As members of Generation Y move into professional, executive, and business owner roles, researchers are eager to understand how their world-view may affect society at large. While some say, “people resemble their times more than they resemble their parents,” research shows that Generation Y has more in common with the Baby Boomer Generation than they do with their parent’s Generation X.

Worldviews tend to be influenced by economic, social, and political conditions, in addition to factors of age and experience. But there are also several specific aspects that characterize those in Generation Y. These include emphasis on consensus, education, concerns about a lack of employment opportunities, increasing housing and living costs, body image and personal development, and crime rates.

Generation Y sets the historical record for having the most access to material goods thanks to the success of their hard-working Generation X parents. But Gen Y has also paid the price by having to cope with absentee parents, high divorces rates, and the toll that their faster paced lifestyles is taking on physical health.

GenY cohorts are much less receptive to traditional marketing ploys and can easily spot corporate intentions that are not in sync with their own personal values. They’ve “seen it all” through old media channels like television and radio, and they’ve grown up with new channels like the Internet, blogs, and social media.

Although the values of the Boomer and X Generation still dominate the culture, we are beginning to see signs of influence from Generation Y. They are more focused on community values, more likely to spend their earnings on experiences rather than material goods, and they prefer to buy from socially responsible, local, and natural companies.

Because they place emphasis on non-financial rewards in the workplace, they often seek jobs that provide flexible work hours, casual management styles, or jobs that provide satisfaction through personal interest, community involvement, and non-profit work.

Educational institutes have begun to adapt teaching styles and curriculum to appeal to the newer generation. Warner Pacific College located in Portland, Oregon, has as their motto, “In the City, For the City. ” They have incorporated philanthropy into their curriculum and philosophy, and are developing a new Bachelor’s program called Social Entrepreneurship specifically designed to appeal to the entrepreneurial and philanthropic Generation Y.

The program focuses on innovative business ventures that produce positive social change—a growing trend that is evident by the popularity of companies like Tom’s Shoes and Burt’s Bees, as well as a rapid growth in the non-profit sector.

We are also witnessing how existing workplaces are adapting to more casual policies with livelier environments and companies that redesign products and business practices in order be more socially friendly. GenY-run startups have taken on entirely new business models, finding innovative ways to give back. It is no longer enough to just operate as a socially responsible company or to provide select socially responsible products.

Generation Y influences the large majority of household purchasing decisions (including those of their parents) and are unwilling to trade their values for goods. They care more about buying products from companies that do good work in the world, and they are willing to do the research.

As a result, a new corporate structure has emerged to accommodate socially conscious business ventures. Known as Public Benefit (B) Corporations, they offer a positive vision of a better way to do business by encouraging higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance. This has the potential to create higher quality jobs and improve the standard of living in our communities.

Here are a few examples of their tenets:

  • B Corporations give legal protection to officers and directors that allow them to make decisions based on the interests of all stakeholders – not just shareholders. This means considering environmental impact, employment and financial impact, and other community values over profit.
  • B Corporation status holders become part of a community of social advocates, allowing them to connect with other professionals and executives that share similar values, are working toward the same causes, and who offer service and product discounts to other B Corporations.
  • B Corporation status will attract talented, like-minded labor, as well as conscious consumers by differentiating B Corporations from other business models that might be less socially conscious.

How will Gen Y impact our future? Warner Pacific College’s forward thinking curriculum, and the concept of B Corporations are early indications that we can expect Generation Y to have a positive impact on our society in the near, and not too distant future.

The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are of Judith A. McGee and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James.

Judith A. McGee is the chair and chief executive officer of McGee Wealth Management, Inc., an independent registered investment advisor.  She is a co-branch manager of, and offers securities through, Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC in Portland. Contact her at 503.597.2222 or Judith@mcgeewm.com

Making Life a Richer Experience