I missed being a ‘Millennial’ by only a handful of years. But I confess, I tend to look upon this generation of youngsters with nearly as much bafflement as the over 50s do. Being a late adopter when it comes to technology and – imagine it – having made it through my entire university career and the first half-dozen years of my current globetrotting job without a smartphone, my head spins with all the tablet-toting, tweeting and Tindering that seems to be second nature to the Generation Y crowd. And as someone entering her second decade in the same role, I also look upon the frenetic job-hopping that is now the norm with a mixture of bemusement and, I confess, disapproval.

So I can only imagine how those more, ahem, senior than myself might struggle to relate. But they – we all – will have to seek to understand what motivates the Millennials, as colleagues, employees, customers and decision-makers, because of their outsized influence on business and society.   

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Tech-savvy and highly mobile, the younger generation is having a huge impact on consumer trends, urban migration and even on crossborder investment. In fact, the implications on the world of FDI are staggering and reach across company site selection, investment promotion, place marketing and talent attraction. 

While the CEOs of large, more traditional multinational companies still tend to be of the grey-haired variety, management of tech companies and start-ups are often younger and, quite frankly, cooler. They require entirely different methods of courtship by economic developers eager for investment from their companies and have different preferences for office space and facilities. Students and young professionals – the much-sought-after 'young, highly educated workforce' that most cities either claim to possess or are desperately seeking – also have different priorities and preferences when it comes to the lifestyle factors that drive both business and personal decisions about relocation. 

This is a challenge for locations that need to appeal to both ends of the generational spectrum when it comes to investors, i.e. a 60-year-old GE head honcho as well as a 30-year-old tech executive, without alienating or patronising either one. As a member of Generation X, which is the bridge between the Baby Boomers and Millennials, I wish I had more concrete advice to offer on how to do that. But I think every generation is in some ways a mystery to those who come before and after it, as I have learned when I try to explain to my mother why I seem to always have a phone in my hand, and to horrified youngsters why my work phone is – gasp – a Blackberry.

Courtney Fingar is editor-in-chief of fDi Magazine. Email: courtney.fingar@ft.com