How the Millennials Are Changing Business

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Millennials are poised to drastically shift the business landscape and how we market. SIGNWAVE explores the potential opportunities and threats.

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Never before has a single generation been so poised to change the way that business functions. Today, the Millennials - generally defined as those born between 1980 and the early 2000’s - are the largest generation and by 2020 are predicted to make up 50% of the workforce (75% by 2025).

Early descriptions of the Millennials were that they were narcissistic, disloyal, unable to interact face-to-face, disliking of structure and responsibility, unable to make decisions and the lazy children of hovering “helicopter parents,” used to having everything done for them. With Baby Boomers retiring as the oldest of the Millennials began entering the workplace, the future seemed bleak.

Fast forward to today and people have begun realising that Millennials are actually well adapted to change, technologically savvy, collaborative and innovative when they are provided with the right support, environment and autonomy.

So Who Are These Millennials?

They are the first generation to grow up with the internet and mobile technology, making them “digital natives”. While labeled as one group, there is great diversity within the generation (the older group is 25-34 while the younger group is 15-24) and they embrace diversity in general. Recent research has discovered that when it comes to Millennials, work is their community. 65% said they prefer face-to-face meetings, and they want an energetic, vibrant place to work. And, almost half said they do not like working from home. They also said they want to work at a company that provides the latest technology - 93% said this is a big factor in choosing an employer.

Managing a Millennial

Like employees from other generations, Millennials want to berecognisedfor their contributions. They want to work for a manager who is ethical, treats them fairly and respectfully and values transparency. They want to be proud of what they do and the impact it has on the world. They want control over their schedule, to work on interesting projects and to have learning opportunities. They like to work beyond their office walls, remotely and collaboratively. They dislike following orders and react better to an open dialog and ongoing feedback and performance management, seeking the answers to the questions “Am I doing this right? Am I moving in the right direction? Do you think I’m progressing? What do I need to do to progress faster?” Some struggle to move up the corporate ladder while older workers delay retirement and will change jobs often to get ahead and feel like they are making a difference. When given a choice between a pile of paper and a PDF, the Millennial will almost always choose the digital option.

Marketing to a Millennial

Millennials engage with brands far more extensively than older generations and expect their values to be reflected in the brands they purchase. They experience the world in a cross-media, cross-device way, using mobile technology as the preferred method of communicating.

Think Millennials are not making or influencing business-to-business (B2B) decisions? Think again. Since 2012, there has been a dramatic shift in the number of Millennials involved in this process. When researching business-to-business (B2B) products and services, Millennials want to interact directly with vendors more than GenX and Baby Boomers do. However, they’d still rather interact via email, phone calls, social media, live or video chats or text messaging. In addition to using social media or knowing a source, when Millennials want to do research on a subject, search is the dominant and most useful method cited, followed by news sites. Millennials watch videos, seek out general product information and read user generated content during their research.

Their decision to make a B2B purchase greater than $10,000 is influenced equally between their data analysis and the opinions of those they trust. Celebrity endorsements don’t matter to this group, but the recommendations of family, friends and relevant reviews do. Interestingly, they are eager to share positive B2B experiences online, but are very reluctant to share disappointments online when compared to older generations.

Millennials want value (fair price for the quality as well as getting good “deals”), relevant information (since they are exposed to and influenced by a wide network of people and experiences), and authenticity (honesty and transparency). They want to know that as a vendor, you will collaborate with them, are socially responsible and easy to work with digitally and physically.

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Photo:  hansondodge.com

Learning from the Millennials

Yes, the Millennials are disrupting and changing everything about business – how and where people work, learn, communicate and make buying decisions – not just for their generation, but also for society as a whole. While there are many differences that are best acknowledged and learned from, there are also far more similarities between Millennials and the older generations than anyone initially considered.

Today’s business leaders need to begin planning for the shift that is coming by creating a workplace that will maximize the strength of this generation. A world with more flexibility, collaboration, innovation, environmental consciousness and diversity could be a great place to live and work.