The Way We Work
October 16, 2012 by Jenna Weiner

What do you get when you combine a high rate of entrepreneurship with a new mentality regarding ownership? You get today’s millennial generation—and that confluence has significant implications for the economy and the future of entrepreneurship, according to oDesk CEO Gary Swart.

In his article last week for Forbes, Gary discussed how “today’s millennials don’t like to own anything—besides businesses, that is.” He referenced a recent Atlantic Magazine article, which called millennials the “less-owning generation,” because they prefer “access to ownership” over ownership itself. The Atlantic article cited declining home ownership and vehicle purchase rates among millennials, concluding that a combination of economic and demographic factors—such as stagnant wages, high gas prices, re-urbanization and technological fluency—has shaped the millennial generation’s preference for “on-demand access to assets” instead of actual ownership of assets.

Currently, this mentality applies to everything from music, movies and cars to dresses and vacation property (enabled by services like iTunes, Netflix, Zipcar, Rent the Runway and AirBnB, respectively).

“There is, however, one thing millennials are clamoring to own: their own business,” Gary wrote. Millennials have an entrepreneurship rate that’s 10% higher than the general population, with a 2011 study by the research network Affluence Collaborative finding that almost 40% of millennials “have started a business or expect to do so.”

The combination of millennials’ entrepreneurial focus and their on-demand mentality has interesting implications, Gary wrote:

What does that mean for the future of entrepreneurship? It means that the startup owners of tomorrow—and already some of those today—will be building companies that are nimble, lean and liquid … Forget inventories, servers or even offices; already we’ve seen a huge shift towards services that cater to “less-owning startups.” Rackspace allows companies to provision cloud servers within minutes, while co-working arrangements eliminate the need for proprietary offices. Everywhere you turn there are new ways to do more while owning less—hence the proliferation of “as-a-Service” acronyms.

With the growing adoption of online work, we’re already seeing the expansion of this startup structure into “Talent-as-a-Service,” Gary noted.

That shift is only just beginning. Gary highlighted a few results of oDesk’s Online Work Survey released last week, which found that those on the leading edge of this trend—businesses that have already hired online—envision the workforce of the future to look very different than it does today. Here’s what they said:

  • Hiring and working online will be the new normal. The study found that 85% of millennials surveyed believe that the majority of contractors will be working online by 2020.
  • Virtual teams will take off. According to 82% of the millennials surveyed, within 10 years many businesses will be built completely with virtual teams of online workers.
  • The concept of teams will be redefined. According to 90% of millennials surveyed, “in the future, employees will bring their favorite online workers with them as part of their own team” when they start new jobs.

While this certainly doesn’t mean that employment as we know it will come to an end, it does have exciting implications for the next generation of startups and businesses. For a closer look at millennial entrepreneurs and the shift towards “Talent-as-a-Service,” check out the full article on the Forbes website.

What do you think? Will millennial entrepreneurs drive the shift towards “Talent-as-a-Service” as the new normal? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Jenna Weiner

Content Marketer

Jenna Weiner is the former content marketing manager at oDesk and was the editor-in-chief of the oDesk blog. With a background in business and technology writing, she specializes in content marketing and strategy, public relations, and branding. Before joining oDesk, Jenna was a writer and editor for Monitor Group’s marketing department (now Monitor Deloitte) and was the Business & Technology Section Editor for Brafton Inc.… read more