According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials – the generation born in the beginning of the 1980s and up until the year 2000 – will comprise 75 percent of the American labor force in 2025. This is a considerable increase compared to today, while at the same the large populations born in the ‘40s and ‘50s are rapidly retiring.
Many claim that we are experiencing a smaller paradigm shift; a demographic change that requires us to change our vision of how we attract, recruit, lead and communicate with a generation that has been formed with different values. No other previous generation has been as studied and examined as this one. One can wonder why. The main explanation can be found in the fact that millennials – also referred to as Generation Y – is the first online generation. No other generation has grown up with the Internet, computers and cell phones. This has shaped their fundamental values (the term “millennials” comes from teenagers’ formative years occurring at the start of the new millennium).
While baby boomers – born between 1945 and 1960 – grew up under the Cold War and experienced the first lunar landing, the introduction of television, Woodstock, and the happy 1960s, millennials grew up in an entirely different context. They witnessed the invasion of Iraq, experienced the 9/11 terrorist attack in the US, were introduced to reality tv programs like Big Brother and were, as mentioned, the first to grow up with the Internet and cell phones. These environmental factors have influenced how millennials perceive society as a whole, what is important in business, and how to integrate and socialize with people.
In this regard, baby boomers are often described as conscientious, ambitious, unequal from a gender perspective, and raised under a strong state, while millennials are described as flexible, experienced with self-fulfillment and being independent, with support coming from their parents rather than the government. They are social, more equal, and less in conflict with their parents (thus the term “curling parents”). They are an ambitious group but have a weak work ethic. Because a large fraction of this generation has been convinced – first by over-protective parents and then by grade inflation and unrealistic promises from universities – that their high expectations will eventually lead to actual results, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that millennials are less interested in working hard to achieve them.
Furthermore, millennials have a different view of gadgets, services and many types of experiences. For example, owning a fancy car does not confer status (shared ownership is smarter). Having grown up with all of the digital opportunities, they communicate in other ways than most older people do. They use multiple social media simultaneously and constantly shift their attention between different media platforms.
This generation is on fire and ready to go. Are you ready to change the world? | Farshad Asl, lecturer and writer
From the perspective of employers and marketing, this results in several challenges. Whether seeing them as future customers or employees, how does one get the attention of the younger generation? For those who want to recruit sales reps from this generation it is important to take several factors into account to be attractive. Besides the fact that millennials want greater influence on their work, to develop personally, and continuous and fast feedback, their philanthropical ambitions also single them out. In ProSales’ survey of young people’s perspectives on the marketing profession, important criteria identified regarding choice of employer included the opportunity to “help others” and to “make a difference in the world.”1 That creates a challenge, for example when it comes to recruiting millennials for sales jobs. Notably, the same study showed that only 17 percent of all 18- to 25-year-olds in Sweden believe that marketing is a profession where one has the opportunity to contribute to a better world. This represents a real challenge for many sales organizations that are traditionally more commercially oriented: also highlighting other values.
That millennials as a generation have more philanthropic values both as customers and employees has been confirmed by multiple global studies. For example, a Cones Communications study found that nine out of ten millennials would change brands to support a good cause, and 87 percent would prefer to purchase a product that is associated with a social or environmental value.2 In a Deloitte study of 7,800 young academics in 29 countries, 93 percent of the millennials indicated that companies must put more effort into creating a better world, and 70 percent indicated that it is important to become better at reducing inequalities in society.3 At the same time, 75 percent of the respondents answered that companies only care about their own profits rather than contributing in a positive way to society at large.
There is a lot to win for those companies that can succeed in transforming their businesses based on a new generations’ values. And it is time to start taking action. It is easy to forget that already today as many as half of all B2B-buyers are millennials.4 The talent hunt and the great generational shift are running amuck, and competitiveness can quickly be decimated for those who are not fast. Young people tend to vote with their feet if they are not satisfied, and quickly leave their jobs or product/service providers that don’t live up to their high expectations.
1 Pixton, T.E. (2016). Millennials’ Attitudes To Sales – How Can We Increase the Interest of Millennials in a Sales Career? Stockholm: ProSales Institute Sverige AB.
2 Cone (2015). Millennial CSR Study. Downloaded 2018-10-22 from: http://www.conecomm.com/research-blog/2015-cone-communications-millennial-csr-study
3 Deloitte (2015). Mind the Gaps: The Deloitte Millennial Survey.
4 Snyder K. & Hilal P. (2015). The Changing Face of B2B Marketing. Downloaded 2018-10-22 from https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/the-changing-face-b2b-marketing/