Talk Young to Me: Provo Mayor John Curtis shares 7 tips on how to speak ‘millennial’

Provo’s Rooftop Concert Series leverages the strengths of millennials with the backing of traditional business.

Provo’s Rooftop Concert Series leverages the strengths of millennials with the backing of traditional business.

A whopping 72 percent of BusinessQ’s respondents to our “workplace motivation” survey said millennials are difficult to work with. “They’re arrogant,” they said. “They’re entitled and expect six figures out of college,” they said. Preach, we said!

But one voice offered the following: “When we leverage the strengths of millennials, they thrive.”

Just ask Provo Mayor John Curtis, who says a 55-year-old talking about millennials is like “Donald Trump talking about humility or Hillary Clinton talking about being warm.”

But this local icon who made the government cool again talks the talk and walks the socks off the young crowd. Curtis says he owes much of his success to millennials.

“Our Rooftop Concert Series is a nice blending of the traditional world with youthful ideas,” Curtis says. “The concerts couldn’t exist without traditional businesses sponsoring the event, but at the same time, if they let me be in charge — if I picked the group or told them how late they could play music —I would ruin the Rooftop.”

Curtis says millennials showed him how to have fun and put 17,000 people on Center Street in one night. Ready to rock with the millennials in your industry? Here are Curtis’ seven things to know before you go-go-go.


Hip Tip

Want to engage millennials on 
your staff? Hold the staff meeting 
somewhere new. “Try the roof or the middle of the road — shake it up,” Mayor Curtis says.


1. Millennials are non-judgmental.

“My generation can be very judgmental about what you drive or how you look,” Curtis says. “But I love this trait of millennials. They truly care about people.”

2. They are linear.

Millennials see executives and interns all on the same plane, and titles don’t matter much. “Everybody’s ideas are important to them,” Curtis says. “The intern’s ideas are just as needed as the guy who’s been there 40 years. He can’t see what the intern sees.”

3. This generation uses social media for outreach.

When Curtis was running for mayor, he watched his daughter get 10,000 people visiting her design blog. “That was six years ago, and the world has moved so far past that,” he says. “Millennials move onto the next social media platform, and then the next social media platform.”

In fact, Curtis says this generation is used to getting information when they want it and how they want it.

“Millennials have no unanswered questions,” Curtis says. “When I was growing up, I would wonder how far Saturn is and I might pull out my encyclopedia. This generation just asks Siri.”

4. Millennials embrace work-life balance.

“For them, it’s not about the hours you work — it’s about the work you get done,” Curtis says. “We’ve always said it’s about the journey, but most of us my age don’t believe it. We think you work until the end and then you enjoy retirement. But this age group is going to enjoy the journey, but that doesn’t mean they won’t work until 10 o’clock at night when they want to.”

5. They are fearless.

“They know they are going to conquer the world, and social norms don’t matter to them,” Curtis says. “They want to show you what’s on their mind and not what they are wearing.”

6. This generation is socially conscious.

“They truly care about the world where we live,” Curtis says. Millennials don’t just give lip service to taking care of the environment — they are willing to make sacrifices.

7. Traditional workforce climates don’t motivate.

Millennials are less productive in old-school office formats. “When I was younger, I aspired to the corner office with a window and a door I could close,” Curtis says. “They aspire to work in a collaborative workspace with a foosball table. They want to be with other people.”


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