Millennial is a term that gets used a lot lately. it’s tossed around as an insult and a slur, or as a badge of pride for those that identify as one. But what is a millennial really? How can businesses get the most out of their millennial employees? Today we’re going to talk about the different generations and learn how millennial speakers, millennial generation experts, and millennial motivational speakers can help your business.

Knowing the Generational Differences

Let’s start with learning about the 3 largest generations that make up most of the job market today: Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials.

Baby Boomer 1946-1964

Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, and they were the first generation that was truly observed and regularly documented. Baby boomers were born to parents in the post-World War II success and grew up watching many new industries and an expanded housing market form, as well as the start of the Cold War. Boomers were raised with the ideals of the “Nuclear Family” and they faced many social issues such as the civil rights movement, and watching armed conflicts taking place like the Korean and Vietnam wars.  Baby boomers have been in control of the government and most of the business world for decades and hold places of power and management in a substantial number of organizations. Under baby boomer leadership, many companies have had to weather extreme hardships, including the 2008 recession. The most successful companies have adapted to these hardships and have set up training programs that they feel will be helpful for current and future and employees.

In the workplace boomer leaders have been routinely accused of not understanding or connecting effectively with younger generations. Baby boomers tend to prefer more traditional training methods like classes, seminars, and workshops. These teaching methods are still used regularly, but much of the millennial workforce prefer either a more hands-on or a more computer-based learning approach so they can practice the skills they are being taught in real time. One of the most important insights for a baby boomer to understand when dealing with the younger generations is that their cohort is made up of the most educated and technologically savvy workforce in history. These employees are willing to work hard and to learn, but expect to be given clearly defined goals to maximize their effectiveness. Millennial generation experts and millennial speakers can be a crucial asset in helping companies maintain a strong and engaged intergenerational workforce.

Generation X 1964-1980

Generation X has been called the “Lost Generation” or the Latch-key generation. This is due to that fact that this cohort had less adult supervision compared to previous groups. With more and more women entering the workforce, and with the increase of higher divorce rates during this timeframe Generation X was largely left to fend for themselves. Gen Xers tend to more often hold middle management positions if they work for an organization, but many are owners and entrepreneurs of small businesses. In fact, in 2017 over 60% of all new businesses were started by Gen Xer’s. Epitomizing the “work hard/play hard” mentality, members of the Gen X group are known for putting their heads down and working hard to get what they want. Generation X is considered more adept at using new technology compared to Baby Boomers, and this understanding of technology has also earned many the title of nerds. Many of the most prominent and influential websites like YouTube, Amazon, Google, were created by Gen Xer’s. Generation Xer’s characteristic of creativity doesn’t just stop at websites – many popular Authors, Actors, Artist, Scientists, and Fashion Designers are also a part of the group.

In addition, the left brain output of this generation has brought many great moments of entertainment and a new understanding of how the world works from a global standpoint. Considered naturally committed workers who are well educated and very self-reliant, Gen Xers tend to need less hand-holding when it comes to training as compared to their millennial counterparts. Generation X is smaller than both the baby boomers and the millennials but still make up a large amount of the workforce.

Millennials 1980-2000

Millennials, sometimes referred to as Generation Y, do not have a specific date range of when they were born, but most agree that they were born between 1980 and 2000. The media tends to generalize by making blanket claims about the laziness and sense of entitlement that millennials portray, constantly saying that they are unmotivated and self centered. Millennials have also been called brand and industry killers. Millennial generation experts will say that many millennials simply can’t afford to spend money on brand names when and that they would rather spend their hard-earned wages on something that makes them feel better about their health and well being (hence the famed millennial endorsed avocado toast!).

Millennials have been heavily exposed to the 24 hour news cycle and are overall are considered the most highly educated generation of workers. They use technology easily and they are seen as a solution oriented group as they attempt to evaluate policies, come up with disruptive ways of completing tasks and seem comfortable thinking on a global scale. Having grown up surrounded by advanced technology they have developed different viewpoints compared to older generations. Millennial generation experts claim that millennials feel they are forced to try to fix issues created by older generations. In contrast, they claim that older generations often don’t understand just how much the world has changed nor the rate of change that has happened. For example, as of 2014, college tuition and fees have increased by 1,120%, compared to 1978. The price of food has increased 244% and medical expenses 601% during that same time frame. Bloomberg reports that tuition prices have gone up four times faster than the consumer price index. This has all been happening while wages have nearly stagnated for the same amount of time – thus presenting a financial quagmire that millennials find themselves trying to dig out of in an effort to have financial stability.

Millennial speakers will often say that the older generations are stubborn and have settled into a rut after decades of working. Baby boomers tend to denounce the reality many millennials are forced to endure just to earn enough to afford basic amenities. Due to the lower wages offered by many companies, most millennials that are lucky enough to find work are working multiple jobs. Others are stuck working at jobs they are overqualified for just to try and pay off the debt that was accumulated to get degrees that were considered to be a “mandatory” requirement when they were starting their undergraduate and graduate studies. A common millennial motivational speaker topic is the “Schrodinger’s Millennial” paradox which states; you need money to get a degree, a job to get money, experience to get a job, but you can’t get experience without a degree. This cycle is one that members of this cohort are all too familiar with and helps explains why many millennials feel frustrated and are anxious about what their future holds. Millennial generation experts will often tell you that members of this cohort are pragmatic but pessimistic, the sense of pessimism tends to come from their world view. Growing up with the ability to access information 24/7 – from almost any geographic location – has allowed them to see events unfold in real time. This has made millennials want to help and connect with others more – although most often virtually.

Companies should keep in mind that millennials have a ton of buying power, spending $600 million shopping each year in the United States alone, globally they are expected to command a spending power of over $3.4 trillion by the end of 2018. Studies show that half of millennials will spend their discretionary funds on experiences over material items and they are more than happy to pay a premium for these activities. Surveys show that 60% of millennials prefer to make a purchase if those purchases will allow them to express their “unique personalities” (not sure what that means exactly! 🤷‍♀️). Millennial consumers value their money and are more likely to purchase a product if they meet both an emotional need and make logistical sense. To that effect, companies will need to gain a deeper knowledge base about this cohort be able to create effective segmented marketing messaging that will capture this burgeoning consumer. Millennial generation experts, millennial speakers, and millennial motivational speakers can provide those educational tools to organizations in need. Learning to properly reach the 80M millennials is going to be crucial for many businesses to succeed, organizations would be smart to start that process by listening to their own millennial employees for feedback and ideas.

In addition to the financial items we’ve already discussed it’s important for employers to remember that your millennial employees (and consumers) care about giving back. Using this knowledge is now an essential part of business as more of this population segment begins to join the workforce. If your company doesn’t have a set of rituals (e.g., making employees feel hear/valued and a commitment to changing the world or changing the sector in which you operate) you can be sure that your millennial employees won’t be as committed to their jobs as you would like them to be going forward. Millennial insist that they want to work for a company that wants to better them, better the world, and better the economy.

What can millennial generation experts can teach you?

Now that we’ve learned a little something about some of the differences between our 3 largest generations let’s look at some examples of what millennial generation experts and millennial speakers can teach you and your employees. Below are a few topics that experts can discuss – through a millennial lens – when brought in to lecture and consult with businesses.

  • Optimal tactics for leading change and driving innovation
  • Solving the worlds’ “big problems” through communication
  • Innovative approaches to brand-building and corporate entrepreneurship
  • Future trends and impending disruptions within technology that impact business and politics.
  • Applications of technology and social media in business
  • Tools for embedding technology to strengthen client connections without losing that personal touch
  • Political and social commentary and analysis elucidating where your company fits in
  • The impact of technology on incumbent industries and how to take advantage of new media to stay relevant and get ahead of your competition

A few additional tips: Keep in mind that while Millennials are younger then Gen Xers and baby boomers, they see themselves as hardworking professional adults who will one day be societal change agents. Don’t make them feel like they are “nothing more than a bunch of teenagers” – trust me if you do so you will come to regret dismissing them as their generation is known to reciprocate loyalty. Also, try not to use the word millennial as an insult and please don’t get lazy and just group them together with Generation Z as one “under 40” segment, these generations have vastly different viewpoints and goals.

Lastly, invest in your millennial employees. Give them options for continued learning or greater immersion into key communities and spaces. Make sure that they are getting professional development budgets. By investing in your staff, you’ll see stronger results from them. Ask yourself: Are we asking our millennial employees (frankly all employees…) what they want from their employer, or what matters to them? Talk to your workers, and involve them in meetings and conversations – trust me you’ll be amazed at the new ideas and suggestions that you will receive in return. Millennials care about their work and take it seriously, so it’s only right that their company should do the same.

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”- Richard Branson

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