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Stories from the Innovation Quarter

What Millennials Mean for Business

Two years ago, millennials surpassed Generation X and Baby Boomers to become the largest living generation in the United States. As their numbers in the workforce increase, so does their influence on workplace trends.

Here are three ways these changing demographics affect the business world and how Wake Forest Innovation Quarter is getting in on the action:

1. Employers are looking for people with technology skills.
Technology skills: employers want them, and millennials have them. As the oldest millennials reach their mid-30s, employers are increasingly grooming their top workers for leadership roles. Chief executive officers are changing how they develop leaders. They’re looking for employees who embrace new technologies, among other skills, to help set their companies apart.

That expectation aligns with the lifestyles of millennials, the first generation to grow up in the digital world. Three-quarters of millennials believe that the technologies they use in their personal lives—such as social networking and instant messaging—make them more effective on the job. Turns out they might be right. Growing up in the digital age has made many millennials fluent in the very technology platforms that businesses are using as key business tools—more fluent, in fact, than some of the senior company officials hiring them.

In the Innovation Quarter, institutions like Forsyth Tech Community College, Wake Forest University and Wake Forest School of Medicine are training students to be fluent in digital strategy, while companies of all kinds—start-ups to large corporations—are creating new tools and methods to advance technologies of the future.

The Innovation Quarter is home to several tech-related conferences that prepare the workforce for the next wave of advancements. ConvergeSouth, a regional technology and creativity conference, attracts business people of all generations looking to learn about the latest developments in website design and all things digital marketing. The Inmar Analytics Forum brings business professionals from Fortune 500 companies together to explore how data can be employed to better reach consumers.

2. Millennials are looking for new jobs.
When it comes to work, millennials aren’t so different from their parents. Over the past three decades the average job tenure for workers from 25 to 34—the age range for most working millennials—has held steady at about three years, dispelling the myth that millennials are perennial job-hoppers.

Though millennials are not the job-hoppers they are reputed to be, many of them are still looking for a new job. In fact, two-thirds of them expect to have a new job by 2020, according to Deloitte’s 2016 annual millennial survey. Twenty-five percent of millennials plan to leave their job within a year.

The numbers are partly explained by economic conditions. Some are looking to move up from part-time jobs after the economic downtown a decade ago dampened demand for workers. However, many millennials are looking for a change for other reasons, which presents both a challenge and an opportunity for employers. It may be a challenge to keep your millennial workforce, but employers who understand what’s important to millennials in the workplace have a leg up on their competition.

As the Innovation Quarter grows, more jobs will be created. Projections indicate that by 2030 there could be as many as 9,000 people working here. That’s good news, to both millennials looking to invest their careers in our region and employers seeking talent. The Innovation Quarter aims to meet the needs of both.

To help with that load, institutions like Forsyth Tech’s Small Business Center, located here, prepare people entering the workforce. As part of its Economic and Workforce Development program, Forsyth Tech trains job-seekers with new skills to advance their careers and qualify them to work in new job sectors.

3. Millennials are looking for career development and mentors.
Once they’ve entered the workplace, millennials are looking for more than just a nice paycheck. At the top of the wish list is the opportunity for career advancement, even ahead of competitive wages and other financial incentives. Employers sometimes find that offering excellent training and personal development programs outweighs the seemingly obvious parts of the benefits package.

There’s a lesson here for employers: companies that encourage mentoring can strengthen loyalty among this age group. Millennials who intend to stay with their employer for more than five years are twice as likely to have mentors.

Mentorship comes in many forms, and the Innovation Quarter is rising to meet that need through its budding entrepreneurial ecosystem. Several programs are already in place to bring together aspiring entrepreneurs and more established veterans of entrepreneurship. Groups like the Center for Creative Economy, New Ventures NC and InnovateHER help start-up entrepreneurs connect with investors, find resources or engage businesses experts who can guide them in their career path. Venture Café, when it arrives in Winston-Salem later this year, will create similar connections across the community with an emphasis on innovation and improving the human condition.

As millennials enter the workplace in growing numbers, the business world is changing to embrace their technological savvy and desire to advance in their careers. This oft-referenced age group is remaking the workplace as the next generation of business leaders, while the Innovation Quarter works to create a place for them and their employers to flourish.