A seemingly unavoidable and somewhat controversial topic that has been making its rounds across blogs, social media, and other publications is millennials in the work force. Love them or hate them, a quick search reveals thousands of opinions on how these Gen Y “youngsters” have been adapting. There are quite a few criticisms floating around the internet that portray the millennial generation in a pretty harsh light. Some critics may even be surprised, that as a millennial marketer myself, this post was written in standard English – and not in a mix of emoji’s and GIFs.
Quips like this humorous cartoon created by The Washington Post have helped spread the notion that millennials are both unprofessional and narcissistic, as well as a slew of other unflattering terms. More often than not, these characterizations of Gen Y are representative of encounters with some people between the ages of 18-34. However, I’ve unfortunately seen the way millennial rhetoric can trickle down to influence a client’s perceptions of all millennials and their work ethic and abilities.
When doing research for this article, I did find other resources challenging millennial myths. But if the media has jaded you to the idea of working with the newly-minted next generation of professionals, let me put you at ease with 5 reasons to embrace your millennial marketers.
1. We’re scrappy.
Many millennials have found themselves in a faltering economy with a sizeable amount of student debt. College debt levels are hovering around $30,867 and wages have yet to return to their pre-recession peak. Millennials are facing these challenges head-on and making sacrifices to make their adult lives work financially. Gen Y is constantly seeking new ways to afford their lifestyle. Need proof? Check out a few of these popular blogs:
Millennials are familiar with budgets and making the numbers “work”. Many have plenty of real-life practice that can be applied to marketing budgets of all sizes. If you’re looking for both an innovative and affordable way of approaching a marketing task, there’s a good chance your millennial marketing partner will have a few tricks up their sleeves.
2. We’re tech-savvy.
Millennials are often referred to as Digital Natives. We’ve grown up utilizing new technology and many of us embrace it in all forms, from smart watches to app integration. 36% of millennials believe an education in technology is the strongest determinant of future success. It’s important to note that while most millennials consider themselves tech-literate, that doesn’t mean we will all be able to build you a computer or design the next million-dollar app (without training in those areas). Tech aptitude varies from person to person. Who doesn’t have to contact IT every once in a while? But many millennials are agile and quick learners. Some, like my younger sister for instance, began using computers before they had even grasped the full concept of reading. This agile approach to rapidly changing marketing technology and tools is critical to the success of any 2016 marketing plan. Adaptability, especially when it comes to tech, can be found in many o’ millennial marketer’s “tool kit”.
3. We’re early adopters.
Ask any millennial when they started engaging in social media and the answer will no doubt be varied in network, but consistent in timeline. Most millennials began utilizing social networks at the forefront of their existence, in their early to mid-teens (depending on their age). You’ll probably find that many began on sites like LiveJournal and MySpace. My own personal social media journey began at around age 12 with a Xanga profile primarily used to promote song lyrics. I quickly adopted MySpace and was in the first wave to join Facebook when it was opened to non-college kids (yes, I realize that dates me – but hey, you already knew I was young). Who better to manage your social or online presence, for that matter, than the generation that grew up utilizing it on a regular basis?
We’ve been tackling new technology from the get-go. Need someone with their ear to the ground on up-and-coming technology? Check with your friendly neighborhood millennial. We're useful for all sorts of tasks beyond meme generation. Challenge your Gen Y marketers to keep you informed on trends that matter to your line of work or industry.
4. We want to change the the workplace AND the world.
Great Place to Work produced a survey that questioned the factors that drive innovation. They found that millennial-friendly companies’ scored 14% higher in innovation and, on average, have higher profits. Millennials are stepping up to propel businesses forward professionally, while remaining thoughtful in regards to their impact on local communities.
Telefonica’s Global Millennial Survey found that 62% of Gen Y believes they have the ability to make a difference in local communities. We’re starting to see this mindset shift workplace policies and the way companies manage their staff. Many businesses offer paid volunteer days and recognize a millennial’s need to better the world around them. Big name businesses from Deloitte to SalesForce are offering incentives that allow employees to give back. Change is on the horizon and Gen Y is leading the charge.
5. And finally – because you have no choice.
My intention for that statement is to come off as gentile as possible, while still honoring reality. There are 54 million American adults between the ages of 18 and 34. One third of the American workforce is comprised of millennials and by 2025, Gen Y will be the dominant majority at 75%. You don’t have to see eye-to-eye when it comes to all things millennials, but learning to work together and creating cohesive mutigenerational teams will be crucial to the long-term success of your business.
Don’t Hate the Millennial – Hate the Antiquated Game
The “game” isn’t necessarily antiquated so much as it’s ever-evolving, but you have to admit that’s a fantastic sub-header. If you’re struggling to understand millennials in the workplace, hopefully you can appreciate this quote from Forbes contributor Meghan Biro…
“How do we best recruit, engage, and motivate millennials? By insisting on excellence, and appropriateness, and functionality. There’s not much new about this, except in the most simple imperatives: we must be digital, social / mobile; agile; inclusive; and stop wasting time asking ourselves the if questions. Or the gap will be one mired in perception, not reality.”
The millennial traits most often cited as problematic, can be found in people of any age. It’s important that managers and owners understand when it comes to millennials, the old adage still applies, don’t allow “one bad apple to spoil the bunch”. Millennials are just as varied as the generation before them. Each person should be regarded just as that, a person, and not a representation of the collection of all people between the ages of 18-34.
Personally, I am excited to see the way the workforce will shift over the years to come. The challenges of bridging generational gaps in the workplace will certainly continue. By focusing on the positive qualities your millennials marketers bring to the table, you’ll slowly build a team focused on the same goals, even if the means to reach them is varied in ways you never anticipated.