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Friday, 15 November 2013

Can Millennials build a better political future?

by David Coletto

Three things everyone should know about Millennials…
  1. Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) are the second largest generation in Canada with about 8 million individuals representing 24% of the population.  By 2020, 40% of the working age population will be Millennials

  2. Millennials, having been raised in a highly structure environment, crave feedback and believe they can achieve anything they want to.  They have high expectations and need to understand how they can achieve their goals.  Keep them focused and give them feedback on their work and they will stay motivated.

  3. Millennials are highly creative multi-taskers and adopt new technologies quickly.  Give them a problem and let them come up with a solution using their extensive networks.  Ask them to report their progress and provide constructive feedback on their work regularly.

Three myths about Millennials...

Myth #1:  Millennials are entitled, lazy, and don't work hard. 

The reality:  We are all entitled to some extent, regardless of the generation.  Millennials have been raised to believe anything is possible.  Embrace this optimism and confidence and focus it on solving problems.  Bring them onto your teams, task them with specific jobs, and provide them with the structure and feedback they crave. Set clear objectives with time lines and deliverables and expect results quickly.

Myth #2:  Millennials are apathetic about politics and public affairs. 

The reality:  Yes, young Canadians are far less likely to vote than older generations but it is not because they don't care.  Most Millennials are highly engaged and care deeply about their communities.  Recent social movements in Canada (Occupy, Idle No More, and the student protests in Quebec) were organized and driven by Millennials. Many Millennials believe they are not informed enough about politics and don't yet have the confidence to responsibly participate as citizens.  But their generation's size means they can fundamentally alter the political life of a country or province.

Myth #3:  Millennials are no worse off than previous generations.

The reality:  It is empirically more difficult today for Millennials than in previous generations.  Not only is youth unemployment higher than in recent years, but many of the entry level jobs that young people could rely on in the past are taken up by older generations.  Add in high personal debt (higher tuition fees), unaffordable housing in most large urban centres, and a rising cost of living, and you have a generation that is delaying many of the big life decisions.  

David Coletto is CEO of Abacus Data and adjunct professor at the Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs at Carleton University.  He is regularly called upon by private and public sector organizations to speak about how they can better understand and engage the emerging Millennial generation in Canada.  Follow him on Twitter (@ColettoD) and read insights and analysis at

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