We hear a lot about Millennials in the news, and not all of it is flattering. But as one of the older members of this generation—the largest generation in the workforce, and the largest alive—I think it’s time we stop complaining, stop pandering, and start understanding what forces Millennials have set into motion. This could not be truer anywhere than in the corporate world: for many businesses, Millennials are both a key source for employees and a vital customer base.
Businesses shouldn’t treat them like nuisances and children, nor should they expect them to be the same as Generation X or Baby Boomers. This is the connected generation, after all, and these digital natives are highly informed and educated. We have different ideas about everything from careers and politics to shopping. We’re going to impact every facet of the business world, present and future.
I occupy a unique position in the generational breakdown—post-Generation X, nearly pre-Millennial, and part of the overlapping and oft-overlooked Generation Y. As an entrepreneur in the NYC real estate industry, I find this gives me an advantage in business, especially since so many Millennials are renting in the city. For companies without insight on the Millennial end, however, research can be a useful barometer in deciding how to adjust to better suit this generation.
Here are 6 stats about millennials, and what they mean for business. The first three highlight Millennials as consumers, while the last three focus on Millennials in the workplace.
1. Millennials own, on average, 7.7 connected devices
And we use 3.3 of those devices each day. Millennials are ultra-connected, and if they’re not checking email on their smartphone, they’re reading the newspaper on their tablet, or working on a spreadsheet on their laptop. In their free time, they’re watching cat videos on their smart TV or playing an MMO game on their desktop. Or, running successful startups and other businesses (don’t forget, if we’re not your boss now, we will be someday).
The point is this: Millennials are connected across multiple channels all the time. To reach them effectively, businesses must be prepared to go wherever they are, which means creating marketing content that can do just that.
Noz Urbina, a global leader in content strategy, describes this kind of content as adaptive content—or a “content strategy technique designed to support meaningful, personalized interactions across all channels.” Such content is born, brainstormed and built around the context, mood, and aspirations of the customer. In real estate, having engaging and mobile-friendly websites is a must, not to mention complimentary apps like Zillow, and I expect this is similar in other fields of work.
2. 93% of Millennials Read Reviews Before Making a Purchase
Millennials want to hear what unbiased buyers have to say about a product before they go purchase it. This explains the rise of sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Reviews and others. Studies also show that they tend to trust personal recommendations from friends and families much more than branded content and ads.
Clearly, we Millennials don’t want to hear brand promises; we want to see how others have—or haven’t—benefited from a product, and then make their purchase decision accordingly.
Businesses need to pay careful attention to such sites in order to address customer concerns and deal with inefficiencies in their products or services. Initiatives should also be implemented to help the brand spread via word-of-mouth, both online on social media and blogs, and offline in conversations.
Companies can also directly ask for feedback from buyers, as Millennials like to see that a business is listening to their concerns. The ecommerce giant Amazon does a great job of this with its comments, feedback, and ratings system.
3. Millennials Are More Likely To Use A Sharing Economy Service
Compared to other generations, Millennials have a greater tendency to use the sharing economy. For instance, Millennials are 12% more likely than Generation X to use the sharing economy for accommodations. That’s precisely why hotels are having to change their business strategy; they have to find ways to compete with Airbnb. In real estate, this is something we take into account everyday.
When creating a product or service, businesses have to be thinking about access as well as ownership. Millennial are willing to share if it means saving money or less hassle. This shift is occurring for a variety of reasons, including changing opinions on ownership and the trillion dollars of student debt they carry (an amount that is still rising).
4. Millennials value professional growth and career development above all else in the workplace
Millennials have been given an unfair reputation by some in older generations as being lazy and entitled. Research and reality states otherwise. A survey by Quantum Workplace found that professional growth and career development are the most important drivers in retaining and engaging Millennial employees.
Millennials aspire to be better employees, with 72% saying the chance to learn new skills is important in choosing and staying with an employer; only 48% of Baby Boomers prioritize learning new skills.
With two-thirds of Millennials planning to leave their current jobs by 2020, clearly employers aren’t doing enough. If businesses hope to future-proof their organization, they must meet the needs and goals of Millennial employees. They must create a Millennial-driven culture, one where employees are encouraged to learn, collaborate and innovate.
Leaders should provide direction on how to improve. Perks, like with other generations, remain important, but should be more customized in order to satisfy the unique needs of this generation. Freedom to work anytime and anywhere is paramount as well, and businesses should encourage networking and socializing with clients and coworkers.
Overall, the Millennial employee wants professional improvement and flexibility. That desire should be satisfied not only in the work duties and expectations, but also in the company culture.
5. Millennials Are More Diverse Than Any Generation That Preceded Them
44.2% of Millennials are part of a minority race or ethnic group, which makes the generation far more diverse than previous ones. The Pew Research Center notes that this trend is being driven in large part by the large wave of Asian and Hispanic immigrants over the last half century. This change in demographics offers much opportunity for businesses to be even more successful. The key is in embracing diversity in hiring practices, company culture and networking strategies.
In addition to a more diverse workplace at home, businesses are rapidly becoming more globalized. Operating within such a diverse marketplace necessitates businesses actively recruit and retain a diverse Millennial staff—one that reflects the generation’s diversity. It’s crucial to accessing the insights and experiences of the entire market, not just a portion of it.
By bringing a diverse and talented set of Millennial employees together, teams can benefit from the wide range of perspectives and experiences being brought to the table. Creative ideas can arise, innovation can occur, and new relationships can be made. And a sustainable business can be built.
6. 84% of Millennials Want To Make A Positive Difference
Millennials want to see that their work has a larger benefit to society. 84% of Millennials believe making a positive difference in the world is more important than getting recognized for professional endeavors, and an amazing 92% of them believe business success should be measured by more than just profit.
All of this places more pressure on businesses to be more socially responsible. If a company gets a bad reputation, my generation won’t work for that company or buy its products.
In addition to providing Millennials with a diverse workplace where opportunities for professional growth are widely available, businesses need to focus on more than just the bottom line if they want to keep top talent.
Companies should promote philanthropic activities, as Millennials want to know their employer is doing its part for society. The products and services developed by businesses must first serve the purpose of helping improve the world. The response from Millennials to the arrival of the Tesla 3, the company’s first mass-produced affordable electric car, is evidence enough that this generation values brands that aim to move humanity forward.
Millennials And The Future of Business
The Millennials are certainly coming; in most ways, we’re already here. Soon, my generation will have the highest income and spending power, meaning our professional dreams and buying behavior are going to carry immense weight.
The good news is statistics like these display the potential for businesses to benefit greatly from the rise of the Millennial worker and consumer. Don’t infantilize us or bemoan our newfangled tech: we aren’t going to ruin the world, as some pessimists may state. For the most part, my experience and research suggests Millennials are intent on improving it.