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Millennials are changing the face of business for good

"Values are important to millennials. They weren’t to my generation," says international change expert and award-winning author Campbell Macpherson

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“Cam, we need a purpose,” was the opening remark of the CEO of a major global recruiting firm during a recent phone call with Campbell Macpherson, international change expert and award-winning author.

Campbell wholeheartedly agreed with him as he had been preaching the value of purpose for years; however, this enormous firm had been incredibly successful without one for decades, so why does the CEO need purpose now?

“Because our millennial employees are demanding it,” the CEO told him.

“It’s worse than that,” Campbell added. “Your millennial customers are demanding you have one too. If you don’t have a purpose beyond filling vacancies and making profit for your partners, your prize employees and key customers will go somewhere else.”

Millennials, also known as generation Y and born between 1981 and 1996, are changing the face of business.

millennials, campbell macpherson
International change expert and award-winning author Campbell Macpherson.

“Values are important to millennials. They weren’t to my generation,” Campbell says. “We started work in the ‘Greed is Good’ 80s and values were merely meaningless words that HR departments printed on coffee cups.

“Millennials are different. If the company they are working for isn’t making a difference to society, they will move on. If the leaders aren’t genuinely living up to the company’s values, they will move on. If their boss is an emotionally unintelligent bully, they will move on. Many of my generation secretly wish they had half of their self-confidence and sense of self-worth.

“Yet millennials are the object of a deluge of derision and despair, labelled as lazy and, the most preposterous of all: ‘snowflakes’.

“They aren’t lazy, they simply don’t wish to be treated as slave labour. They find the thought of unpaid internships to be abhorrent and question the value of ‘pulling an all-nighter’ so that the Partner can earn their bonus. I don’t blame them.”

Millennials changing the face of business are leaders including Brian Chesky, the billionaire Co-Founder and CEO of peer-to-peer lodging service Airbnb; Whitney Wolfe Herd, the billionaire Founder and CEO of social and dating app Bumble; and Ben Silbermann, the billionaire Co-Founder and CEO of social media network Pinterest.

Airbnb Co-Founder, CEO and billionaire Brian Chesky.

“Millennials have come to the world of work with the full knowledge that employee loyalty and employer loyalty are myths,” Campbell says. “My generation has been in denial about this for decades. The 35-and-unders know that employment is a transaction: they do the work in exchange for cash and the opportunity to develop new skills.

“They know that their current employer won’t last forever, that the job-for-life days are long gone. The career-for-life is long gone too. Millennials will have multiple employers and several careers. They will switch from full-time to part-time and back again. They will take career breaks. They know that they are in the driver’s seat. It’s their life.

“Unlike my generation, they came to adulthood with a burning desire for work–life balance from the start. Some of my age group despair at this, and yet they know full well that it is the right approach – as we have been striving, and failing, to achieve it for far too long.

“The ‘millennials as snowflakes’ argument that so many pundits and employers have delighted in making these last few years is both spurious and lazy, and it goes something like this – ‘Millennials have been subject to failed parenting strategies. They have been brought up to believe that anything is possible, with unrealistic expectations that will almost certainly end in disappointment. Their parents have never let them experience failure so when they do inevitably stumble, they crash. They are entitled and lazy with zero resilience.’

“What a load of nonsense,” adds Campbell, whose first book The Change Catalyst, won the 2018 Business Book of the Year in London, UK.

Campbell, in his new book The Power to Change, which has been shortlisted for the 2021 Business Book Awards, writes that millennials possess a different form of resilience than the generations that preceded them: a resilience based on self-worth and a genuine understanding of the importance of mental health.

“They also appreciate that man-made climate change is real and has reached crisis levels,” he says. “They realise that unfettered human activity is destroying the natural world, rendering millions of species extinct and enabling killer viruses to roam the planet. And hopefully, unlike the generations that preceded them, they may actually do something about it.

“I love the way millennials accept change – instinctively. Not only have they grown up knowing that change is inevitable, they look around, see what needs to be changed and get on with it. In my view, millennials have the right attitude and, hopefully, will soon seize the reins of power to not only change the world, but to save it.”

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