Millennials want to change the world and we need to help

You can call them echo boomers, Gen Y or millennials, but whatever you call them, the generation born between 1982 and 2000 is 80 million strong and estimated to make up as much as 75 percent of the workforce by 2025.

That means every business and nonprofit must understand how to engage the emerging leaders in this important generation. They need to maximize this generation’s ability to be a force for good, because research shows that a large percentage of millennials want to live a life centered on advancing the common good.

Studies consistently indicate there is a generational shift in attitudes. For example, one recent study found that two-thirds of millennials wanted their employers to contribute to social or ethical causes they felt were important. Only half of the boomers and Gen Xers surveyed shared that opinion.

Wanted: Serious and meaningful opportunities to serve

So, the potential of this generation to create positive change is huge.

They already have an underlying service-oriented attitude, and many are deeply involved with improving their local communities. But there is so much work that needs to be done. Our challenge is how do we effectively connect them to that work?

United Way of Central Ohio has been researching this question as part of a pilot group of United Ways from across the country.

We’ve learned a lot by hearing directly from millennials about their professional and service goals.

They are very community-minded and want serious and meaningful volunteer and philanthropic opportunities to transform the places where they live and work. They also want professional networking events, but ones that are primarily structured around creating change, not just exchanging small talk.

LINCing leaders to action

Corporate and nonprofit leaders need to take note of the clear messages we are hearing from millennials in order to engage, motivate and mobilize them.

At United Way, we just launched a new affinity group aimed at doing just that. It’s called LINC, which stands for Lead, Impact, Network, Change.

Its members direct the group so it reflects their priorities and connects them to opportunities in the ways they find most familiar and effective. For example, as you might expect, digital communications are key, but so are frequent face-to-face personal contacts.

United Way reached out to our corporate partners to help us find emerging leaders energized by the idea of joining LINC and the response has been very positive. These forward-thinking companies understand that engaging their millennial employees is a top priority for future growth, and that in order to attract and retain the best people they not only have to be active corporate citizens but they also have to be recognized as such.

The millennial generation will change the world, and now is the time to engage these young leaders and harness their creativity, energy and passion for making a difference.