The Millennials are Coming!

August 4th, 2014

How Gen Y-ers will Drive Boulder’s Blueprint Vision

According to recent studies, Millennials—those born (roughly) between 1982 and 2003—will have major impacts on our business community. These impacts will affect how we implement the Innovation Blueprint 3.0 and other community initiatives, such as Better Boulder.  Although Boomers and Gen X-ers may be primary designers of these initiatives, their ultimate success will rest with the Gen Y-ers who will implement them.  

Moreover, how companies relate to Millennials is such an important topic, Colorado State University recently held a multi-day conference to discuss the issue. Thus, we wanted get the perspective of local Millennials. We turned to Joanna Hoffman, a board member of Bolder Young Professionals, on the likely impact Millennials could have on Boulder’s future. (Bolder Young Professionals is a nonprofit Chamber affiliate. Ms. Huffman is also Investor Relations Manager for the Chamber.)

Millennials an Increasingly Dominant Cohort

In a report for the Brookings Institution, Morley Winograd and Dr. Michael Hais stated that the Millennial generation will become a dominant population cohort, comprising more than one-third the adult American population by 2020, and up to 75 percent of the workforce by 2025.[i] They produced the following chart to illustrate (used here with permission):


Millennials’ Goals and Values

Studies by the Pew Research Center[ii], the Brookings Institution, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited[iii], and the Achieve agency in concert with the Case Foundation[iv], reported a number of findings about Millennials. Among other characteristics, they found:

  • Because of their numbers, Millennials will dominate corporate culture and believe businesses could be forces for societal good while still embracing profitability.
  • They believe both government and business have roles in addressing big issues.
  • They are “Digital Natives”, having lived with new technologies and media, they embrace new technologies more readily.
  • They look to push innovation as a corporate value.
  • As a group, Millennials are racially diverse and highly educated.
  • Millennials are optimistic about the future, but economically stretched, living with student debt and the hangover of the Great Recession.
  • They will build communities of association built on shared interests, not only on geographical proximity.
  • They will embrace pragmatism more than ideology and polarization.
  • They will be socially aware as producers and consumers, perhaps redefining “well-being”.
  • They are less trusting of big institutions and the concentration of power.

 The Boulder Perspective

 Boulder Chamber: Joanna, would you agree in general with how these studies have characterized Millennials’ views? What would you add or amend?

Joanna Hoffman: Absolutely. Millennials get a lot of flak for their supposed entitlement and narcissism, but what you often don’t hear about is that Millennials prioritize helping people in need over having a high-paying job. I read a PriceWaterhouseCoopers survey indicating that 86 percent of Millennials would consider leaving an employer if its social-responsibility values no longer matched their expectations. Studies have long shown that an individual’s job performance depends heavily on how meaningful she perceives her work to be. More than ever, young people entering the job market are making decisions based on how closely their personal values align with a company’s values.

BC: Do you feel they have a voice in the Boulder business community? How are they involved in general?

 JH: Yes I do. In Boulder, people ages 18-24 represent up to 31% of the population, which has given us a tremendous amount of leverage in the community. Understanding this need, Bolder Young Professionals’ goal is to help strengthen and further our involvement in the Boulder business community. We help connect young professionals through social, service and professional development opportunities. It’s free to join, courtesy of the Boulder Chamber.

 BC: Do you see Gen Y-ers’ impacts on Boulder businesses today?

 JH: Absolutely. I think Gen Y-ers in Boulder play a large part in our entrepreneurial and startup success. Generation Y is said to be the fastest growing generation in business and in business leadership positions, and they are incredibly tech savvy. People in Generation Y were born into an emerging world of technology and have grown up surrounded by smart phones, laptops, tablets, and other gadgets.

 BC: Will adapting to the influx of Millennials, both as workers and customers, give businesses a competitive edge? If so, how?

 JH: I think so. One important characteristic of Millennials is that they are used to working flexibly—anywhere, at any time of day or night. Millennials won’t be satisfied to just punch in and sit at a desk from 9 to 5. With this in mind, it would give businesses a competitive edge to embrace this characteristic and adapt to a results-only work environment.  A results-only work environment is where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence. This management strategy allows employees to do whatever they want whenever they want—as long as their work gets done. This increases Millennials’ job satisfaction and makes sure that employees are results oriented.

BC: With regard to the Innovation Blueprint 3.0, how does that dovetail with what Millennials see as needed future directions for the community?

JH: Over the past decade, Boulder, Colorado, has solidified its position as a center for innovation and entrepreneurship. This movement has been supported by local business, government, academic, and community leaders to create an environment where new businesses can start and succeed. This environment is crucial for supporting Millennials in their journey as they continue to help become an agent for continued creativity and entrepreneurship.

 BC: Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


[i] Morley Winograd and Dr. Michael Hais, “How Millennials Could Updend Wall Street and Corporate America”, Governanace Studies at Brookings, The Brookings Institution, May 2014, p. 2.

[ii] Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends, Pew Research Center, March 7, 2014.

[iii] Big demands and high expectations: The Deloitte Millennial Survey, January 2014

[iv] Inspiring The Next Generation Workforce – The 2014 Millennial Impact Report, Achieve, sponsored by The Case Foundation, June 2014.

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