Millennials don’t just represent an age bracket. They represent a state of mind. That means most businesses must learn to bridge not just a generational age gap, but a culture gap as well.
Let me state right from the start: I’m not trying to imply Millennials—and I am one—must be entirely catered to. Millennials have their work cut out to prove themselves. Anyone in marketing—again, that includes me—must remember that.
But first I want to address one of the many stereotypes associated with Millennials: their tendency to frequently change jobs. While some might associate this with the Millennial label of having an undeserved sense of entitlement, I’d prefer to call it a sense of empowerment.
Prior to the 1980s—the dawn of the Millennial generation—there was an unequal distribution of power between the employer and employee. At any point, a company could fire an employee. The employee could quit at any time as well, but that wasn’t very common. Not anymore. These days we’re seeing a much higher rate of people leaving their jobs. In fact, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report released in February, Americans are quitting their jobs at the highest rate since 2007. Also worth noting: The Millennial generation makes up nearly half of the U.S. workforce.
In my immediate group of friends, I know four people who moved to their second jobs within their first year of graduating college; two more are on their third. Needless to say, this is less than ideal for the companies that now have to once again recruit employees to fill the vacant positions. The key question is, what are Millennials looking for in the companies they choose to work for, and what can brands do to make sure that when they hire a Millennial, they’ll stay?
Before you jump to an answer, know this: It’s not all about the money. While salary is a significant factor in deciding to accept a job, it is definitely not the only thing that matters to most Millennials.
To dive deeper into the subject, I spoke with fellow Millennial Verónica López García, who works for a global IT company in Guadalajara, Mexico. Verónica told me she feels very lucky to have found a job she loves. What I found fascinating was how our perspectives aligned, even though we’re from two different countries. Verónica and I identified two core components that make us love our jobs and keep us motivated: feeling that we’re making a difference and having the opportunity to travel. Granted, not all companies can afford to provide the latter. However, the first component is attainable no matter the company size and is more important.
We spoke about common Millennial stereotypes and whether they held true for us. While Veronica isn’t an avid Snapchatter, she posts on Instagram regularly, catches all of her TV shows on Netflix, and loves to travel. Verónica acknowledged that she’s extremely lucky to have the opportunity to travel for work, but, like salary, it’s not the only reason she is so happy with what she does.
We also addressed the stereotype of being attached to our smartphones.
“It’s not that we’re lazy or always glued to our phones—we’re just responsive to change,” Verónica said. Unlike the up-and-coming Centennial generation (those born after year 2000) who were born into an era where smartphones are the norm, Millennials adapted to and embraced the new technology in their mid-teens and twenties.
This change in technology was accompanied by a dramatic change in social behavior that disrupted what prior generations were accustomed to. At what point did sending a text become preferred to a phone call? When did it become OK to have your phone at the dinner table? When did it become common place to take a picture of your food right before you chow down?
If different generations are to work and collaborate with one another, they need to understand each other. Also, let’s not forget that the Millennial generation is a broad category, ranging from young twenties to mid-thirties. This spread represents difference in life stages, impacting both work and consumer mentality.
This brings me back to my main point: How do you make a Millennial feel like they are a part of something bigger than just themselves and not just a tiny cog within the giant machine we call corporations? Verónica and I agreed that it has to do with involvement and feeling part of something bigger than ourselves. Give us a variety of jobs to do. This will help us expand our skill set, and it will also keep us from getting bored.
In addition, let us challenge ourselves. By embracing mobile at a midpoint in our lives, Millennials have proved that we are able to let go of the comfort of the past and adapt to new technology and the social changes that come with it. As Verónica and I discussed, “You can tell me what to do, but don’t tell me specifically how to do it.” I might discover an entirely new method of doing something that could ultimately benefit the company. It all starts with letting me have the freedom to innovate and be creative.
As Charles Darwin famously said many years ago, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” This quote holds true for Millennials, too.