millennial employees

Changing Times, Changing Minds


"64% of Millennials would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring."

Contributed by Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy

A lot of research has been dedicated to learning more about Millennial attitudes as companies struggle to adjust corporate cultures to align with their thinking. This cohort has received a bad rap in most of the research, but at Green Canopy we have found that building a culture that unleashes the “Millennial Mindset” in all of our employees increases our productivity and our ability to execute our mission to inspire resource efficiency. For this reason, I believe that organizations should work to realign their corporate cultures to foster this mindset in their employees. A few fun facts below help illustrate the point that the future of successful businesses will be predicated on creating corporate cultures that are designed to attract and retain millennial minded employees of any age. 

  • Millennials (People born in 1981 or after) comprise more than one in three of adult Americans by 2020.

  • They will make up as much as 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025.

  • 89% expressed a stronger likelihood that they would buy from companies that supported solutions to specific social issues. 

  • 87.5% disagreed with the statement that "money is the best measure of success," compared to about 78% of the total population. 

  • The top ideal employers of currently employed Millennials are Google, Apple, Facebook, the U.S. State Department, and Disney. Note: Five of the top 15 most ideal employers are government agencies (State Dept., FBI, CIA, NASA, and Peace Corps). 

  • 63% want their employer to contribute to social or ethical causes they felt were important. About half of older Gen Xers and Boomers felt the same.

  • 64% would rather make $40,000/year at a job they love than $100,000/year at a job they think is boring.

Source for the above:

  • Not only do half of all Millennials choose not to identify with either political party, just 31% say there is a great deal of difference between the Republican and Democratic parties.[Polarizing politics are a vestige of the silent and boomer generations, and not necessarily part of the future of America.]

  • Despite their financial burdens, Millennials are the nation’s most stubborn economic optimists. More than eight in ten say they either currently have enough money to lead the lives they want (32%) or expect to in the future (53%).

Source for the above:

  • Millennials are connected. The idea of being required to sit in a cubicle for eight hours a day strikes the Millennial as bizarre.

  • Millennials don’t want to simply pay their dues as did previous generations. For many companies, the default process is to promote based on tenure rather than talent. [Equal pay and promotion for equal work… Merit rules the day. What a concept!?]

Source for the above:


Image courtesy of Flickr: Valtech Sweden

The below excerpt was taken from an interview with Ron Alsop who did the research and wrote the definitive book on Millennials

“Kuhn: How can employers best capitalize on the millennial generation?

Alsop: I believe employers can best capitalize on millennials by making them feel that their work is important, giving them lots of feedback and positive reinforcement, and telling them that the company will help them develop their skills and career potential. This generation isn't loyal to any one company and is likely to work for many employers. But millennials will be more apt to stay with an employer if they can see why their sometimes seemingly mundane job is important to the company's success. They also want to build their portfolio of skills and experiences through mentoring, training and development programs, and the opportunity to switch jobs within their company…”

Evolve Into the Millennial Mindset

Frankly the work of today and tomorrow is important work. As the world’s population continues to grow and strain our finite planetary resources, all businesses of the future will have to consider and adapt to working more with less resources. Many more businesses will intentionally start and organize themselves to tackle some of the world’s pressing resource scarcity and climate challenges, while also doing well for their shareholders and by their employees.

As I synthesize all of this, the Millennial picture becomes clear. This mindset is a key to our world’s future success because Millennials are a large percentage of working Americans now and will be in the future. They are diplomatic peacemakers for whom success doesn’t necessary equal wealth. They want to work at doing good in the world. They would rather have a job of purpose and challenge than one that is boring and pays more. They are optimistic, believe in merit over tenure, and prefer coaching over being told how to perform. Rather than complain about the Millennial Mindset, we should celebrate it, seek it out and foster it in our work.  

The successful businesses of tomorrow will employ people with the Millennial Mindset that some love to hate. Their cultures will be designed to unlock the inner Millennial in all their employees and earn the right of retention for those they are so fortunate to serve. The stodgy business practices that made corporations great in the past, thrived in what is no longer our world: a very top down, heavily bureaucratic, do-as-you-are-told, perceived limitless resource reality. Thankfully, society has largely evolved beyond those outdated business practices. It is time for employers to do the same.

Water to Wine: Green Home Transformation in PDX


“He heard me on Seattle’s local NPR affiliate. He saw our ad, and he was determined to work for Green Canopy, learn our business, prove himself and show what he is capable of. He got the job."

Contributed by Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy, Inc.

Ryan Nieto came into the office looking like a modern “Urban Jesus”. The moniker stuck. Thick long brown hair, beard, tats… full on Portlandia meets Seattle. He was working as a mechanical HVAC installer, installing air-conditioning systems at QFC grocery stores. He wanted to work for us as a laborer.

He said he saw the ad on our website. It wasn’t adding up for me. He was making good money as a mechanical installer and wanted to take a cut in pay and responsibility to work for Green Canopy. “Who was this guy?” I was thinking.

As it turns out Ryan is a veteran of the Marine Corps in Iraq. He is an avid bouldered/climber and outdoor enthusiast. He has the millennial mindset that the Green Canopy culture warmly embraces. And most importantly he leads with his heart and his mind. Which is another way of saying he follows his heart as his mind works the calculations. Love that. He came in bold into the office, eyes on fire and twitching, a vestige of hard times spent in a war zone. He heard me on Seattle’s local NPR affiliate. He saw our ad, and he was determined to work for Green Canopy, learn our business, prove himself and show what he is capable of. He got the job.

Green Canopy is the only for-profit homebuilder (that we are aware of) in all of America that was intentionally and deliberately started to combat and lessen the negative impacts of climate change and resource scarcity via in-city homebuilding.

We are run by a group of commited contractors, bankers, designers and most importantly, business people who are breaking the typical homebuilder mold and working hard to build an inspirational brand that helps to leave the world better off. We are funded by a similar minded base of over 40 shareholders and counting… We are lucky to have shareholders that are dedicated to investing their money where their values are for the sake of future generations. We are propelled by the Real Estate Agent community that understands their roll in residential real estate can be used to create transformational change for the better by promoting Green Canopy’s mission and vision of the future.

We are banking on the success of Portland to fuel expansion outside the Pacific Northwest region and into other markets across the country."With Green Canopy all started up and on solid footing in Seattle, it is time to take the most important step in our company’s short existence: expand and prove that our model can organically grow like a bamboo shoot into new markets. We are so excited to take this critical next step and expand to Portland! Portland is more important to the future success of Green Canopy than anything we are currently working on. We are banking on the success of Portland to fuel expansion outside the Pacific Northwest region and into other markets across the country.

And we are lucky.

As a city, Portland shares what is at the heart of Green Canopy. Green Canopy, like Portland, is brimming with purpose-seeking, millennial minds. As the show Portlandia famously put it, “Portland is the place where young people go to retire.” …Retire from the top down, do-as-your-told, speak-when-spoken-to, non-purposeful J. O. B. economy, to engage in the purpose driven economy where merit prevails over tenure, mentoring over micro-managing, and critical consumption over wanton consumption. Thank God that a city so dedicated to getting the new economy right, with local brands long dedicated to local, conscious, and sustainable living such as Powels Books, Ecotrust, Clean Energy Works, and so many more, represents the future success for Green Canopy.

Over the course of the last three years, Ryan has taken 10 old, run-down, drafty homes and miraculously transformed these into resource efficient, certified green, and the highest in quality rebuilt homes to inspire generations of future residents. Working out of the Ecotrust building in the Pearl, Ryan will be responsible for applying his hard earned homebuilding magic to manage the inspirational transformation of old homes to new, and building brand new homes designed to inspire and create awareness of the benefits of resource efficiency.

Ryan is Green Canopy is Ryan. We share the same mission, vision and values and are hopeful that these will resonate in Portland. So nearly three years on, Urban Jesus, is heading to the City of Bridges. Don’t expect him to walk across the Columbia and Willamette Rivers to get there, or go into business transforming water to wine… his assignment is much more terrestrial and perhaps mundane in nature. We don’t have a divine goal of saving humanity, but we are humbly trying to make the world a little better place through our work. Here we come…