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Welcoming Millennial Event Professionals to the Party

“Submitted for your approval, or at least your analysis”*…. the time for Millennial Bashing has passed: It is more than time for Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in corporate leadership to welcome Millennial Event Professionals as a generation come of age and eager to take the reins.

Indeed, Millennials surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in U.S. labor force two years ago, so why does it seem that we’re still demystifying (and criticizing) this generational force of nature? Perhaps it’s human nature to objectify social groups that we fear or misunderstand.

Generations are often defined as “all of the people born and living at about the same time, regarded collectively.” Often in reaction to changing economic, cultural, and historical events, young people of each generation rebel against existing social order, creating new aspirational standards and embracing fresh values. And this rebellion against previous behavioral norms and values creates tension between the generations.

Three generations comprise 97% of today’s workforce:

  • 29% (and retiring) are Baby Boomers (ages 52 to 71 in 2017)
  • 34% are Gen Xers (ages 37 to 52)
  • 34% (and growing) are Millennials (ages 20 to 36)

According to a Young Careerists research study by the Business Professional Women’s Foundation cited in Deloitte’s 6th Annual Millennial Survey 2017, by 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be comprised of millennials.

Vip Sandhir, CEO of HighGround, a Chicago-based software company that helps businesses increase employee performance and drive engagement, notes that “Generational change is one of the critical problems you see in the workplace today. Over 10,000 baby boomers retire every day, and 10,000 people turn 18 every day.”

Millennials (also referred to as “Gen Y”) are now our largest events audience, and Millennial Event Professionals have started advancing beyond entry level coordinator jobs. As a result, two topics demand out attention:

  1. As employers and peers, what do we need to consider when working with Millennial Event Professionals?
  2. As event designers, how do we meet the interests of millennials in the events we produce?

HighGround CTO Anjoo Rai-Marchant points out that if companies are able to keep their workforce engaged, it will inevitably lead to further growth: “Companies that have an engaged workforce see an increase in profitability, an increase in customer satisfaction and reduced employee turnover. All three impact the bottom line for an organization.”

When working with Millennial Event Professionals in the workplace, remember that:

  • Defining and communicating purpose is key to employee engagement. Sanhir notes that “Purpose has become one of the key attributes that a millennial will look for when they’re looking for a job. It’s more important than ever that a company really focuses on what is their mission, their vision and their values.”
  • Millennials are looking for a coach, not a boss. According to Rai-Marchant, successful management has been of the past has been typical top-down type of management, almost like a parent-child relationship, and what we’re starting to see is much more peer-to-peer type interaction.” And while millennials are may be instigating this, she points out that “all generations are now looking for a more collaborative approach in the workplace and prefer a coach to a boss — someone who is there to mentor and encourage them.”
  • Millennials want real-time feedback, transparency, and clear goals; they want to feel recognized and valued throughout the year, not just during their annual review.
  • Millennials want to make an impact through their employers and opportunities to be involved with “good causes” at the local level provide millennials with a greater feeling of influence.
  • Workplace flexibility has become more important to all generations, but for millennials, work-life fit is valued more than compensation growth or skill development.

When planning events for a millennial audience, a recent Gather Geeks podcast highlights the need for

  • More conversation and participatory events; more breakout sessions and fewer lectures.
  • Icebreakers to facilitate networking among introverted Millennials who may have hard time creating the authentic conversations they desire.
  • Hashtags and opportunities to engage in social media for larger conferences.
  • Sponsorships that connect: Millennials readily embrace companies that give back to good causes.
  • Continuing relationships even after an event and extending the outreach by recruiting their own network to future events.

In welcoming a new generation of Millennial Event Professionals, it’s more important to be millennial-minded than to target millennials specifically. The desires of this generation cross into other age groups, as well. Everyone wants to be part of events experiences that touch all five senses, as well as our hearts and imagination.

* “Submitted for your approval, or at least your analysis” is a catchphrase familiar to baby boomers who were fans of the sixties television series “The Twilight Zone” created by Rod Serling.


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