The upcoming generation, known as the millennials, is a far different group, with which we are not entirely familiar. In the years to come, they will affect a wide array of industries and businesses – not just companies with a heavy focus on engineering or manufacturing, like ours.
Of course, this cycle of new generations occurs every couple of decades or so, introducing different views, ways of living, and work practices and priorities. From the appearance of the baby boomers to the introduction of Gen X, companies and organizations have shifted to meet the changing challenges of a new era.
I sat down with Patrick Zimmer, a member of the millennials innovation group, and he described some of the research and changes they are making within our company to accommodate this new generation of thinkers.
Meeting Millennial Needs
Interviewing college students, interns and other millennials who are making their way into the workforce has revealed key differences about this generation that can inform how we as businesses can relate to them.
Millennials, unlike their antecedent generations, are more likely to research information about products and companies on the Internet rather than calling up a sales person, and prefer to make decisions based on the facts rather than the advice of a representative.
Success in a career for them means being proficient at many things rather than an expert in a few, which contributes to the challenge of impending loss of skilled labor in the workforce. They look for work that is dynamic and impactful, and overwhelmingly choose meaningful over lucrative in employment opportunities.
As companies welcome millennials into the workforce, it is important to know that this is a generation that works to live, not lives to work. For them, work does not consume their life. Rather, they are more concerned with living fully right now while they are young. This translates into a desire and expectation for more vacation time and a flexible work schedule that allows them to blend life and work, even if that means they will have less pay.
Many of these findings are surprising, and exactly opposite from how the baby boomer generation has operated, which makes understanding and reacting to this new group even more important.
So what does that mean for us, and for other companies? We must adapt to these work practices, customer service priorities, and new ways of thinking. Otherwise, we will get left behind, losing valuable, youthful minds, as well as customers.
The true scope of generational differences will continue to become clear as millennials rise in position and influence, but for now there are obvious areas of contrast where businesses can begin to morph practices and priorities:
- Adjust sales tactics to provide immediacy and support versus relatability or contact
- Improve buying, troubleshooting, monitoring, and other processes in response to efficiency and time-saving priorities
- Emphasize value in operations and greater importance of business function
- Invest in technology that can ensure consistency through automated checking and providing the right information at the right time
- Support work flexibility that allows for a greater work and personal blend
- Fill in the knowledge gaps as skilled workers retire
What do you think about this new generation in the workforce? How is your company adapting to the changes?