Four generations have collided in the workforce and consumer base: the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. Though every generation has its identifiers, Generation Y is responsible for a number of "firsts," fundamentally changing how business is conducted. These changes, according to experts, are causing bigger waves in business than the enterprise has ever seen.
According to research conducted by the Center for Work and Family at Boston College, Generation Y, dubbed the "millennials," is the most ethnically diverse and highly educated generation in history. Additionally, millennials are the first "digital natives" -- that is, the first generation to be immersed in technology from childhood.
Frank Palermo, senior vice president of Virtusa, a Westborough, Mass.- based solution provider, calls the global trend the "Millennial Factor." He said he believes so strongly in its relevance that he has spearheaded a movement in his company to train clients on how to approach millennials in the marketplace as well as the workplace.
Palermo has pinpointed two major factors driving significant change in the market. The first is the generational shift of millennials with the power to consume and produce. The second is around "technology enablers and disrupters."
According to Palermo, there are four major "waves" of technology enablers and disrupters: the mobile wave, social wave, cloud wave and big data wave, or more specifically the ability for big data analytics to be delivered in real time giving insight into things like consumer patterns.
"This is a whole different outlook on how a generation will buy and procure goods and services," Palermo said. "On one hand, this creates great opportunities for [companies], but on the other, it could wreak havoc on many."
Through his experience in consulting Virtusa clients, Palermo said he sees enterprises slowly transitioning from learning of the "millennial factor" to embarking on initiatives that will embrace the change the generation brings to the table.
Launching mobile apps and embracing social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are a start, Palermo said, but they are not enough. "[Enterprises] need to be mapping out full business objectives" to meet millennial challenges, Palermo said.
Approaching a millennial as either a consumer or an employee means understanding a re-ordering of values and priorities.
As shown by the Boston College report, of those surveyed, 50 percent of pre-Generation Y managers who are currently in the workforce cited high pay as the most important factor in a career. Twenty-eight percent of millennials surveyed cited high pay as the No. 1 priority in a career, behind 30 percent who reported meaningful work as the most important factor.
"I think this generation is a lot more socially conscious and environmentally conscious. They think about things beyond the commercial aspects," Palermo said.
According to Palermo, these are factors that should be considered when selling to or working with millennials. Approaching business entirely from a revenue and cost basis no longer cuts it. Millennials want to see how their work is valuable. They want to understand how their decision as a consumer impacts the world around them.
"The way they think is just different," Palermo said. The rise of millennials brings "more change than organization[s] have ever seen before, and it is hard to keep up."
By not fully embracing and reorganizing their business strategy and employee management, Palermo said, companies run the risk of extinction.