Firms that recognize the immense potential from tapping into this group can expect a boost to their bottom line
It’s time for companies to wake up and smell the millennials.
Like them or not, millennials – born between 1980 and the late 1990s – are set to become the bread and butter of their market.
For too long, millennials have gotten a bad rap, seen as entitled, self-absorbed and spoiled. They have been labelled the “Snowflake” generation, afraid of criticism and unaccustomed to the school of hard knocks that previous generations believe they’ve experienced.
Ridiculing younger generations is an age-old trope but increasingly, senior executives are realizing this is not a luxury they can afford because millennials represent an important consumer segment and pool of workers.
So what do organizations have to do to connect with these consumers and workers?
The first thing is to drop the biases against millennials and embrace their values and aspirations.
They need to look at the data. According to Statistics Canada there are almost 10 million millennials living in this country, which represents almost 30 per cent of the total population. Millennials will soon become the largest living adult generation since the Baby Boomers.
Then, they need to understand what makes millennials tick.
Mike Cyr is a Halifax millennial and entrepreneur who started a company with a group of millennial colleagues. Nanuk Technologies develops online technologies to take viewers on virtual tours through houses that have not yet been built.
He says millennials have grown up in a time when technologies and trends are moving faster than ever. This has moulded their values, giving them a vision and the courage to try new things – because they have to.
He says it’s imperative for corporations to recognize these values and embrace them.
“I do believe employers should be aware of these values and priorities because not only can it maintain employee satisfaction, but it’s also a critical investment,” he said. “I believe millennials are the pivotal stepping stone to allow companies to make these critical changes, keeping them competitive in their industries.”
Investing in expectations of the millennials will be key to staying ahead of the curve, according to Cyr.
“If companies do not recognize these values and expectations, they will be left behind.”
Like any generation, millennials should not be lumped into one homogeneous group, but there are certain common threads that can help companies connect to this group.
Millennials place high value on good corporate citizenship, environmental sustainability, volunteerism and charity at home and abroad. Companies can respond by developing clear policies on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
A recent example of CSR is the Nike campaign featuring former NFL football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African-Americans.
The campaign doesn’t explicitly mention the #takeaknee protest, but it features Kaepernick in the 30th anniversary of its Just Do It campaign, in the hope consumers will support their brand and products.
After the launch, the retailer saw an immediate boost in sales and sold out of many products. Its stock rebounded to record highs.
Nike knew it would risk alienating older consumers – and it did alienate some – but it was counting on the reaction of millennials who liked the social cause.
Because they have grown up using social media, millennials have a voice and expect two-way communication with the companies they support. If the actions of the company are not authentic, millennials will punish them.
A recent example of millennial activism in the workplace was the high-profile walkout by thousands of Google employees around the world.
They were protesting the way the company was handling sexual harassment. Google gave senior executives millions of dollars in payouts to leave the company, but they remained silent about the misconduct.
This does not align with values of employees who were showing their discontent over the way the corporation treated women.
Millennials are the workers and consumers of the future. When companies and brands recognize and act upon this, they will make friends with this powerful consumer and labour force and this will boost their bottom line.