Millennial changemakers are going from the cool hotness to the c-suite

Josh Green, associate strategy director at Spark Foundry, examines the shift that's coming with a generational changeover.

For the past decade, our industry has bandied around the term ‘millennials’ as a proxy for everything cool, tech and youth adjacent. Society has so successfully forged a link between this generation and youth culture that we’ve largely ignored the fact that millennials just aren’t that young anymore.  

Knowing that they are tapping on the glass of the c-suite, and are expected to make up 75% of the Australian workforce by 2025, we find ourselves at a significant turning point. We are teetering on the brink with a critical mass of changemakers who have the potential to drive impact at speed and scale. 

LinkedIn’s B2B Institute recently released a paper entitled Work in BETA: The Rising B2B Decision Makers, that called out the changing role of millennials in both workplaces and culture more broadly. There were two elements to this paper that struck me as particularly noteworthy.  

The first was the increasing prominence of this generation in the business decision-making process. They have both a seat and a voice at the table that is having repercussions across organisations. 

Secondly, and linked to the influence they wield, is their appetite for meaningful action when it comes to social justice issues and climate. A whopping 67% would pay more for sustainable products. 

Perhaps it puts me in the camp of a technological determinist, but widespread access to the internet has made millennials one of the most informed (and arguably, woke) groups of people on the planet. 

As an article in Time magazine How Millennial Leaders Will Change America speculates, when they reach critical mass in the workforce “it may feel like a revolution, in part because this generation has different political views than those in power now. Millennials are more racially diverse, more tuned in to the power of networks and systems and more socially progressive than either Gen X or Baby Boomers on nearly every available metric”. 

One of the most exciting opportunities that millennials now face is having the resource and influence to plug what Junkee Media’s 2021 Youth Report, Brand New World, has dubbed ‘The Intention-Action Gap’: the disjunct between corporate values and meaningful action.    

Looking more closely at this research – and in particular, the topics that young people in Australia care about – we see the potential for millennials to accelerate the existing implementation of gender equal hiring and remuneration practices; the establishment of tangible commitments to climate change action and the promotion of greater recognition and inclusion of diverse voices, including First Nations people. And that’s just them getting started.  

For brands, having purpose baked into your business has never been more important. As Junkee’s research suggests, while it’s not the deciding factor in consumers purchasing your brand over another, it is an expectation. Those that fail to meet it, risk drops in sales and, worse, irrelevance.  

Perhaps this is looking at my contemporaries through rose-coloured glasses. I’m quick to recognise that this cohort is not a homogenous mass and not every member holds the same progressive attitudes. 

And yet, as an eternal optimist, I can’t help but wonder (and hope) at the meaningful impact this generational shift can potentially have on Australia.  

For our industry, we’re at the start of a momentous moment.  

The true leaders in the marketing and advertising space have already observed and acted upon it via forward-thinking leadership teams implementing policies that are reflective of not only millennial values, but values that are culturally resonant across generations.  

For those yet to catch up: embrace this wave of thinking and provide the new generation of leaders with the space to create value-based action or risk falling behind the zeitgeist. 

Josh Green is the associate strategy director at Spark Foundry.


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