Motivated and compassionate. Those are two adjectives you likely haven't heard hurled at millennials, the much-maligned demographic cohort born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. The so-called "selfie generation" is typically labelled as narcissistic and said to have wildly unrealistic expectations. Why can't a 20-something have the corner office - now?
Our organisation comprises a non-profit, social enterprise and event day that specialises in getting people to embrace the concept of "WE"--thinking beyond themselves and helping others. We achieve this mission with a mostly millennial staff. (Craig is one of them.) And we have personally witnessed thousands of millennials giving back.
Here, we debunk four myths on the generation.
Myth: Millennials are so-o self-centered
Our friend David Stillman is a generational specialist who literally (co)wrote the book on millennials. In "The M Factor" (Harper Collins, 2010), Stillman writes that millennials have a desire to make a difference in the world. The (mostly) under-30 set are also more likely than any other age group to pay more for products tied to a social benefit, according to a 2014 Nielson survey of 29,000 people in 58 countries.
One-third of the so-called "me generation" has researched a corporation's business practices, according to a 2013 Cone Communications study on social impact. The same study shows when companies support social and environmental issues, millennials reward them with increased trust (91 percent), loyalty (89 percent)--and are 89 percent more likely to buy their products and services.
Myth: Millennials are disloyal job-hoppers
Millennials are the fastest-growing segment of workers today. They also entered the workforce at one of the hardest economic times in history. Yes, millennials change jobs frequently. But they're often forced to if they want a non-contract gig with benefits, and have any chance of getting ahead in corporate world dominated by boomers in plum positions who don't plan to retire.
What we love about millennials is they aren't content to do good on their spare time; they want their work to matter. This generation was raised by parents who instilled in them the message: find something that has meaning for you. While jobs haven't been plentiful for millennials, the Cone social impact study shows that 78% of millennials say a company's CSR record influences whether they want to work there.
Myth: Millennials aren't activists
These digital natives don't know what it's like to live without computers. Accordingly, their social activism tools don't include marches, picket signs and going door-to-door to get a paper petition signed. But they are amazing online activists who wield hashtags like weapons and can ensure a video on an issue they care about goes viral.
If this sounds like "slacktivisim" to you, consider a 2011 study out of Georgetown University in Washington D.C., that found those who support a cause online are two times more likely to volunteer their time for that cause, four times more likely to follow up by contacting a decision-maker, and five times more likely to recruit others, than a person who supports a cause offline.
"The term slacktivism is inaccurate as a descriptive of the online petition phenomenon," says Dr. Jonathan White, director of service learning at Bentley University in Massachusetts and an expert in cause engagement.
Myth: Millennials are cheap
Millennials don't splash around cash. Research shows they're the drivers of the sharing economy, who are happy to share cars, and even rent clothing for a big event. A 2015 survey by American investment firm Merril Lynch reveals millennials are more likely than any other generation to think carefully before making big purchases. That's great money sense for a cohort bogged down by student debt and record-high rental and real estate rates. The same study finds this generation is three times more likely than others to splurge on something if it generates lasting memories. They crave experiences over purchases, which we applaud.
We can't wait for millennials to inhabit corner offices and take on positions of power in government; their sense of social compassionate will benefit everyone.
Brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger founded a platform for social change that includes the international charity Free The Children, the social enterprise ME to WE and the youth empowerment movement WE Day