The Millennials Myth

huff-mainThis story was originally published on Huffington Post.

We are all bombarded by content about millennials – how they study, work, buy, socialize and do virtually everything else. Demographers and researchers typically consider this magical generation as having been born between the early 1980s to the mid-1990s or early 2000s. The common premise is that millennials share characteristics that will have unique influence across industries, given the large population they represent.

The headlines and content speaks to the need for everyone, and most especially companies hiring or selling, to change. However, is it really an age group and demographic category that will have influence and require the need for change? Or is it that all generations face a profound time of digital disruption that is shaping how we study, work, buy and live?

I will put it out there – I have a problem with the label of “millennials.” The assumption is that this cohort will study, work, buy and live differently. I believe we all must adapt to learn, work, consume and live in a world which is increasingly more mobile, global, connected and social, no matter our age. We are living in a time in which change is upon us. It is exciting, as an optimist, thinking about the nature of the change we have seen across industries in the last decade alone. What lies ahead in both the short term and long term is change – change that is based on the underlying foundation of technology.

Clearly, “millennials” are fortunate that they have lived in an era of constant technology change. When my son (a “millennial”) was very young we brought his Gameboy or PSP out for dinner – today’s parents to young children simply hand over their own mobile device, loaded with the latest apps. Now that my son is nearly grown, we share the same approaches to how we communicate, consume, commute and share across the country with the benefit of mobile apps, platforms and services. We may be divided by age but technology unifies how we work, how we buy and how we communicate.

My son and I aren’t unique. The workers of the future include many of the same workers we have today. While someone may not be a digital native, they can be just as fluent and just as effective. They have lessons to teach the younger cohort, and the want the same core things from work – challenge, success and a feeling of community.

As a leader at Adobe, a key element of my role is ensuring we build great experiences for our people – employees and customers. You will not be finding me talking to the needs of the “millennials.” Instead, I am passionate about creating an environment which is prepared to innovate, adapt and adopt based on the opportunity for digital disruption across the entire workforce. We should be cautious about singling out a cohort based on common characteristics. I would contend that instead we should adopt language and approaches that underscore the importance of inclusion across all ages and demographics. We should outline the importance of all in the workforce embracing change and seizing the opportunities that evolving technologies provide in all aspects of life.

The alternative is that we all embrace being called “millennials,” as a state of mind rather than an age, with the opportunity for change and continued digital disruption ahead.