-Breaking Generations

By 2100 there will be a global 1:1 ratio of toddlers to 65 year olds. In 1950 that ratio was 10:1. Today it’s 3:1. The result of this shift in population distribution will disrupt virtually every business and social institution, locally and globally. Learning to deal with and leveraging this disruption will be the most critical factor for the success of all businesses (yes, yours as well.) in the 21st Century.

What this Means to you: If you can’t get beyond generational labels you end up with generational chasms that will devour your business.

 

3-The Shift from Affluence to Influence

Your advertising budget is no longer the most critical element in influencing the decisions of Gen Z. Z-ers are powerful influencers and they respond to meaningful conversations and personalized messaging. They have a built-in media channel to billions in the form of the Internet. And they know how to mess things up if they don’t get what they want–just ask former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

What this Means to you: Listen to Z and respond meaningfully or get ready to be sacrificed on the altar of social media.

 

4-Slingshotting

The fifth force, and perhaps the most invisible, is slingshotting, which is what happens when the vast majority of a potential audience suddenly takes up technology that was only available to a select few. For example, people who had sworn off of PCs are now diving into the deep end of the technology pool by going directly to a tablet and mobile technologies. Within the decade any human being, without regard to geographic or political location and economic status, will be able to connect to the Internet. The result will be the single greatest period of value creation and innovation humanity has yet to experience.

What this Means to you: Ignore this force and your business is ignoring the single greatest opportunity to connect with and co-create with Gen Z.

 

5-The World as My Classroom

Massively Open Online Classrooms promise to disrupt higher education and create a globally educated workforce. With the next decade we are likely to see more graduates of online education than in the entire history of traditional classroom education. Gen Z expects that if it’s worth learning it’s online, it’s free, and it’s a lifelong process.

What this Means to you: If you don’t have at least a YouTube video explaining your product or service then you really can’t expect anyone to take you seriously , right?

 

6-Lifehacking

The final force is one of the most powerful shifts in how Gen Z values and views the world. There is a deep sense of purpose that drives Gen Z to game the system in whatever way is best suited to make it serve their view of what is fair, sustainable, and socially conscious.Z despises the protection of intellectual property, believes that innovation should be boundless and instantaneous, and access to capital should be democratized and available to all good ideas. In short they believe in the ultimate efficiency of a free market unfettered by the constraints of the past.

What this Means to you: If you’re unable to connect with the deeper purpose of your marketplace, ultimately you’re just a hindrance to progress–and Z will find a way around you.

 We are All Z

These six forces are not subtle generational shifts. Instead they challenge some of the most basic beliefs about how we build and operate our businesses. Collectively they fuel a revolution on a scale unlike anything the world has yet experienced. It’s disruptive, powerful, and often frightening, but here is the good news; we are all Z if we choose to be. Generations are no longer about age but about behaviors. Better yet, the leaders of this revolution are already giving us the playbook with all of the rules we need to survive and thrive–you just need to pay attention, and, of course, it wouldn’t hurt to read the book.

Tom Koulopoulos is the author of ten books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc 500 company, which focuses on innovation and the future of business. 

Move Over Millennials — Here Comes Gen Z

Gen Z

 

What Marketers Need to Know About the Next Generation of Consumers

Over the past few years, marketers across all industries and categories have been obsessed with millennials — how to reach them and build meaningful connections with their brands. This captivating generation has a unique sense of self and a nontraditional approach to life stages, which has made marketing to them a challenge.

But perhaps even more challenging is the next generation on the rise — Gen Z. If marketers thought they threw out the playbook with millennials, they need to know that Gen Zers aren’t even playing on the same field.

Gen Z Defined
Gen Z consumers range from ages 2 to 19, though the target range for marketers lies from ages 11 to 16. Gen Z is the most diverse and multicultural of any generation in the U.S. — 55% are Caucasian, 24% are Hispanic, 14% are African-American and 4% are Asian.

Gen Z Beliefs
There are a few key beliefs native to Gen Z that all retailers must understand. First, Gen Zers are the least likely to believe there is such a thing as the “American Dream.” They look for products and messaging that reflect a reality rather than a perfect life — an important distinction for struggling retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch who still market their products by projecting a flawless, carefree, perfect world. Gen Zers simply don’t respond to these traditional notions of beauty or a projected image of perfection like past generations have. They respond to independence and entrepreneurialism, self-direction and a spirit of ingenuity. Brands like Free People (independence is implied in the name) are targeting Gen Zers with messages along these lines and a bohemian aesthetic, and it’s working. The brand continues to grow with sales up 25% in the first quarter of fiscal 2015.

Millennials expect success; Gen Zers make their own
Millennials are the generation of customer service — such as the creation of the Apple Genius Bar — to solve problems at any moment. They design their own, unconventional paths, yet they anticipate consistent success (and hand-holding) along the way. Gen Z is a generation of highly-educated, technologically-savvy, innovative thinkers. They look for solutions on their own. They set out to make things on their own.

With this level of self-direction and purpose, it’s no surprise then that Gen Zers also want to form their own style. They challenge traditional ideas of use, form and function when it comes to all facets of style and design. Brands should market their fashions and products with an understanding that Gen Zers will want to make each piece their own, and a message that that’s exactly how they intended it.

Retailers must create products and marketing that empower these teens to be their best selves. They must also create places — stores, websites, online communities — where Gen Zers feel welcome walking in and logging in, and feel just as wonderful walking out and checking out. Brands that offer goods and an experience that help Gen Zers define and express their individuality and lifestyle will succeed with this group.

Millennials have embraced technology; Gen Zers are digital natives
Yes, millennials grew up with computers in their homes. But Gen Z is the first generation born into a digital world. They don’t know a world without PCs, mobile phones, gaming devices and MP3 players. They live online, sharing details of their lives across dozens of platforms and dictating what they like and dislike with a tweet, post or status. And Gen Zers expects to virtually engage with their favorite brands in doing so. So brands can’t simply “embrace technology” as millennials have. They must act digitally native, too, creating a seamless and strong overarching brand experience across in-store, digital and mobile. It is shocking how few retailers have achieved this. To reach Gen Zers, it is paramount to reach them through two-way conversations, which are initiated online. An authentic digital and social presence as well as a slew of complimentary digital experiences in which Gen Z fans can engage with and share their brand allegiance is perhaps the best currency a retailer could generate.

Generation Z is open-minded and adaptable, not a group known for fixed opinions or inflexibility. And, with an estimated 72 million people in this demographic, brands would be wise to broaden their horizons to include Gen Z in their thinking. Brands that build careful marketing strategies that connect with the values of the younger set and offer a better digital experience both online and in-store will be successful among this new, young, powerful generation.

The CEO Of The Future Is A “Designer-In-Chief”

A TRENDS REPORT FROM WOLFF OLINS SAYS CEOS ARE STARTING TO HARNESS THE GOOD IDEAS OF OTHERS RATHER THAN CRACKING A WHIP.

A century ago, the CEO was a fearsome whip-cracker. Fifty years ago, he was motivator dangling corporate incentives. And now, according to the 2015 Wolff Olins Leadership Report, the CEO has evolved into something new: The designer-in-chief of corporate culture, a mentoring figurehead who gets into the trenches with his employees and inspires them to create the next great innovation. How? By instilling them with the qualities that designers have: the ability to recognize problems or opportunities, propose fixes, and iterate those fixes until they’ve found the one right solution.

Bikeriderlondon via Shutterstock

“I make sure I design the mission for the company,” explained Jeremy Doutte, CEO of Nigeria’s top online retailer, Jumia.

Douette is just one of many CEOs saying more or less the same thing. The global brand consultancyWolff Olins interviewed 43 CEOs from companies like AOL and the agency Huge, and surveyed 10 leadership experts on emerging trends. Wolff Olinspublished its results for anyone to read, but to sum it up, the firm postulates that the new CEO is almost like some sort of rebel general, inspiring small guerilla-style teams to dream up new products or experiences. They rally the troops rather than outright command them. They empower their employees to think and work like designers, observing problems or scouting trends, and developing coordinating solutions that don’t get lost to bureaucracy. In essence, they need to design a culture like Apple’s, in which everyone is a designer.

From the report:

Mindset seems to sit at the heart of this new approach. If the company is to be ‘uncorporate,’ so must its leaders. Lunch is no longer for wimps, but for confident leaders wanting to share a sandwich with colleagues and get to the heart of things. Even at Coca-Cola things are changing: “I’m more eager now to hear from the people who are closest to the action” (Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola). Although unfamiliar territory, some CEOs are finding it empowering.

It’s a mindset Wolff Olins says forces CEOs to think about “inputs over outputs.” Outputs are sales figures and other corporate-designed metrics. Inputs are less tangible pieces of corporate culture; things like creating an environment where employees feel both safe and motivated enough to fail when trying something new. And in fact, 86% of CEOs Wolff Olins spoke to were focusing their energy on driving “numerous yet agile small teams,” projects that remind us of Adobe’s Red Box initiative, where employees are given $1,000 and carte blanche to develop and test new products. As Adobe’s Chief Strategist and Vice President of Creativity Mark Randall told us, only one in 1,000 of those projects needs to be a hit for the entire Red Box project to pay for itself.

Wolff Olins does caution that a CEO who approaches her employees with questions rather than answers is in an inherently precarious position, but the fact of the matter is, this sort of approach may not be optional when it comes to the younger generation of worker entering the market today. Wolff Olins polled 480 twenty-somethings about their work preferences, and almost half said two key things: 1.) they’d rather work for their own company and 2.) the company where they are employed would be better if they were in charge. Is an employee who is so self-assured ever going to respond well to top-down edicts? As Wolff Olins writes in the report, it’s a tricky tightrope to walk: “Leaders, in response, are learning to be less the visionary, less the sage, less the objective-setter, and more the shaper, the connector, the questioner. And yet at times, they also need to intervene, to insist, to control. It’s a fluid role, its shape not yet clear.”

THIS YEAR, Millennials will overtake Baby Boomers

This year, the “Millennial” generation is projected to surpass the outsized Baby Generation PopulationBoom generation as the nation’s largest living generation, according to the population projections released by the U.S. Census Bureau last month. Millennials (whom we define as between ages 18 to 34 in 2015) are projected to number 75.3 million, surpassing the projected 74.9 million Boomers (ages 51 to 69). The Gen X population (ages 35 to 50 in 2015) is projected to outnumber the Boomers by 2028.

The Millennial generation continues to grow as young immigrants expand their ranks. Boomers – a generation defined by the boom in U.S. births following World War II — are older and shrinking in size as the number of deaths exceed the number of older immigrants arriving in the country.

FT_generations-definedGenerations are analytical constructs and it takes time for popular and expert consensus to develop as to the precise boundaries demarcating one generation from another. The Pew Research Center has established that the oldest “Millennial” was born in 1981. The Center continues to assess demographic, attitudinal and other evidence on habits and culture that will help to establish when the youngest “Millennial” was born or even when a new generation begins. To distill the implications of the census numbers for generational heft, this analysis assumes that the youngest “Millennial” was born in 1997.

Here’s a look at some generational projections:

Millennials

  • The Census Bureau projects that the Millennial population was 74.8 million in 2014. By 2015 Millennials will increase in size to 75.3 million and become the biggest group.
  • With immigration adding more numbers to its group than any other, the Millennial population is projected to peak in 2036 at 81.1 million. Thereafter the oldest Millennial will be at least 56 years of age and mortality is projected to outweigh net immigration. By 2050 there will be a projected 79.2 million Millennials.

size of each generation Millennial Baby Boomer Gen XGeneration X

  • For a few more years, Gen Xers are projected to remain the “middle child” of generations – caught between two larger generations of the Millennials and the Boomers. They are smaller than Millennials because the generational span of Gen X (16 years) is shorter than the Millennials (17 years). Also, the Gen Xers were born during a period when Americans were having fewer children than later decades. When Gen Xers were born, births averaged around 3.4 million per year, compared with the 3.9 million annual rate during the 1980s and 1990s when Millennials were born.
  • Though the oldest Gen Xer is now 50, the Gen X population will still grow for a few more years. The Gen X population is projected to outnumber the Boomers in 2028 when there will be 64.6 million Gen Xers and 63.7 million Boomers. The Census Bureau projects that the Gen X population will peak at 65.8 million in 2018.

Baby Boomers

  • Baby Boomers have always had an outsized presence compared with other generations. They were the largest generation and peaked at 78.8 million in 1999.
  • There were a projected 75.4 million Boomers in 2014. By mid-century, the Boomer population will dwindle to 16.6 million.

– Richard Fry is a senior researcher focusing on economics and education at Pew Research Center.

What a Bit of Executive History Shows Us, an excerpt from CEO Point Blank

CEO Point Blank

The 2000s, in my opinion, have been the most trying and difficult times C-suite executives have ever faced in American history—even tougher than the Great Depression.  Not only do we have a tougher business climate, we are faced with bigger competitors—global competitors that do not operate under the same set of rules as we do in the United States.  The idea that globally things are “fair and even” and “may the best-managed company win” are concepts and beliefs shared by no one I know.

The global economy and unfair competitive practices aside, we continue to legislate and regulate ourselves internally to the point where we spend the majority of time wallowing around trying to create some kind of competitive advantage out of thin air.  I spend a lot of time thinking about exactly what happened to us as a country post World War II when we were filled with hope and confidence that when all else failed, we could outwork you.  I see great companies struggle with trying to find production efficiencies while their foreign competitors are allowed to flow products into the American market unchecked and unregulated.

I must admit to being part of the problem.  Here’s why.

Post World War II, our economy was made up primarily of family businesses that covered the range of our needs from food to clothing, transportation, and manufacturing craftsmanship.  Family businesses were passed down from generation to generation with the “secret sauce” that made the products or services unique to the region or geography they served.  You knew where your food came from, where your clothes were made, and you even knew the name of the family that made your car.

Our returning hero’s average age was twenty-six and many were returning to the family business, or turning to trades they had learned while in the military.  They were received into the workplace with open arms and the country was ready to step on the gas, fueling the largest generation of consumers the United States was ever to see.

The returning veterans were schooled in the family businesses and the discipline it took to operate them. They were charged with learning the tasks and craftsmanship of their trade because their mission was to protect the family homestead and their families relied on them.  Those that had new talents put them to use, still with the idea of making America stronger and their lives better.

The results speak for themselves.  Some of the strongest financial years in America were from 1945 through 1965.

And then things got tweaked.  Our foreign policy became unpopular.  The average age of an infantryman in Vietnam was twenty-two. Our youth (I was one of them) rebelled against everything that even resembled someone telling us what to do.  Belonging to anything was frowned upon.  I remember being at college one fall and seeing a group of guys spray painting a sign over a fraternity house door that said, “It’s wrong to belong.”  We had begun to question everything, believe in nothing but freedom—whatever that was—and reject the foundational pillars that had given us the best economic conditions in the history of the world with the highest standard of living yet to be experienced.

It took a few years for the rebellious students of the 1960s and 1970s to get around to work, as most of us went to college, and many on the six-year plan.  As we began to assume positions of authority, we slowly began to bring our rebellious nature to the workplace:  We threw out tradition. We didn’t need to wear a stinking tie–we worked better in flip-flops.  We worked in cubicles because offices created “silos.”  I remember listening with rapt attention to one of the long-haired business gurus of the time with a primetime audience tell us to break down the silos, that big oil was making too much money, and the banks were ripping us off.  He had all the answers.  Get your people a meditation room–that’s what attracts the real talent.

We all drank that Kool-Aid and we changed the face of American business just as we had changed the face of American culture fifteen years prior.  The results speak for themselves.

Please understand that I am not accusing, because I was part of that movement and I was a leader at the C-suite level.  As I look back at my career, I always felt like something was missing.  No matter my success, I always felt a bit hollow.  I think back on my college days and wonder why I didn’t buck the trend and rush that fraternity.

We had all lost our business discipline.  I could make money; that was the easy part.  But I couldn’t control my attitude and approach to anything that resembled authority and control, and believe me, I wasn’t alone.  Everyone was stupid, no one could keep up with me, and I wanted to run ahead of them and demand they keep up with me.  Rules were for other people, not for me.  I was so good at the money-making part that most of the time, people would leave me alone because they knew inherently that they were better off for me running off like a mad man and putting money in their pockets.

I am sixty years old, and though I’ve lived life well I am still discovering and facing the truth about myself and looking to be better for it.  I want to be the person who finds a way to get through to other C-suite executives and prove to them that silos work, we can be competitive globally, it is okay to be a leader, and that the single greatest gift you can bring to an organization is discipline: order overlaid with a huge dose of forgiveness.  If we are to bring our economy back to any level of dominance, we must be disciplined in our approach and willing to subjugate ourselves to our mission.

– Ed Jenks is Senior Consultant and Chief Strategist of The Jenks Group, Inc. is a well-known and nationally recognized business professional with more than twenty-five years as a C-Suite Executive.

 

What US Navy SEALs can teach your Executive Teams

Strategic Operations Skills Training

Strategic Operations Skills Training

 

KFMB Channel 8 News reporter Alicia Summers filmed and participated in our S.O.S.T. training. Here is FAST Team 8, they were awesome!! Back row left to right, US Navy SEAL Steve Bailey, Master Chief Ret., Dave Sweeney, Room 5; David Foos, Meeting Match; Craig Goldberg, 6 Degrees Business Networking; US Navy SEAL Mike Cheswick; Faisal Kohgadai, Meeting Match; Matthew Arena, TGG Accounting; US Navy SEAL Kirby Horrell; Front row left to right, Sharon Jenks, The Jenks Group, Inc. and Alicia Summers, Reporter KFMB Channel 8 News. You can watch the video here:

Not Your Typical Corporate Classroom

To learn more about the Strategic Operations Skills Training (S.O.S.T.) go to http://www.sosttraining.com and find out how this unique program can improve your organization when your team learns the 6 Game-Changing Skills taught by the US Navy SEALs and The Jenks Group instructors.