To predict how Millennials will behave in the marketplace and the workplace, a good place to start is analyzing their behavior in school
Before they were analyzed as consumers or employees, Millennials (or “Generation Y” – 18- to 30-year-olds) were the subject of study by teachers who needed to find new ways to have an impact on a group of young people who are unlike any who have come before.
One of the best resources to understand how this generation learns is Generational Learning Styles by Julie Coates (the core themes of which are nicely summarized here). By understanding how Millennials learn, we can ascertain much about how they behave as consumers and employees.
While any attribution of characteristics to entire groups is fraught with potential for oversimplification, anyone who knows people in this age cohort will recognize at least some of the traits Coates identifies. Among them:
Millennials tend to have close relationships with their parents – far closer than rebellious previous generations – to the extent that, when asked to name a hero, one in three will mention a parent, before a pop culture personality, sports celebrity or historical figure.
It is probably their most obvious characteristic that Millennials are multi-taskers. They tend to consume more than one media at a time – with music and TV playing in the background while working on their computer, texting on their smart phones and maybe interacting in real life with a friend over coffee. Even so, while this may appear to older observers as too much distraction, in Millennials it is apparently a necessity to prevent boredom. The level of stimulation they need in their lives translates into a need for stimulating learning environments – and that is already translating as a need for stimulation in their jobs as Millennials enter the workforce.
This age group tends to be attentive and respectful of others, partly because they have been raised in a crowded world and encouraged to work in teams – at school, in recreational activities, when socializing. They do not thrive in hierarchical social settings.
Their success-oriented “Boomer” parents have placed enormous pressures on Millennials, but also surrounded them with encouragement, support and the resources to achieve. Nevertheless, pressure to succeed has its negative effects: 81% of college mental health service directors reported an increase in students with serious psychological problems over just five years.
This age group believes they can make a positive difference in the world. While they are not intensive consumers of news, they are socially conscious and involved in their communities and the world around them. While they vote in lower percentages than their elders, they view their purchasing habits as having an impact on the world, as “voting” with their wallets.
These, according to Coates’ book, are some of the identifiable traits Millennials display. Our next blog post continues to mine her book, Generational Learning Styles, for explicit lessons from those who have observed Millennials most closely … and we will extrapolate important lessons for marketers and anyone else seeking to understand how this group acts in the marketplace.