Millennials are the last generation with a front-row seat to the change from analog to digital.
Their youthful eyes have seen the world turn global and connected. They’ve witnessed the introduction of the sharing, collaborative economy.
What can we learn from them?
- What is a millennial? Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are people born between the 1980s and the early 2000s.
- Are millennials different from non-millennials? Recent research from Oxford Economics indicates almost no difference.
- So, what is all the fuss about then? Millennials themselves might not be so different from other people, but the change (and pace of change) they represent is significant. Millennials are a catalyst for this change. Millennials have shaped and consumed innovations, and they will soon be the most dominant generation in the workforce.
How should organizations prepare for these changes?
1. Focus on life phases rather than generations.
Approaching a group only as a certain age bracket can be misleading. Ultimately it is behavior and thinking that determine what “generation” you are. It’s not the years but the mileage that counts.
We are all getting older, we live longer, and thus we work longer. The Oxford research shows that the older we are, the more we value work/life balance, which increasingly means choices in how and where we work. Offering this flexibility to the workforce is a huge differentiator to attract and retain talent.
2. Have your workforce reflect your customer base.
Today we have five generations in our workforce. As we innovate faster, we change faster, so we will encounter more generational diversity in the workplace.
The challenge is to have your workforce composition reflect your customer base. If your customers are millennials who travel with Uber and sleep with AirBnB, then what’s the point of having a director who likes to buy paper tickets?
How can you do this? Do some strategic workforce planning, and look at the composition of your workforce today and in the distant future.
3. Make the most of gamification.
Millennials have owned Playstation 1-4 . They have lived to see Pac-Man turn into GTA5. (Grand Theft Auto 5 is the most successful game ever, earning over $1 billion in three days.) Gamification works. These young employees like to compare themselves against their peers. How can you bring that into practice?
- Creating challenges and rewards. Have employees compete in “missions” for badges and points by viewing videos, completing quizzes or uploading their own submissions so they might qualify for prizes or gain time to work on innovative ideas.
- Make rewards public, because millennials like to see their performance relative to that of others.
- Give immediate feedback and comparison, because millennials like immediate feedback.
Gamification—along with the mechanics of challenges and rewards—will appeal to any generation. Millennials grew up with games and thus are more connected to those mechanisms. Employing gamification will increase performance.
4. Use the latest and greatest technology.
Millennials have seen the world transform from analog to digital. They are the first generation of digital natives, and their affinity for technology shapes how they consume.
They are used to instant access to price comparisons, product information and peer reviews. Instant access to information is the standard.
5. Offer more experiences.
Some think millennials are all about organization hopping, but look closer: They actually hop from experience to experience.
This makes it extremely important to look at your internal career maps. If you have a large organization, then turn that size in an advantage with rich internal career options. Your succession plans should encourage both vertical and horizontal options. And the culture should applaud horizontal moves.
Break down silos that prevent people from sharing talent, and keep track of your stars. If you don’t offer a diversity of experiences, job hopping is the only option left for younger staffers.
6. Adjust learning and development to different generations.
Change happens to us all-every generation, not only millennials. More change than ever means more development needs than ever. Different generations take distinct approaches to learning.
The multitasking millennial has a decrease in attention span and craves bite-size learning; a Baby Boomer might prefer a traditional book with paper pages. Be that as it may, every generation has to keep up with the latest to stay relevant in the workplace. Managers have to think carefully about the learning and development needs for various generations.
7. Pay for meritocracy.
Paying for seniority is outdated unless you are paying for experience and thus more knowledge.
8. Look ahead: The iGeneration is coming.
The difference between the iGeneration (Generation Z) and millennials is bigger than any generation gap we’ve seen.
Whereas millennials experience the transition between an analog world and a digital world, the iGeneration will not. They only know digital, but they will try to swipe any graphic they see. They will not memorize anything that you can find through Google, and some will not be able to use a pencil.
Millennials are living and breathing the change in our society-from analog to digital, from local to global, and on through the introduction of the sharing collaborative economy. They are dedicated to wellness and living longer. They embody our human evolution and are the driving force of our economy.
They will be followed by the iGeneration, which will pick up the baton and will, together with technology, further redefine our way of living. We can only admire the beauty of this diversity, embrace the benefits in our lives and get prepared.
A version of this article originally appeared on the SAP Community Network.