3 Societal Shifts That Will Affect How You Do Business

By Joanie Connell | Blog

The Millennial generation is profoundly influencing our society in many ways that may impact your business a great deal. According to a recent Pew Research study, Millennials are currently the largest generation in the workplace in the United States.  They outnumber both Generation X and Baby Boomer workers. By the year 2020, they will have more than 50 percent of all jobs.  

They are also getting older—the oldest are approaching 40—and are starting to settle down at home and move up at work. They are having kids, gaining buying power, moving into corporate leadership positions, starting their own companies, and some are even leading political parties.  

Millennials have different values, interests, and behaviors than previous generations do. This is natural, as they were raised in a different time than other generations were. The question is, however, how is your business planning for the shifts in values, interests, and behaviors of the next generation of employees, customers, and leaders?  

Here are 3 millennial-led societal shifts that will affect how you do business:  

1. Protected from Danger

People 40 and older often reminisce of walking or taking the public bus to school on their own and playing in the neighborhood unsupervised until dinnertime, but they wouldn’t dream of letting their children do that today. As a result of growing up much more protected, Millennials are used to other people telling them when it’s safe and many expect that as adults too.  

How does this affect businesses?

People in America have begun to adopt the attitude that they should be warned of potential dangers.  When they end up in harm’s way, they sue business owners because it’s “not their fault.” A construction business in Georgia, for example, recently had to pay legal compensation of $161K to a person who walked into a ladder while texting.  

Because of lawsuits like this, business owners have had to extend their insurance coverage and require people to sign waivers for as little as walking in the door. Is your business adequately protected?

As people abdicate personal responsibility, the government adds regulations and laws to protect people. With increased regulation, people become afraid of being caught for saying or doing the wrong thing and they start sneaking around, communicating in secret, and avoiding others altogether.  

For example, one study found in that nearly two-thirds of men in senior positions reduced their interactions with more junior women for fear of being suspected of having an affair. Is your business up to date with the changing laws and regulations? Do you know how people are behaving in your company? And how their behaviors might affect your business?

2. The Modern Family

Many Millennials are delaying marriage or deciding not to marry altogether, according to a new U.S. Census Report. This trend has been a long time coming, as Gen Xers waited longer than the Baby Boomers, and the Baby Boomers waited longer than their parents to get married too. What’s different, however, is that Millennials, more than other generations, have children outside of marriage. According to a recent Gallup Report, nearly half of Millennials in their mid-thirties who have never married have children.

Up until now, our society has largely relied on marriage to give legal rights to couples and their children. It’s been a hotly disputed issue because of the debate over whether same-sex couples should have legal rights. This article will not discuss that, except to say that Millennials have complicated that issue, as well, because they have challenged the definition of gender itself.  

A recent study shows at least half of the Millennials view gender as a spectrum, not a dichotomy. What’s more, TIME Magazine reports that “20% of millennials identify as something other than strictly straight and cisgender (someone whose gender is in line with the sex they were assigned at birth), compared with 7% of boomers.” This is all to say that the modern family has reached a new level of complexity.

How does this affect business?  

Employers are having to revisit benefits, health insurance, and family leave policies. The courts are re-examining civil rights and family law. Companies are modifying their sales and marketing campaigns. Is your business ready to re-examine people’s identities, needs, and desires at such a fundamental level?

3. Adulting

Millennials may be about to shed the stereotype of the perpetual adolescents. Yes, they have taken to “adulting” more slowly than previous generations, but the oldest of them are approaching forty and are finally starting to settle down. They have been slow to buy homes, for example, but recent figures show that 38 percent of home loans currently go to Millennials, and that number is on the rise as more Millennials pass through their 30s.  

The stereotype of the Millennial job-hopper may be about to be challenged too. While it still is true that Millennials change jobs three times as often as people in other generations, older Millennials are starting to want more stability. In a recent survey of Millennials by Qualtrics, almost 90 percent said they would choose to stay in a job for the next 10 years if they knew they’d get annual raises and upward career mobility.

How does this affect business?

Businesses have reacted so quickly adapt to Millennials not settling down that they’re going to have to pivot sharply to deal with Millennials now deciding to settle down. The good news for corporations is that they may finally have opportunities to get longer-term employees.  

This is not to say that companies should abandon the reality of job hopping because younger Millennials and future Generation Z employees may well continue this trend. Rather, businesses may need to evolve to have two approaches to attracting and retaining employees—one for short-term employees and another for long-term ones. What new ways is your business looking into to attract and retain employees with differing needs?

What’s the bottom line?

These are just three major changes that are affecting American businesses in response to the Millennial generation’s different attitudes, values, and behaviors. Many more exist. Your business may gain a significant competitive edge by incorporating discussions like this into your business strategy sessions.

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About the Author

Dr. Joanie B. Connell is an organizational consultant, keynote speaker, and leadership coach. She is the author of Flying without a Helicopter: How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life. She is also the Founder & CEO of Flexible Work Solutionswhich helps companies attract, develop, and retain top talent.