The Millennial effect – what this means for our workplaces and our markets

When you think of Millennials, do the terms fickle, unrealistic and self-absorbed arise? Or is it creative, idealistic, and values-driven?

We recently held sessions at our Deloitte Private Clubs in Auckland and Wellington focussing on the rewards and challenges that the Millennial demographic brings to both our workplaces and the buying market.

We had the privilege of having Jacqueline Farman and Ben Gleisner speaking to us on this topic. Jacqueline is a director of The Purpose Business, and prior to her current role, she was CEO at Colmar Brunton where she led a study into the cross-generational impact of sustainability. Ben is the co-founder of Conscious Consumers - a platform that helps people find and shop from businesses that match their values around sustainability and ethical operations. 

Jacqueline says it’s time we sit up and take notice of this group; Millennials are set to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2020 and are already approaching 1/3 of sales in most categories.

A desire to use business to create a better world

Millennials are those born between the early 1980s and 2000s. They are digital natives whose key defining characteristics are a heightened social and environmental consciousness, a preoccupation with health and wellbeing and a desire for balancing work, life and community efforts.

Jacqueline says, “Millennials are combining their creativity and technology savvy to devise innovative solutions to make workplaces, communities and the world a better place. They’re starting their own businesses about a decade earlier than the previous generation, and at double the rate.”

She adds that they’re also strongly purpose driven, as “almost half of millennial business owners prioritise giving back to the community as a key measure of their business success.”

And as this group relentlessly challenges the status quo, business models and industries are being turned on their heads.

“The businesses they’re starting are changing the rules of the game so fast that traditional competitors are finding it hard to keep up,” adds Jacqueline.

Reshaping the workplace

Despite being a considerable part of our workforce, well over half of corporate recruiters reported in Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey that it is difficult for their organisations to understand and manage this group.

Millennials get a lot of bad press as employees and are often dismissed as fickle, unrealistic, narcissistic and lazy. But as Jacqueline points out, on the flip side, they are creative, idealistic, socially savvy, confident and values driven. And those skills and qualities are in short supply in many organisations.

“They have a lot to offer if you can channel their passion and creativity into something meaningful that makes a difference. Involve them in creating solutions to tough problems, and then join them in changing the businesses, markets and world we live in,” says Jacqueline.

Jacqueline says that they see the world differently, and are keen to help make it a better place.

“So ask them for their ideas and involve them in developing concepts and strategies, help them feel like they can make a difference. Whether as customers or employees, invite them in so you can create the future together.”

Marketing to Millennials

If your organisation is trying to sell to Millennials then it’s important you understand what drives this demographic and what they’re looking for.

“The biggest challenge for businesses and marketers is that Millennials consider traditional advertising disruptive, and are expert ad blockers. They understand the value of their time and attention, and expect to be rewarded for the air time they give you with relevant, personal content and experiences. They are also expert at spotting fakes and uncovering lies, so being authentic, honest and ‘human’ is key,” Jacqueline says.

The key is to start with purpose. You build their trust and loyalty faster when you engage and connect with them on a values-based level. Millennials place great importance on their organisation’s purpose; they’re less interested in what you do than why you do it, and how that aligns with what they believe and care about.

However, while businesses may want to make changes around sustainable and ethical practices, they don't always go about it the right way says Ben from Conscious Consumers.

"We've worked with over 1000 businesses now and while many want to make a change, they can find it hard to prioritise what to actually make a change with. They can also struggle to genuinely communicate when they have made a change in their business, to the people who will care," he says. 

Most importantly though, businesses won't be challenged to do something unless they can see the return on that investment adds Ben. 

"Being more sustainable and ethical often comes with a higher premium and business owners need to be assured that there will still be a customer on the end of that message who will come and buy from them if they do make a change." 

One foot out the door

Deloitte recognises the impact of Millennials on the workforce and conducts a yearly survey. The 2017 survey saw 8,000 educated and currently employed Millennials from 30 countries respond, outlining how Millennials are a better-educated workforce than ever before and that they have grown up expecting a productive, engaging, enjoyable work experience.

Read the survey here

But Millennials have shown a remarkable absence of loyalty to their employers in the past, leaving organisations at risk of losing top talent. This year's survey showed that in the current environment, Millennials appear more loyal to employers than a year ago. In a period of great uncertainty, stability is appealing. Many young workers continue to view working overseas as being critical to their development, and will pursue leadership skills even at the expense of switching jobs.

Connecting Millennials to mentors, giving them control over their career and encouraging practical training and international opportunities are a good way to retain and develop your Millennial talent. Millennials prefer on-the-job learning methods and are more likely to stay in a firm long-term if they feel they are being developed as leaders and retaining a work-life balance. 

Therefore, organisations need to have the right culture and values that ensure they can retain this demographic while at the same time, making sure they feel fulfilled in their work.

Organisations that offer this kind of leadership training and consider the holistic employee experience will not only retain talent, they will be seizing an opportunity to take the lead in shaping our changing workforce.

04 August, 2017 by Emily McLean,

Emily McLean

Emily McLean

Emily McLean works in the Deloitte marketing team and closely with Deloitte Private. She loves telling the stories of those individuals and businesses leaving their mark in New Zealand's SME space while delivering news and insights to help business owners grow their companies. 

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