10 Truths Characterizing Millennials In The Channel3:00 PM EST Fri. Sep. 13, 2013
Though generalizing a generation is dangerous territory, there are shared experiences and trends that shape a group of people who come of age during a certain time period. Generation Y, otherwise known as the millennials, are generally characterized as individuals born after 1980 who spent their teenage years during the 1990s and 2000s. Millennials are separated by decades from events that shaped previous generations like the Great Depression, World War I and II, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In fact, one of the biggest differentials in the millennial generation is not one that can be pinpointed in a history book -- it is the trend of rapid evolving technology. No matter the events or culture that has shaped Generation Y, the fact is they are grown, they are in the workforce, they are challenging tradition and they are changing the channel.
Following is a look at 10 general truths about the millennials and how they affect the ways the IT channel functions.
Millennials are a driving force behind the BYOD movement. They grew up and were educated with tools that did not always require a trip to a library. Now entering the workforce, millennials expect to have tools at work that are at least as productive as the tools they have available in their personal lives. "They are looking for something that feels more like a social tool, but has the power to get the work done," Andy McLoughlin, co-founder of Huddle, a San Francisco-based content collaboration company, told CRN. Huddle published extensive research on millennials' effect on the workplace in August 2013. "If they are not provided with a tool that helps them get the job done in an intuitive way, they will move toward finding [devices and applications] themselves." McLoughlin said. According to Huddle's research, 73 percent of U.S. office workers using enterprise-issued tablets said they download personal software and applications to them, while 62 percent claimed the same practice on enterprise-owned smartphones and 45 percent on laptops.
According to a recent study conducted by EY (formally known as Ernst and Young) examining the shift of Generation Y into enterprise management over the last five years, millennials are the most entrepreneurial of the four generations at work right now. The study cited 29 percent of millennials as entrepreneurial, beating out baby boomers, who previously set the standard at 15 percent. Though the traditional career path of finishing education, beginning entry-level work at a company and from there rising through the ranks over time has not gone by the way-side, it has evolved. Entrepreneurial millennials have found it feasible to use affordable technology to transform an idea into a business and then use inexpensive or free social media platforms to market their company. Starting a business no longer necessarily means investing large capital, and millennials are taking advantage of it.
The culture in which millennials came of age taught the generation to be fair, team players. "Millennials grew up with 'helicopter parents' and under the understanding that everyone gets a trophy," said Frank Palermo, senior vice president of Virtusa, a Westborough, Mass.-based IT services and consulting company. Palermo specified "helicopter parents" to be those who gave continuous feedback and encouragement as well as closely monitored the maturation of their children. As a result, millennials seek out work in which their opinions will be heard and ideas fostered. AT&T's Emerging Business Markets organization, formed in February 2013, is largely comprised of millennials and works the generation's ability to collaborate to their advantage. The company built a large multi-purpose room in a central location where it holds regular collaboration meetings between divisions. "Being in an open environment is key," said Senior Sales Operations Manager, Jennifer Huang. Huang added, "We are all very driven to make an impact, contribute and add value to the organization."
Generation Y is more ethnically and culturally diverse and, as a result, more globally aware than any previous generation. According to a Pew Research Center report, 70 percent of Generation X (the generation directly preceding Generation Y) in the U.S. was white. Only 61 percent of millennials fall into the same category. The same report noted millennials to be more open to interracial relationships and accepting of immigrants than prior generations. It is the generation that wants to see and experience the world in a more integral way than a week-long vacation, according to the report. As employees, millennials have a higher tendency to want to work internationally, according to Palermo of Virtusa, and as business owners, they want to spread innovation to the corners of the globe.
"Some people have an issue with the self-centeredness and sense of entitlement" the generation has been pegged to have, Virtusa's Palermo said. "I look at the positive side; this means they are ambitious and driven to success." It is a popular belief that millennials were not told "no" enough when they were young. Now in the workforce, "no" does not always seem like an acceptable answer. When faced with an impasse, millennials often use their entrepreneurial instincts and collaboration skills to re-evaluate and move forward despite the risks at hand. "They are ready to multitask, get things done faster and handle more," Palermo said. "Harnessed the right way, that could be an asset, but it has to be managed."
According to a Pew Research Center report, 37 percent of 19- to 29-year-olds were unemployed in February 2010. Despite the bleak statistic, 90 percent of the same age group reported they either currently had enough money or were confident they would eventually reach their long-term financial goals. Whether it is a false sense of security or confidence that hard work will pay off in the end, millennials face their day with the attitude that they will eventually see success.
The most recent recession has posed a challenge but not necessarily inspired fear in the millennial generation. In fact it has driven a large portion, nearly 40 percent in 2008, into higher education, according to census data reported by the Pew Research Center. People are attending school, finishing school and seeking graduate degrees in larger quantities than ever before. Partly in hopes they will wait out the bad economy and partly because the generation naturally values knowledge, Generation Y is the highest educated generation to date. Gerard Gibert, owner of Venture Technologies, a Jackson, Miss.-based solution provider, said technology is one field in which new hires out of school often have an edge over experienced hires in the workforce.
The familiarity of a few-second search through a search engine has translated into the daily lives of the millennial generation. Information, products, conversation: they can all materialize in often a matter of moments. Similarly, millennials tend to want the same kind of instant gratification in the workplace. Rather than the linear tradition of entering the workforce at the bottom of the totem pole and rising to the ranks over the course of a life-long career, millennials want to feel valuable and satisfied in the work place early in life. According to Huddle's McLaughlin, millennials are notorious for following their passions, making them more likely to change careers earlier and more frequently if they do not see their work as fulfilling.
"The most important thing to me is that the [company] communicates to us as employees the importance of work-life balance," said Lyndsey Aldridge, senior strategic pricing manager at AT&T's emerging business markets. Aldridge is a millennial herself and said that although her work is important to her, one criterion she had when looking to change careers was finding a company that would understand she had a life outside of work. Aldridge's need for balance is common among millennials. McLaughlin, in his experience at Huddle, said he sees millennials favoring careers that allow them flexible schedules and the ability to work remotely. This evidence does not suggest that millennials accomplish less working from home, but rather they value the ability to maximize their personal time.
Millennials, like any generation, are scattered throughout the workforce in all different verticals. The value they place on mobility, collaboration and instant gratification make them prime consumers of technology. "The big challenge enterprises are facing right now is around how to step back and think differently about how to offer and sell products and services," said Virtusa’s Palermo. Virtusa consults with enterprises, from financial services to healthcare to entertainment and all types of businesses in between, on how to approach what Palermo calls the "Millennial Factor." According to Palermo, the results of ignoring the presence of millennials in the workplace and market place are detrimental. "Don't become a dinosaur," Palermo warns, "or you run the risk of extinction."