THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Peter Shurman Headshot

Millennials As Disruptors: This Changes Everything

Posted: Updated:
HANDS UNION
TommL via Getty Images
Print

When the Gallup organization publishes research, it carries worldwide brand credibility. Not that it would make much difference to the average millennial; brands, among other things, don't impose the weight they once did.

Gallup has just published research revealing just how different today's dominant Generation Y (or millennials) really are. To quote Gallup's CEO, "profoundly so."

While gathering material for my book "Millennials: Boom'er Bust" last year, that became crystal clear, so the Gallup findings were both a confirmation and a quantitative validation of what's actually going on.

Generations tend to dismiss other generations because the measurement criteria don't always work. Gallup's numbers are crucial signposts for developers and broad business sectors because millennials have now taken charge, as one would expect a youthful group of about 25% of the population should.

In broad strokes, Gallup looks at spouses, children, lifestyles, employment length, and indulgence by, when possible, living large. Millennials are connected to many of these things but appear to be driven by none of them!

Nowhere is that more obvious than in the workplace. Businesses are racking their corporate brains to determine what attracts and holds an educated millennial worker and makes her/him fit into the culture.

The good news is that both corporate and public culture are in great flux. Millennials don't easily "fit in" and have no such desire. They are the "disrupters" and are, as a group, significant enough to create change.

Gallup and others are trying to determine how best to interpret millennials to business, to our leaders, to marketers and managers. Why? Because without comprehension, the generational divide becomes a chasm, growing increasingly difficult to bridge. Baby boomers' values weren't transferable and we are now in a state of rapid change.

Early in 2015, I wrote about millennials as radically different from baby boomers because I believed our social structure would experience an earthquake as Gen Y took the helm. Gallup clearly identified this sea change and has researched key aspects. If you're a boomer, notably a boomer boss, pay attention! You need to know what you're into if, indeed, you don't already!

The most significant and important takeaways here are:

• Millennials aren't climbing over each other to scale the corporate ladder;
• They have little expectation or desire of a job for life;
• They expect work colleagues to 'walk the talk' of social responsibility;

Sound like boomers? Not even a little! Here are some of the most significant findings that business, academia, and government need to understand and address:

Workplace Engagement: Gallup confirms millennials are the least engaged generation ever in the workplace at 29%. 55% say they're not engaged at all and 16% self-describe as disengaged.

Retention: The numbers suggest built-in instability and ongoing massive turnover at an estimated cost of over $30-billion annually in the United States. For Canada, the 10% rule would be a reasonable guess.

Performance: The overarching question is how do companies engage millennial employees? The 'easy' answer is feedback, but it's much broader. If you're a boomer or Gen-X manager, your conditioning was the "annual review"...you didn't hear much from the boss unless you messed up! Today's employees crave meetings and electronic communication (texting) on a virtually constant basis.

Feedback: Millennials "work and play well with others" more naturally. They crave 24/7 collegiality, both in person and online. Gallup's numbers show that feedback produces higher performance results and satisfaction which, in turn, increases longevity.

Information Gathering: Millennials asked for their prime information source, told Gallup it's the internet at 71%. TV and radio are next at 15% and 11%, respectively.

Religion: Millennials have reversed their grandparents' positive views on the importance of religion (52/36 for traditionalists versus 35/51 for millennials).

Politics: In a US election year, no wonder everything seems so different...millennials identify mostly as independent and moderate. Both millennials and Gen-Xers show majority support for non-traditional parties and candidates.

Brand Loyalty: Now, consider the changed landscape and project it into the business universe. If you're a brand manager, you are likely pulling your hair out...only 25% of millennials express commitment to any brand, product or company.

Purchasing Habits: Millennials generally save more, spend less, ask questions (largely of their peers) before committing to buy anything. A sales person "on the floor" has no chance against online millennial buying habits.

Constant Connectivity: Bear in mind that information is at the fingertips of this new, dominant generation. It's native for them... they were literally born into an internet world. They can discuss and compare; manage finances; shop; get news and information; and stay in touch constantly, all with smartphones. Is it any wonder Germany is experimenting with traffic lights placed in sidewalks? You can't look up if you're constantly looking down!

If you've read this far and are thinking "how do we reach them?", the simple answer is "on their terms". It means accepting the smartphone as a natural appendage, not a curiosity. Engage millennial colleagues, read their news and review sources, provide frequent coaching and critiques via text and, most importantly, find a way to build a level of participatory and real social commitment into your business.

The subtitle of my book is "How Gen Y Will Save the World" and I'm often asked why. The standard response is "because they have to". They know that and are, in my opinion, up to the challenge. If you are pre-millennial, my suggestion is that you make the effort to understand and accept where they are taking things because resistance is not an option.