Millennials...Who they are and why they matter

Paul Holland of Signium Ireland looks at what makes Millennials tick and how firms need to position themselves to attract the best of the Millennial talent pool.

Everyone is talking about Millennials, those born between the late 1970s and mid-1990s. Especially marketing people, who are spending billions of dollars trying to impress and figure them out. Given that this generation will undoubtedly have the greatest influence on the type of world and society we inhabit in our old age, it’s important that we understand them and how they tick. In the context of Executive Search, it’s especially important to understand them in relation to their working habits and preferences.

Why Millennials Matter

Millennials now represent the largest generation in history, currently 27% of the entire world’s population and by 2020, this generation will control an estimated $24 trillion of wealth.  So, it’s no wonder that the world’s marketing gurus are frantically engaged in trying to understand what influences their consumption patterns and lifestyle preferences.

By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the world’s workforce so to them will fall the onerous task of supporting the massive Generation X in a world where people will live longer, and place more burdens than ever before on the creaking health systems of the developed world. Therefore, not only do we Generation Xer’s need to understand Millennials if we want them to buy our goods and services, we need to be nice to them too.

The Great Recession has formed them

Millennials seem to be genuinely influenced by the hubris and greed they saw (in their teenage years) and the catastrophic effect the Great Recession had on the world of the late noughties. Conventional wisdom indicates that Millennials are more energised by loftier aspirations like saving their planet and a more holistic approach to health (physical, mental and emotional) than the Generation Xer’s who were more driven by the all-you-can eat economic paradigm.

Sharing is Caring

Indeed, their frugality and commitment to sharing the world’s resources may be the driving force behind the 30x growth of the global Sharing Economy, over last 5 years. Yes, mega disrupter brands like Airbnb and Uber, unknown until a few short years ago are here to stay, with new kids on the block like Snapgoods (site for lending/borrowing high end household goods) and DogVacay (Airbnb for dogs!) coming fast on the rails. In 25 years, car sharing is expected to be the norm and car ownership an anomaly.

With the Millennials in charge, the Sharing Economy will inevitably become mainstream. And if that means that the world’s exploding population (7bn today, est 10bn when Millennials retire in 2050) spends more time sharing resources and saving the planet than we did, well, that’s a game changer.

Authenticity is their buy word

One word crops up more than any other when trying to figure out what makes Millennials tick, what influences the way they work and the brands they buy. Authenticity. Millennials demand and are driven by authenticity.

Authenticity in the jobs they do, the companies they work for and the bosses they report to (Millennials currently change jobs and careers three times more frequently than the older generations, by the way. Not for them the traditional linear life-journeys of their parents … regular career breaks and long “walk-abouts” will be the norm). They seek authenticity in their major life experiences.

And most important for those aforementioned marketing people, authenticity in the brands they buy and what they stand for. Brands that are true and authentic to their core and are owned by businesses with a genuine sense of purpose, will be the ones that survive and thrive in the new Millennial world.

Never mind the Quality, feel the Reputation

Millennials adopt different criteria to their parents where brand choice is concerned. While price/value remains the number one criterion, they cite a recommendation from a friend and the brand reputation as more important even than quality.

While Millennials are actually as brand loyal as their parents (perhaps a surprise, as they have grown up in what is considered a more ‘disposable’ culture), 38% of them will change brand if they discover a company has bad business practices.

Digital or Die

Not surprisingly the first generation of digital-natives consume 75% of their information (traditionally supplied by tv and print) through digital platforms. However, it comes as something of a surprise to learn that they are even more attached to their smartphones than their younger cousins, the Centennials (generation born after 1995).

A recent US survey of the Generational perception of premium global brands found Samsung ranked 74 by Millennials and 17 by Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 64), while P&G ranked 12 by Boomers and 103 by Milennials.

39% of Millennials feel that a brand is outdated or undesirable if it lacks a mobile ad presence. The lesson for brands is that if you are not a social brand, you are going to struggle to resonate with Millennials.

What’s your Purpose?

So, what does this means with regard to attracting the best senior management talent from the Millennial generation to your firm?

As with brand choice, so with employer choice. If you want to attract the Millennial, nothing will make you more appealing than having a social purpose and being genuine about making a positive difference to the world. At the very least, make sure you avoid poor business practices that will make you a hard sell.

It’s simple. Be authentic...or be irrelevant.

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