Millennial-inspired ‘predult’ life phase affects workplace strategies

By Mary Hookham, for the Dairy Business Association

Michael Parrish DuDell, an entrepreneur, speaker and best-selling author from New York City, hangs his hat on helping businesses and leaders build future-focused companies and connect to the millennial generation.

“This generation is thinking about work and adulthood differently, and that’s affecting everybody,” DuDell said.

Hundreds of farmers and agribusiness professionals heard DuDell speak on Jan. 22 at the Dairy Business Association’s annual Dairy Strong conference in Madison, Wis.

People in the millennial generation were born between 1982 and 1996 and range from 24 to 38 years old. Millennials are the largest generation in American history and are well represented in the world both in the workforce and as customers.

In 1974, three in four 30-year-olds in the United States were married, had at least one child, were not enrolled in college and lived on their own. In 2015, just one in three 30-year-olds fit that description. Some people view this statistic as a negative while others believe it is progress. Regardless, it is evidence of change, DuDell said.

“We are entering an entirely new life phase that’s being created right now in this generation,” he said. “But it’s not necessarily generational and it’s not going to just live and die with us. It’s going to become part of our infrastructure.”

DuDell calls this new life phase “predult,” which happens just before adulthood. Sociologists have been talking about it for years, he said. Technology, access to information and new opportunities are changing society for the better and for the worse.

“As somebody who is a business owner or working with millennials, or anybody anywhere thinking about the future of work, you have to understand the challenges of this new life phase,” DuDell said.

He described the challenges as: abundance of choice, which is often worse than no choice at all; a disintegration of trust, which is affecting the way we go about our daily lives; a lack of connection that’s happening as a result of so many technological options; and an epidemic of loneliness among younger generations.

“By using our phones, we think we’ve been connecting, and our brain is tricked into thinking we connected, but we realize the real world is away from the phone and we haven’t invested much in the real world because we’re too focused on our phones,” DuDell said. “But our lack of a true connection in our daily lives is affecting our mental health and our relationships.”

Kris Malinov of New Richmond, Wis., saw the value of DuDell’s presentation when he brought all the points together about interacting and managing millennials.

“This really opened my eyes about how people handle millennials and how we can take their differences and qualities and put them to work,” Malinov said.

DuDell encourages leaders within companies to invest in internal branding and employee fulfillment. Millennials want to feel proud to go to work every day, knowing the story of the company and how they’re contributing to its success, and this feeling can be achieved by investing in those employees rather than in numbers and productivity.

“Work to tell the story of your company because if you don’t tell your own story, a story will be told for you,” he said.

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