The Millennial Effect

On Monday, The Herald Group hosted a candid public dialogue on why public affairs professionals should care about the often-controversial demographic of Millennials.

HC millen eventMillennials. Generation Y. The Entitled.

You may have referred to them as trophy kids, narcissistic or the worst employees in history. Whatever you want to call them, this group isn’t going anywhere and they are a force to be reckoned with. This is the focus of “Fast Future” by David Burstein and was the subject of discussion at Monday’s event; leave your qualms at the door.

By definition Millennials are between 18 and 30 years old today. By 2020, Millennials will make up nearly 1/3 of the population, the largest generation in U.S. history (move over baby boomers). As far as voting blocs go, it doesn’t get much bigger than that.  In large part due to these numbers, we as political and policy communicators and strategists must learn to communicate with Millennials, learn who they are and stop falling back on preconceived notions.

The most common misconceptions about Millennials are that they are lazy, self-entitled and harness left wing tendencies. The data shows a much more complex profile. Keep in mind this is a generation who began their professional careers during a time when the economy was facing a national recession, a less than desirable market to say the least, and yet Millennials maintain optimism about their future and stay connected with one another.

While Millennials do seek to live in a more inclusive world (70% support legalizing gay marriage), many are fiscally conservative. They have watched the mistakes of their parents, and others, when it comes to economic crisis. They are delaying home ownership, car ownership and marriage so that they don’t hit the same pitfalls as others in the past. The perception of self-entitlement in Millennials is, in actuality, a drive to accomplish great things and their belief that they can. Many Millennials are looking at the prospect of starting their own businesses to not only catapult their success, but contribute to the social change they believe in.

The issue of Millennial misinterpretation stems primarily from inter-generational misunderstanding. Millennials are deftly using new outlets, such as social media, to their fullest extent while older generations are just beginning to dip their toes in to such technologies. Millennials feel empowered because they understand and, in a sense, control technology, and it is in this technological world that Millennials find a trust in one another, just look at the power of a Yelp review, Twitter or the Facebook post, their opinions matter (for the most part).

As other generations begin to accept the Millennial generation and learn how to understand them and the power they yield, we will see more job creation and new political policies emerging. Public affairs professionals and politicians should remember to engage with Millennials instead of turn them away or chastise them. They will find objectives met more easily and maybe even a professional connection they did not believe could exist.

What are your thoughts on the Millennial generation? Let us know!