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Millennials poised to take over, expert says

Baby Boomers are retiring, Gen Xers are well into raising families and now Millennials -- that huge group of (more or less) 20-somethings -- are making waves. They’re also grabbing the attention of marketers, employers and mayors who want them to call their towns and cities home -- in large part because by 2020, they will be half the workforce.

But this latest cohort of Young Whippersnappers is different, says Ian Abston, co-founder of NEWaukee and an expert on young professionals who spoke to a Wisconsin Innovation Network luncheon on Tuesday.

For starters, he said, Millennials value experiences over “stuff,” are more tolerant than their predecessors, are marrying and having kids later, want to start their own businesses and would prefer to dwell in “cool and quirky" places rather than take a job someplace they perceive as dull.

“Sixty two percent prioritize living in a vibrant community over a higher-paying position,” he said. “We’ll find that before we sign the contract for a job.”

Abston said this cabal is the most educated generation in history, with more than 63 percent possessing at least bachelor’s degrees. By 2018, he added, they'll have the most spending power of any group -- “but will still ask you for 20 bucks to go the movies.”

Rather than getting their most of their shopping influences from newspapers, magazines or television, he said nearly half say “word of mouth” determines how they will use their money -- even though marketers continue to spend the majority of their dollars on TV ads. News websites and social media, he noted, are how most of them now get their information.

He said minorities (blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans) make up 40 percent of Millennials today, compared to 25 percent of the Boomer generation. And by 2043, he noted, minorities will represent more than half the workforce.

“Whites will be the minority, so how will business decisions (be affected), how will neighborhoods change and how will our apartments and condos look in 2043?” he asked. “And who will lead, because 63 percent of executives will retire in the next five years.”

Abston said 75 percent of Millennials see themselves as “authentic” and say they are not willing to compromise their family or values and 84 percent want to make a positive difference in the world and rate that higher than achieving professional recognition.

He said they while former generations valued justice, integrity, family and practicality, Millennials want happiness, passion, diversity, sharing and discovery, “so there is a massive generational shift happening right now.”

In addition, they do not trust authority as much as their parents or grandparents, and 66 percent are in favor of legalizing marijuana, he said.

Abston said people over 30 are less likely to move, so if cities and businesses want to attract them, they need to build “cool communities” with transportation options, nightlife, bike paths, walkable neighborhoods, affordable and a high quality of life, he said.

They also value “collisions,” but not the kind that happen on freeways, he said. Rather, these collisions occur in urban settings such as coffee shops, buses or trains and “not when you are sitting in your car commuting for half-an-hour.”

He said Milwaukee, Madison and other cities need to compete with New York, Chicago and San Francisco by using the same methods as the Brewers, starting with a farm system and doing it from within.

"It’s about growing your own talent, nurturing that talent, listening to them and grooming them because talent attracts talent and smart, motivated, entrepreneurial people want to hang out with other smart people.”

-- By Brian E. Clark,
For WisBusiness.com


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