Millennials: they’re (we’re?) no longer simply Snapchatting in a teenage wasteland.
This generation, defined as young people born between 1980 and 2000, are quickly entering and adjusting to the workplace — and, just as quickly, changing the future of business.
In “Millennials at work: reshaping the workplace”, PWC provides insights into the minds of new graduates from around the world entering the workforce for the first time. It looks at why millennials matter, and how to best attract, develop and manage this powerful generation of workers.
While the complete report is fascinating and worth the read, one small line referring to millennials’ use of technology really struck me:
“This is the first generation to enter the workplace with a better grasp of a key business tool than more senior workers.”
This is amazing. In the past, graduates have entered the workplace at a huge learning deficit and have relied on senior employees to teach them “the ways of the world”. And while this is still true in terms of business practice and experience, this young generation is the first to have a significant advantage in a significant area over their seniors.
As a young entrepreneur born sandwiched between two generations (ahem-1980-ahem), I have a deep awareness of the gap in digital experience amongst age groups.
Because I can either be defined as Generation X or millennial, depending on which reference you’re using, I get to pick the most positive attributes from each generation to apply to myself — and leave the negative ones to my older/younger cohorts. (Totally justifiable, right?) But one of the defining positive attributes of the millennial generation that I wish I had was digital prowess. And not just digital prowess. Natural digital prowess. Because young professionals in the later stage of millennial-ism are so much more naturally digitally inclined.
For example, there was no Facebook when I was in college (as far as I was aware, anyway) — yet it was HUGE with my younger sister’s friends, who are only three years younger than I am. Today, this same sister sends me pictures of her new baby on Snapchat … while I struggle to open the message, and then rush to take a screen grab of it so it doesn’t disappear forever.
Millennials — true millennials — not only use technology in a different way, but also have a different mindset about technology. It’s ephemeral, it’s instant … and it’s normal.
So what’s a marketer to do when faced with these shifting views on technology? Here’s what us slightly more, eh, mature marketers can learn about marketing from millennials:
1. Stop thinking about social media and other digital platforms as different. As the PWC report says, “[millennials] have grown up with broadband, smartphones, laptops and social media being the norm and expect instant access to information.” Millennials don’t differentiate between “traditional” and “digital” channels of information. Instead, all channels are simply the means to get the information they want.
2. Focus on user experience. Technology makes it easy to access information, but access is not enough. Experience is key. Content should be seamless and intuitive, and it should fit the user’s wants and needs, not your own.
3. Be accessible, and be social. Being on social media is different than being social. Millennials expect to be able to start a conversation with people and brands alike on their own time, in real time. According to PWC, “41% of those questioned said they would rather communicate electronically than face-to-face or over the telephone”. Make sure you are open to having conversations online, and that you make it easy for audiences to start them.
4. Stay with it. Don’t dismiss new or emerging technologies as for-youth-only. It’s important to embrace and understand various platforms and channels, even if they don’t relate to your current marketing practices. PWC says millennials “will expect a workplace technology ecosystem that includes social networking, instant messaging, video-on-demand, blogs and wikis.” This demonstrates that millennials expect technology to permeate all aspects of life — and that those companies or brands that don’t embrace the latest technology will be dismissed as rigid and old fashioned.
Let’s face it: millennials have something valuable to teach more senior generations about technology use and user experience. It’s time for all marketers — the new and the experienced — to pay attention.
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