How can employers capitalise on the millennial entrepreneurial spark?

By 2050 millennials will make up over half of the global workforce, but what will the world of work look like?

What is the millennial entrepreneurial spark and what should businesses be doing with it. Award-winning business and leadership performance coach Sean Purcell, explains.

We are entering a new age, where the guarantee of a stable, job for life has been replaced by work opportunities that are transient and ever-changing. The digital economy has brought about ways of working that could never have been conceived by previous generations, forcing millennials to regularly upskill to ensure that they stay ahead of the curve.

Increasingly people are altering their working patterns, working conditions, and tenure of work to both embrace the future of the workforce, as well as to offset some of the challenges raised by trends such as AI and Big Data. Many millennials are recognising that when they look back on their work history in years to come, it is likely to have periods where short-term, project-based work run on a call-on, call-off basis prominently feature.


In my book, ‘MillenniALL: How to claim your future in the Age of the Millennial’, I talk about work through three lenses: work as learning; work as enriching, and work as integration. Each of these lenses poses us significant challenges as they upend how we currently think of the world of work, and therefore each lens will make employers and employees alike to consider innovative strategies to maximise the upsides.

Millennials recognise that they are unlikely to remain in a job for life and will probably have up to 10 different jobs in an average career. When seen like this, it is probably no wonder that many millennials view a job as an opportunity to build skills and experience ready to take them on to the next position, internally or externally. Therefore, they see work as a learning experience where every opportunity is a chance to stretch and challenge and secure the best learning and testimonials as possible, ready for their next step.

Research suggests that the millennial generation are the most entrepreneurial of any generation but that actual incidences of millennials leaving the world of work to start up a new business is lower than many other generations.

So how can employers capitalise on that entrepreneurial spark?


‘Intrapreneurship’ is a term used to describe individuals within businesses who are given responsibility and autonomy for creating and innovating. Intrapreneurship has a great deal of upside for both parties: for a millennial, it allows them to feel like they are independent, creative, and in charge of a product, unit, or division as though it were their own business.

If done right, they can be given total responsibility within a given risk threshold and be held to account for the outcomes as though it were their own actual business. I have been fortunate to be in an environment in my career where I was given the ability to run a multi-million-pound division of a group by the age of 30.

I could set the strategic direction, hire and fire, invest in tested strategies, and control the operations of the business. Whilst the division was not mine in terms of true ownership, it felt very much like mine throughout and it enabled me to bring my own entrepreneurial spark to the day-to-day running of it.  

The advantage for an employer is obvious: giving a talented millennial who has potential the chance to apply their entrepreneurial skills to an internal project, product or division can lead to increased employee satisfaction, enhanced performance, and extended retention, meaning that the individual has less desire to strike out by themselves as they get the risk sensation of running something, but without the downside of the actual risk should it not succeed.

However, to ensure that the individual concerned maximises their potential, it is critical to bring in a coach or mentor to help support that individual as they attempt to navigate the world of business on your behalf!

Vision, Mission and Values

In addition to this, the workplace should be an environment that lives and breathes the vision, mission and values of the organisation. Businesses that adopt a clear VMV (Vision Mission Values) framework and communicate it out regularly, underpinning it with actions, rewards and sanctions that are explicitly linked to the VMV framework see better performance and longer retention from millennials.

Millennials are looking for work opportunities that give them a sense of purpose and a why, and companies that get the best millennial talent are the ones that openly tap in to that desire by being clear as to what they stand for, what they don’t stand for, and how that millennial is going to be able to help make a difference.

Millennial workplace culture

Finally, a business needs to create the physical and legal environment for millennials to thrive. Increasingly the 08.30 – 17.30 business day is being replaced by a more flexible perception of time and many companies are starting to understand that input is not the same as outcome, the latter being far more valuable to businesses in our digital information age.

As we move away from scientific approaches to management and see the moth-balling of many of our old jobs such as those on the production line, we will be moving towards a world where intangible or easily consumed products and services such as finance, media, and marketing are pre-eminent. As automation replaces much of our lower-skilled work, millennials will increasingly find that they have opportunities in environments that are more integrated with how they live their lives.

The rise of co-working spaces, with a combination of work and play/rest, will become the norm, and this means that employers need to give some thought as to how they construct a physical environment that is pleasurable to work in. On top of this, employers will begin to have a challenge over old terms and conditions with offers such as remote working, unlimited leave, and sabbaticals becoming more popular.


The structure of the global economy is rapidly altering: new ways of working; the replacement of low-skilled work with more automation; the 24/7 nature of media; and the increasingly outward-looking nature of millennials will lead employers to fundamentally rethink how they construct their business to recruit and retain the very best millennial talent out there. It will require some sacred cows to be slain, some ways of thinking to be scrapped, but if planned correctly, it could truly tap into the potential of the phenomenal millennial generation and help power the global economy for decades to come.

About the author

Sean Purcell is an award-winning business and leadership performance coach, speaker and trainer, based in the UK. He has been referred to as ‘The Millennials Coach’ and is the founder of The Colchester Consulting Group. His new book MillenniALL encourages the reader to own their millennial status and empowers them towards success. 

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