Like most of you, I’ve read dozens of articles over the past few years about millennials and how they differ from previous generations – as human beings, friends, family members and employees. What do you think of when you hear or read the word “millennial”? Do you see a smart-phone addicted twenty-something, who spends their free time posting pictures to Instagram, or snapping selfies to send through Snapchat? Or do you think of a young individual, who lives at home, with a college degree and isn’t motivated enough to go out into the workplace and make a difference? While there are many clichés surrounding the millennial generation, it is important to understand what this group of people views as important in life.
1. Marriage: Who would have thought that Millennials would have found the solution to the divorce problem that we have here in the U.S – they stopped getting married. Within the last few years, millennials have decided to delay the process. Generations ago, getting married and settling down with children was the norm. Now, it is the contrary, with marriage rates being at a low 26% for millennials. The median marriage age for women is 27, and for men it’s 29. Divorce is not an option and that goes hand-in-hand with not finding the right significant other. Our culture has presented millennials to be an individualized, technologically refined generation, and it couldn’t be truer. With a record breaking 1.73 billion people using social media sites, the dating scene has changed completely. Casual dating makes it easy to meet a lot of people, thinking that we’re going to find that perfect person. However – pickiness takes over and it forces the generation into a cycle of repetitive dating with nothing in the end zone. Another speculation as to why millennials notoriously delay marriage is because they do not have appropriate financial standings to support a family.
2. Home Environment: Millennials are generally not in a rush to go out and purchase a home. It is not uncommon for millennials to move back in with their parents after college as a means to save money, and many of them are not in a rush to acquire their own house. However, that doesn’t mean that millennials aren’t on the lookout to view the newest and hottest properties in certain areas. More than 1/3 of millennials have used a mobile device to scope out the real estate market, here in the U.S. This implies that millennials are thinking about buying or renting a home, and researching the best options for them, financially, socially and economically. It has been noted that millennials who anticipate purchasing a home one day value availability of transportation and proximity to work, coffee shops, bars, restaurants and retail stores. Home technology is essential; being connected at all times with having the best cellphone coverage is another factor to choosing the right location for millennials. Especially in today’s floor plans, modern homes are cost and energy efficient, and designs that reflect affordability and comfort excite millennials, considering that is what they are searching for. Home environments today present a different way of living, kicking formality out the window.
3. Consumer Traits: Millennials have proven that consumer behaviors are generational. Growing up with digital devices attached to their hands, communication, entertainment, shopping, and education have been introduced at an early age. Millennials embrace technology, and are comfortable adapting to its changes. In a direct comparison, it is clear that older generations are more skeptical when it comes to intersecting technology and finances. Applications have become increasingly user friendly, simplifying user interfaces and setting a standard. Millennials are accustomed to expect immediate results. And to take it to the next level, majority of them sleep with their phones right next to them. Being connected at all times is a necessity – whether it is shopping, researching products, reading reviews or donating to charities or social causes.
Millennials are a sociable generation – expressing it in every way possible. Sharing habits on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and other social media sites, along with providing opinions on Yelp and other sites reveal their enthusiasm for a connecting with others. Their online behaviors effect their decisions in the real world. Millennials love to seek opinions of others, much more so than other generations. And they get along with their parents – 1/3 of all millennials influence their parents on what to buy, eat, shop for and where they will visit on vacations. Perhaps this is because older generations are trusting millennials to have sorted through information, provided by websites and social media, prior to making these conclusions about things to do and buy.
4. Workplace: Millennials are the future, and you can’t always assume that all millennials are the same. It’s impossible. According to PwC, by the year of 2020, millennials will make up 50% of the workforce, moving other generations aside. Happiness in the workplace leads to greater productivity and employers who engage with their employees are more successful in connecting with the millennial generation. Creating a positive culture at work is highly important to keep motivational levels high; however, compensation is a huge factor in maintaining that employee morale. Not only is compensation important to millennials, but they want to foster and cultivate personal connections with those they work with.
As an entrepreneurial generation, working with others and knowing the direction that the company wants to go is crucial to succeeding – changing the world one step at a time. In addition, contributing towards social causes within the company policy is highly looked upon by millennials. Having the opportunity to build strong roots and give back to the community is attractive to younger generations. In keeping certain newer traditions alive, having fun can never hurt anyone while working hard either. Companies like Google, Facebook and Instagram are being flooded with applications, because not only do they work, but they have fun while doing it. Developing fun atmospheres with perks can get millennials through the workday and it is a smart way to keep your best employees around.
A trend that I have been seeing more of is millennials do not understand why they should have to spend every second in the office, when they can do some of their tasks from home. It’s popular for them to want more flexibility in their schedules to achieve a better work-life balance, which we all need to sustain a healthy lifestyle. As millennials get older and begin to start the second phase of their life with families, this need for flexibility will only get higher. Regardless of the generational gaps, expectations can still be achievable for all parties – which can be adaptable for leaders in the workplace.
5. Social Media: Every social media outlet today is a news platform, to a certain degree. Millennials take to social media for nearly everything – making it an incredibly important part of the day-to-day routine. It’s common to want to know what friends are doing and talking about – when you’re with them or not with them at all. With seven different popular sites to visit, it is impossible not to find what you are looking for. While Facebook is the most frequented outlet for reading news, that doesn’t mean millennials only use Facebook – they visit multiple sites for a mix of information. Clicking on a link, pushing the “like” button or even sharing news contact provides us with their behavior, which is unexpected until they visit the site. This also gives millennials a chance to expose them to different opinions and views, creating a mix on their news feeds. It gives them a way to create an open dialogue through commenting, liking or sharing. It allows them to generate new ideas that can send a message to a mass market. Changing social media patterns for the better has sparked new trends and as millennials have become more aware of controlling their privacy settings and removing information or photos that are inappropriate, immature or embarrassing.
6. Dining Out: Millennials, between the ages of 20-35, dine out more frequently, making their wants and needs in the restaurant industry relevant. While they aren’t spending tons of money in these settings, millennials gather in restaurants to get together with friends and enjoy a night out. Disposable income levels make it hard to spend money out, but they do like to get out from their living situations and have fun. 41% of millennials purchase food at least twice a week out, which means that restaurants should have a menu and ambience that is fitting for their clientele. This generation presents themselves in a unique distinctive way, making some places one of a kind. Considering that millennials fall into the range of being either health conscious or not, cravings are important which could lead to more adventurous options. Technology is becoming increasingly popular, allowing millennials to review menus before ordering and/or deciding where to eat – adding to the social inclusion and sharing it with their network.
Working with millennials over the years, I have seen firsthand their desire to make their mark as positive contributors to their personal lives, social responsibilities and work. The way they live their lives is through their unique behaviors, beliefs and knowledge that can give them the ultimate power to be as successful as they want to be. Knowing anything and everything for a millennial is crucial, as social media is a powerful asset that could lead to opportunities to learn for different generations. It is important to understand that millennials like to know that they are important and on the right track for success, offering collaboration and partnerships to demonstrate success. Every generation presents its own challenges and the millennial generation is no different. The ability to listen and learn their behaviors gives other generations a chance to evolve and take advantage of what is being offered.
Being in an industry that moves quickly and is forward-thinking, I can’t help but wonder and predict what will the generation following millennials value? What technological advances will influence the way products are designed and marketed in 15 – 20 years from now?