Millennial Insight from a Millennial

In the News Young Professionals

At the WBA Summer Convention, the Young Professionals held a seminar on Millennials.  So who exactly is a Millennial? 

Each generation has a name, and it’s grouped by years.  The Silent Generation are those individuals born from 1928-1945, Baby Boomers from 1946-1964, Generation X from 1965-1980 and Millennials from 1980-2004.  Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation in the United States.

As I listened to some of the questions asked it was clear that a lot of people in broadcasting could benefit from learning more about the wants, needs and expectations of Millennials.  Besides being part of this generation, one of my majors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business was Management and Human Resources, where we studied the challenges and opportunities of different generations co-existing in the workplace.  Understanding differences can help eliminate tension between older and younger workers, and create a diverse environment generating a lot of creative ideas. 

One of the major differences in the older generations compared to Millennials is how a person identifies him or herself.   Often, if you ask a person born before 1980 to tell you about themselves, they will immediately tell you what their occupation is.  With Millennials, that response isn’t so automatic.  A Millenial may first tell you about their hobbies and where they are from.  They may eventually get to their job, but they don’t identify with their job like older generations.  Many people born before 1980 live to work, but many Millennials work to live.  Understanding this difference is a key to incentivizing younger workers.  For a young person, for example, a bonus may not be nearly as rewarding as a day-off.

While a Millennial is at work, they also have different needs than other generations.  For example, Millennials want feedback, early and often.  Older generations don’t want to talk with managers.  If they get called into a manager’s office, they fear the worst.  Millennials, on the other hand, crave feedback.  They want to know what they are doing well and where they need to improve.  Older generations were comfortable with an end of the year review.  Many Millennials prefer monthly reviews or even weekly meetings.  Why?  Because younger generations have grown up in a world of instant feedback.  Cell phones, texting, emails, instant messaging, rating customer service online, etc., have created not just a comfort zone with feedback, but an expectation. 

During one of the first lectures in my Compensation Theory class at the UW last fall, our professor, who was also a practitioner with his own business on the side, asked us what kind of compensation we value most; money, healthcare, vacation days, flexibility etc.  Many people would think money would be the top answer.  Why would the average young person be concerned with healthcare?  Interestingly enough, money was one of the lowest motivating factors.  Flexibility and a work/life balance were important, as was healthcare.  With all of the debate about healthcare, this issue is top of mind with young people, too.  Plus, the Great Recession hit some of the first career Millennials, and those difficulties linger today. 

This has created not just a difference in what compensation is valued the most, but also a difference in lifestyle.  A higher percentage of young people rent their housing instead of owning it.  Car companies are concerned that trends suggest that many Millennials would rather not have the responsibility and cost of owning a car so they are carpooling more.  As everyone knows, Uber has taken off.  These options are not only cheaper, but also more environmentally friendly which many Millennials put an emphasis on.   All of this has led to a lack of loyalty.  Young people aren’t as concerned with brand names.  If it’s cheap and functional; you have their attention.  Some actually would rather not buy the brand name because they don’t want to be categorized.  This sort of thinking leads many to have the expectation that rather then working for three or fewer companies during their career, they’ll move around.        

Maybe more than ever before, young people want their individualism to be respected.  Recognizing some of these tendencies will give you a competitive advantage attracting Millennial candidates, many of whom, in spite of their modern day quirks, possess immense potential.