The Millennial generation is poised to imminently take over business, politics, and culture. Born between the 1980s and the early 2000s, this generation’s members are the largest and most highly educated in all of history. The burgeoning Millennial presence is fostering a sea change in the values and operational protocols of businesses. To stay competitive in the modern marketplace, it is essential that companies adapt to and accommodate the growing cohort of Millennial employees, innovators, and consumers.
A comprehensive understanding of the Millennial mindset is a prerequisite to cultivating the ultimate work environment for this generation. Millennials came of age amidst a specific social environment, one that significantly shaped who they are and how they think. Their unique cultural background can be broken down as follows:
- The digital era born about in the 1990s democratized access to information and training.
- Content creation and innovation is cheaper and easily available to Millennials.
- Exponential growth in computer and mobile device processing power.
- Millennials were born into the age of instant communication technologies.
- The self esteem movement that arose in the 1980s gave Millennials an enhanced sense of intra-familial security and support.
- The 1990s trend of increased federal spending on child services (libraries, schools, sports, etc.) allowed for Millennials to have wide-reaching interests and skills; they are the modern renaissance men and women.
- Legislated and familial support for extra-curricular Millennial enrichment fostered this generation’s diversity of interests and multiplicity of abilities.
Economy and Skills
- Economic slowdown: most Millennials came of age during the 2008 economic downturn, resulting in their decreased faith in traditional business models.
- Inflated college tuition and housing costs mean that Millennials live with higher debt.
- Millennials are the most highly educated generation in history.
As a result of the aforementioned social pulls, Millennials can be understood as:
- Digital natives
- Wired by a communication imperative
- Hyper-connected: highly literate across global platforms and networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YikYak, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Snapchat, Skype, etc.)
- Cognitively flexible
- Renegades: hackers and appropriators
- Autodidacts: user-friendly software and democratically dispersed online information networks mean that Millennials are self-taught in many diverse disciplines
- Desiring purpose and meaning in their careers
Considering the immense cognitive flexibility of Millennials, how can companies make sure to hook this new age of workers for the long haul?
1. Check in with your team regularly and often
- Ask: What is working? What is not? What can be done to maximize efficiency.
- Seek out employee feedback through open dialogues, anonymous polls, and interactive discussions.
- Remodel workspaces to facilitate collaborative group work and cultivate management transparency.
2. Cut out anachronistic policies such as rigid office hours and severe dress codes that alienate Millennials.
3. Encourage productive suggestions and respectful critiques from all team members, regardless of seniority.
4. Ensure team members are profoundly and meaningfully engaged in their work—explicate exactly how they are helping to achieve the company’s overarching goals. Millennials do not want to feel like mere cogs in the machine.
5. Create a safe and accepting company culture wherein Millennials are encouraged to vocalize their ideas for innovation. Open and collaborative team meetings circumvent groupthink mentality by championing the best idea over the loudest or most well established one.
Example: Google’s 20% program actively enables its employees to invent and imagine. It allocates 20% of employees’ time to working on the ideas and projects that interest them. This initiative has significantly profited the company, resulting in such innovations as Gmail and Google News.
6. Transition technology to a hybrid, agile infrastructure that unifies public cloud, private cloud, and traditional IT.
- Engage Millennials in reverse mentoring positions, channeling their skillset of digital literacy towards collective education and modernization among team members and across business partners.
7. Embrace the culture of the sharing economy through collaboration, crowdsourcing, and networking.
- Millennials have grown up hyper-connected, capable of accessing and maintaining globally dispersed affiliations and informational nodes. Make use of this skillset by enabling a networked communicative infrastructure between employees.
8. Instill a philanthropic company ethos.
Millennials have a higher respect for and engagement with companies that give back to their communities.
Millennials possess a wealth of valuable skills and resources that can aid companies in responding to the current economic climate of disruption. A fundamental objective of Southcott Strategy is to tap into Millennial potential and enable non-Millennials to engage with such potential in the most productive way. The key to harnessing the Millennial skillset is to conceptualize it outside of its negative stereotypes: recast “entitled” as assertive, “lazy” as efficient, “digitally brain-washed” as technologically adept, and the “hacker” ethos as a creatively-inspired approach. Such open-minded reception will allow for the successful integration of Millennials into pre-established working environments.