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Who Is More Mature — Millennials or the Adults that Raised Them?

A recent article in the Washington Post got my attention — I could not resist responding to the perverse logic the reporter used to conclude that today’s teens are growing up slower than older generations did when they were young.

There are some things in the article that I do agree with and some things that the reporter got flat wrong. I happen to agree with the premise that the life stage of youth has extended a couple of years, especially for second-wave Millennials (13 to 24-year olds). Psychologist and author Jean Twenge notes in the article, “with longer life expectancies and more resources at their disposal, today’s youth can take a bit more time growing up.” Plus, part of the hand-on helicopter parenting includes longer helicopter rides, often into young adulthood. How are young people supposed to grow up when their parents help them fill out their resumes and accompany them on a job interview?

Here is where the reporter took a wrong term in her analysis: The title of the article is “Not Drinking or Driving, Teens Increasingly Put off Traditional Markers of Adulthood.” It is true that young adults are participating far less in risky behaviors like drinking and driving, having unprotected sex, drug use, participating in violent crime, etc. But it is a perverted view to assume that youth are appropriately on their way to becoming an adult because they drink and drive, and take part in illegal or promiscuous activities. Are these behaviors actually marks of adulthood and maturity? Really? What planet are you from?

According to one Millennial in a focus group conducted by Eventbrite, “It’s pathetic to be drunk and reminds them of their uncool parents.”

The article misses the larger point, that the real reason today’s teens and 20-somethings aren’t taking part in as much risky behavior is that today’s youth are simply more practical and more averse to such risk than youth of prior generations. The teens quoted in the article make valid points, including that they would rather hang out with their friends than engage in activities with serious negative consequences. However, they are also thinking more about their long-term horizons and goals — something many people don’t give today’s youth credit for doing.

Millennials are a generation of achievers, not a generation of snowflakes, as they are compared to often. They have been driven by their parents from a very early age to think about how their activity today will affect their future. So, their time horizons tend to be long-term. This is one of the reasons that despite the ubiquity of social media today, you see very little beer bong videos and embarrassing and compromising escapades by young teens. Yes, of course you will find exceptions to the rule, but by and large, Millennials realize that this behavior will have dire consequences for their career and future job prospects.

So don’t lose sleep over the fact that teens aren’t boozing it up like their parents did. In the immortal words of Pete Townsend and the Who: “The Kids Are All Right”.

managing millennials

Why Don’t Millennials Follow Directions?

Often when I’m speaking to managers of Millennial employees, I’m asked, “Why don’t my Millennial employees follow directions?” As a manager, it can be frustrating to give an assignment only to find out a week later that the assignment is not completed, or partially-completed. What’s the deal? There are two things to know about Millennials that can help you with this on-going management challenge: speed and specificity.

Speed

Since childhood, Millennials have been conditioned to receive guidance and feedback at a high degree of frequency.  Instant feedback on their computer-based quizzes and tests, Google searches, texting and Snapchatting with friends has all had a profound influence on the expectations of speed or response. Particularly in school, Millennials were tested, evaluated, graded and given feedback more often than any other generation to date. Older generations indulged in the virtue of patience simply because things took longer to happen back then. Older generations understand waiting. Millennials were not raised in an environment where waiting is a thing. Instant feedback on almost everything is the norm.

As a manager in the workplace,  consider ‘checking-in’ with your millennial employees a few times a day about the assignment that you’ve provided. You might think it is overkill, but to a Millennial, that’s normal. Frequent ‘check-ins’ allow you to assess their ability to stay on task on that assignment you’ve provided them to make sure they understand how to proceed.

Specificity

Accelerating your check-ins is key, but another important element to get Millennials to accomplish their assignments is to provide directions to Millennials with a high level of specificity. Different generations have very different viewpoints on this issue. Boomer and GenXers embrace the notion of doing an assignment their way. They revel in the independence they have—they don’t need a roadmap, they just need a goal and they will likely get it done with little or no supervision. The viewpoint of Millennials is almost exactly the opposite. They are fairly dependent on you as a manager. They want very specific directions on how to do an assignment correctly, and also an explanation for why it is important.

Why is this? It’s because Millennials were raised in a highly planned and structured environment. From childhood, their lives have been heavily managed by their parents. Even their schools advocated a highly planned and structured environment. Free time and play was not something Millennials did—everything was planned for them.  Another contributing factor in their need for specificity is that they hate to take risks and hate to fail. An “opened-ended” assignment for them is viewed as a risk. Their viewpoint is “why should I take a chance on doing an assignment the wrong way when there is probably an already proven way to do it without error”.  Be assured that if there is a YouTube video on how to do something, they are on it.

A LifeCourse Associates survey revealed: “69 percent of Millennials say they like their supervisor to provide them with ‘hands-on guidance and direction.’ Only about 40 percent of Boomers and older Gen Xers said the same.” In response, many companies are doing away with the annual performance review. It is being replaced with more frequent meetings, updates, goal tracking and evaluations with more specificity. Major companies doing this include GE, Accenture, Deloitte and more.

As a manager, make sure to provide instructions that have clear goals and clear process with a roadmap that assures them they are going in the right direction. Providing them with frequent cycles of open and honest feedback will have positive affects — increased loyalty, professional satisfaction and more employee engagement. Millennials will feel valued, cared for and motivated to meet their goals. Incorporating these two simple elements—speed and specificity means they’ll be more likely to stay with the company for the long run, ultimately reducing recruitment and retention costs.

 

second wave millennial using a mobile device

Introducing the Second-wave Millennials

Just as you were starting to figure out how to manage Millennials in the workplace, a major generational shift is underway. Coming to a workplace near you: Second-wave Millennials.

Every generation has a first wave (older cohort) and a second wave (younger cohort). Each wave has slightly different traits because they were raised by the parents of two different generations. Older Millennials are First-wavers (as of 2017, ages 25 to 35), and were raised by Baby Boomer parents. Younger Millennials, coming into the workplace now, are Second-wave Millennials (ages 13 to 24) and were raised by Generation X parents.

As an entire generation, Millennials have broad traits and behaviors that are enduring and unique regardless of the generation that raised them. But within these traits there are subtle differences based on how Boomers raised them compared to how Gen-Xers raised them. These subtleties are apparent in behavioral shifts in the workplace — and managers should take note.

These differences include Second-wave Millennials’ seeming lack of capabilities in written communications for the business world. In addition, face-to-face communication coaching may be necessary to ensure Second-wave Millennials receive adequate training and development regarding eye contact, posture, voice volume, and pace.

In addition, Second-wave Millennials may have challenges around their own ability to solve problems and think critically. Managers may need to provide training on problem-solving processes and tactics.

Lastly, Second-wave Millennials tend to have less self-awareness about their role as a team

member in a workplace setting. Navigating their way as part of a team is often perplexing to them.

Second-wave Millennials, despite these challenges in the workplace, can be developed into incredibly valuable employees. They will give their full loyalty and talent to your company if you invest in them.

CoachingMillennials has been working with a group of curriculum designers to create six training modules specifically for the Second-wave Millennials in your workplace. Our signature program is called “Developing Your Emerging Professionals: Gaining the 4 Skills Required for Workplace Success.”

The workshop covers key skills such as self-awareness, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. Contact me directly if you’d like more information on this workshop:

warren@coachingmillennials.com, or call (703) 559-9130.

Fourth Turning Crisis Period

2017’s ‘Fourth Turning’ Crisis Period

A book called The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe is undergoing a massive resurgence in sales.

Twenty years after its original publication, its message is as urgent as ever, particularly as White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is using it as a playbook to shape the agenda for the United States.  Private equity investors and C-suite executives have been snapping up copies, looking for clues in an uncertain financial, political, and social environment.

What is a Fourth Turning? Like clockwork, over a 300+ year period, major events in United States history have occurred in predictable cyclical patterns, repeating themselves every 80 to 90 years. The Fourth Turning has been characterized as a “crisis” period in U.S. history.

A quick look back into the last three centuries, Fourth Turnings climaxed with major wars—the Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783), Civil War (1861 – 1865), and World War II (1939 – 1945). They are all about 80 years apart. In each case without exception, an economic collapse, a disintegration of social order, and a declining institutional effectiveness preceded these wars, while a new civic order and institutional effectiveness, along with economic growth, followed them.

Each Turning lasts about 20-years, and the Fourth Turning began with the financial crisis of 2008. According to the authors, 2017 puts us smack in the middle of a Fourth Turning.

Check out this article I wrote for Leader’s Edge Magazine to learn more about the cycles of history, clues as to why we are in a Fourth Turning crisis period in U.S. history right now, and what it could means for your business. And make sure to check out my new Fourth Turning landing page with information and links to articles on the topic.

I am scheduling speeches on this topic in the next few months for conferences and executive teams. Email me for availability. For more information and to see some sample slides, click here.

Regards,

WW

5 Things Millennials are Thankful For

Being a Millennial isn’t easy.

More so than other generations, members of the Millennial generation are dealing with crushing levels of student debt. Forbes reported that 57 percent of Millennials “regret how much they borrowed” for education, and now it’s delaying Millennials’ ability to buy a home, get married or do other things they want to do.

Yet for all the education they have, their job prospects are perpetually uncertain. More than half of Millennials report being “underemployed,” according to an Accenture survey. Many Millennials are turning to “gig economy” jobs – cobbling together a series of part-time or contract jobs to make ends meet. It’s rare for these jobs to come with benefits for retirement savings or health insurance, which puts more even financial pressure on young professionals.

What keeps Millennials awake at night? Retirement, job security and debt, mostly, according to a study by Charles Schwab & Co.

But in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, we would like to recognize that Millennials have much to be thankful for. Here are five of them:

Flexibility at Work

While gig economy jobs may not be ideal in some ways, they do afford Millennials a significant amount of flexibility. Millennials like the way being a full-time freelancer or contractor gives them freedom and independence, career development and learning opportunities they believe a more “traditional” 9-to-5 job wouldn’t.

Even within “traditional” jobs, employers are embracing the notion of a more flexible work schedule. Fully half of the U.S. workforce has a job that is compatible with at least some teleworking, according to Global Workplace Analytics.

Technology plays an important role in this dynamic. Thanks to near-ubiquitous wi-fi, the adoption of tablets, newer workplace communication tools like Asana and Slack and the proliferation of co-working spaces, being productive outside the office is entirely possible.

Technology

Thanks, technology! There’s no doubt Millennials have incorporated digital technology into many, many facets of their life. From driving directions to working remotely to staying in touch with friends and family, Millennials are definitely digital natives.

But don’t get confused – being a digital native does not make Millennials digital addicts. While they appreciate what technology allows them to do, they say it does not replace in-person conversations, particularly in the workplace.

Social Awareness

Millennials are the most socially aware generation to date. They put a priority on social responsibility in many areas of their life. When shopping, they are more willing to pay more for sustainable products and services, according to a Neilsen global study.

Companies are paying attention to this trend in the products and services they offer, and in their commitment to the community. More than 90 percent of Millennials want to work for socially responsible companies. And a Deloitte survey showed 70 percent of Millennials “listed their company’s commitment to the community as an influence on their decision to work there.”

Whether a company is seeking Millennials’ dollars or talent, corporate social responsibility is key and a trend Millennials are thankful for.

Understanding and Involved Parents

Financial stress from student loans and job uncertainty means a lot of Millennials are trying to save money on housing by moving back home with Mom and Dad. Some Millennials are using the money they save on rent to pay back student loans faster so they can move on with their adult lives.

Thank goodness for understanding parents! While there haven’t been many studies about how the parents actually feel about this, more than one-third of college seniors in 2016 planned to live at home for at least a year after graduation, according to the job website Indeed. Millennials grew up with parents who were highly involved in their children’s emotional and educational development and activities.

For employers who are looking to hire recent graduates, it’s likely that prospective Millennial hires’ parents are heavily involved in this process. That may mean answering questions from parents, inviting parents into the office and even reassuring parents that your company has their child’s best professional interests in mind.

Optimism and Drive

Millennials were raised with the belief that they could do anything and be anyone when they grew up. Witnessing the United States’ first black president and the first woman at the top of a major party ticket, as well as seeing Millennial successes like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Millennials are ambitious, passionate – and optimistic.

Almost half (49 percent) of Millennials say the country’s best years are ahead of them, but just 42 percent of Generation X members and 44 percent of Baby Boomers say the same, according to Pew Research Center.

That sense of optimism will serve them well both personally and professionally. Optimism has been cited as the single most critical characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. Their optimism may also make them healthier in the long-term, as studies have shown a positive mental outlook has a good affect on cardiovascular health.

For those who are hiring Millennials in the new year, keeping in mind these five things that Millennials appreciate — flexibility, technology, social awareness, involved parents and optimism — will help with successful recruitment, hiring and long-term retention. Millennials will be thankful for managers who coach them, keep their professional goals in mind and allow Millennials the opportunity to be themselves.

zuckerberg

3 Notable Traits of Millennials

Special, sheltered and confident — those three characteristics are among the major traits of Millennials.

Every generation has its own personality—attitudes, behaviors and traits that are shaped by experiences in their formative years. In a generation’s youth, the prevailing cultural, social, and economic environment creates a permanent imprint that lasts a lifetime. This imprint creates signature traits.

For Millennials, there are generally seven of these traits – three of which we’ll address here: special, sheltered and confident. (Watch for next week’s blog post for the other four.)

Special

Members of the Millennial generation were raised believing they are special and important by their parents who kept a close, watchful eye on them.

In addition, Millennials are used to constant or near-instantaneous feedback on their work, thanks to growing up in an era of testing, measuring and ever-faster technology. For managers, this means Millennials in the workplace want faster feedback cycles, more frequent communication on goals and an open-door policy on communication.

It also means mentorship programs are important to them and something they seek out. And companies are responding: A 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey revealed that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of Millennials who had been with their job for 5 or more years had solid mentors in the workplace.

Sheltered

Thanks in part to the 24/7 news era, the parents of Millennials were constantly reminded of the dangers of the world. In response, many Millennials grew up more “sheltered” than previous generations.

With closer relationships to their parents than earlier generations, the economic realities of post-college life for Millennials often means moving back home — back to the place where they felt special, engaged with, wanted and important.

At the workplace, managers of Millennials may take on elements of parenting by taking a more hands-on approach to working with Millennials. Millennials will appreciate managers who give them reachable, incremental goals and rewards for meeting them. Plus, managers should realize that Millennials want to work for someone who “has their back” in the workplace and collaborates with them.

Confident

While Millennials like feeling protected and affirmed, they are also quite confident. Those same parents who raised Millennials to feel special and wanted also raised them to believe they could accomplish anything they put their minds to.

Growing up in an era of self-made billionaires (Mark Zuckerberg is a Millennial), participation trophies and the election (twice) of the first black president, Millennials were raised with the attitude that they can achieve anything they put their mind to.

For managers, that means striking a delicate balance between hand-holding and granting independence and leadership opportunities. It also means trusting them to make solid decisions and manage themselves with proper guidance.

Check out the second part in this series on Millennial traits next week.

Can the GOP Win Back Millennials Before 2020?

Millennials comprise the largest generation of eligible voters this fall. Nearly half of Millennials refuse to identify themselves as Republican or Democrat, but the majority of Millennials are planning to vote for Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8.

Will the GOP be able to recover the Millennial vote before 2020?

Representing 31 percent of the electorate (more than 69 million eligible voters), Millennials are more likely than older voters to favor strong communities, look for collaborative solutions and trust the government. Millennials willingly accept many social trends that some older voters may find threatening, and are more likely than older generations to be optimistic about America’s long-term future.

The Millennial Vote: 2016 and 2020

The reality is that the Republican Party has lost the Millennial vote in 2016. “Millennials back Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by more than 3-1, a new USA TODAY/Rock the Vote Poll finds, but enthusiasm about voting is dipping as a sharply negative campaign enters its final weeks,” USA Today reported this week.

Recovery by 2020 is still possible, but only if the GOP changes the party narrative and resolves its current identity crisis. Some Republican leaders argue Millennials agree with the GOP on certain issues and an appeal more toward individualism and away from divisive social issues will bring Millennials back into the Republican fold.

However, some argue this change is more of a fundamental shift in values. A 2015 Pew report revealed Millennials who identify themselves as Republicans are less conservative than GOP members of older generations.

For a more in-depth look at the Millennials and the GOP — and how Republicans can reconnect with this generation — download “The Millennial Generation: Who They Are and How the GOP Can Connect with Them” below by providing your email address.


the ofice

How Many Generations are in the Workforce?

How many generations of people are in the workforce today? The answer may be fewer than you think.

It is often said there are four or even five generations of people in the full-time labor pool, but the answer hinges on the definition of generation and simple math.

A generation typically spans 18 to 22 years. Currently, 97 percent of the workforce in the United States is 18 to 73 years old, a 56-year spread, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That means it is unlikely you will have more than three generations in your place of business — at least legally — at any given time.

Right now, the generations in the workforce are Baby Boomers, the oldest of whom are in their early 70s, Generation X members, and Millennials, the youngest of whom are just entering their teen years. Generation Z members are barely old enough to stay home alone (see Busting Myths – Generation Z).

Although there are only three generations in the active, full-time workforce, the generational differences are significant. A survey of thousands of employees in the insurance industry, for example, revealed that three-quarters of respondents agreed that there are important generation differences, and those differences “sometimes” or “often” pose challenges in the workplace. (See more about this in “Why Generations Matter” from LifeCourse Associates.)

These differences include how members of each generation set goals for themselves and others, what members of each generation wants from their managers and coworkers, and even how they communicate. Learn more about how Millennials are changing the workplace here.

 

Homelander

Busting Myths: Generation Z is Taking Over the Workforce

 

Watch out — Generation Z is coming! Or so the media would have you believe.

But the reality is this so-called “Generation Z” is not yet entering the workforce, and in fact, has barely reached puberty. Most social scientists who track generations say the first born from Gen Z was born between 2002 – 2005, making the oldest 14, and the youngest…not yet born. A generation, by definition, is about 20 to 22 years in length.

Alphabet Soup: What’s in a name?

Generation Z is a “default” name given to the generation that followed “Gen Y” (more widely recognized as the Millennials), which itself was a follow-on to Generation X. But the naming of generations was never meant to be an exercise in sequencing the alphabet.

This alphabet obsession started with Generation X, or “Gen X,” (1961 – 1981) so named not as a random letter, but because of their “anti-brand” ethic. “X” as in the non-brand, an appropriate mark for a generation that was described by their elders as “wasted, slackers that will amount to nothing”. They started with punk and ended with grunge, always in black t-shirts. They are “X” through and through.

The next generation to come up was called, by many people, Generation Y — named by an unimaginative but well-meaning writer at Ad Age — the next letter of the alphabet, and the predictable sequencing continued with Generation Z.

We call them “Homelanders”

We call the cohort born after Millennials, “Homelanders.” (2002 – ?) We call them this in part because they are literally at home more than previous generations. Studies show that this generation does not go outside and play as much as previous generations, instead playing video games and doing homework, staying safe under the watchful eye of their helicopter parents. Indeed, with a brief exception to play Pokémon Go, this generation is under near-constant supervision. Check out this interview in Forbes with Neil Howe on Homelanders.

Another reason we call them Homelanders is the geopolitical mood sweeping the globe right now. From Russia to China to right here in the U.S., there is more focus than ever on keeping the homeland safe and distancing ourselves from far-flung alliances. Homelanders will be growing up during a time when we are looking more inward and less likely to welcome outsiders. This is the generation that will be coming of age in a post-Brexit global environment.

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Gen Z in the Workplace? Forget about it

Don’t believe the hype. You have plenty to worry about at work — don’t worry about this. With the oldest Homelanders barely old enough to mow the lawn, you won’t see them shaking up the workforce anytime soon. The fact is, it’s simply too early to be talking about their influence on our world in any significant way.

Most companies I talk to are still trying to master the Millennial mindset. Given that they represent over a third of the workforce, that should be the generation du jour.

millennial

An Embarrassing Millennial Moment for Kronos

Millennial mishap alert! I was really looking forward to reading a new research report by Kronos, a US-based multi-national workforce management software company, called, “Motivating Millennials, Managing Tomorrow’s Workforce Today”. Researching Millennials is my work, and I collect research reports like I used to collect baseball cards as a kid.

So, I’m settling in with my cup of coffee, sun streaming in through the window, my dog Wulfie sprawled on the “dog sofa”, excited to digest this research report. The very first “take-away” from the research is that “Millennials will make up 75% of the Australian workforce in 2025.” REALLY? Guys– do the math. A generation, by definition, lasts 18 to 22 years. Let’s just say 20-years. The workforce is made up of people roughly 20 to 60-years old, right? That’s a 40-year span, meaning that at a MAXIMUM, Millennials could only represent is 50%, but that’s only assuming we are counting 2 generations.

I know many of you don’t care about this, but I’m a stickler for data accuracy. I would hope Kronos would be too. I’m giving then a “D” on this report for demographic accuracy.

Oh– if you want to know how many Millennials will be in the workforce by any given year, I am including a Link to a spreadsheet we put together by looking at census estimates. Max percentage is 51% in 2034. This is for the US, but population pyramids run roughly parallel between Australia and the US.

Bravo, Kronos, for recognizing that Mentorship programs should be a core part on Millennial’s development– (see our take on Mentorship), but its better if you stick with your core competency– software development.

Percent of Millennials in the workforce.xlsx

millennial

An Embarrassing Millennial Moment for Kronos

Millennial mishap alert! I was really looking forward to reading a new research report by Kronos, a US-based multi-national workforce management software company, called, “Motivating Millennials, Managing Tomorrow’s Workforce Today”. Researching Millennials is my work, and I collect research reports like I used to collect baseball cards as a kid.

So, I’m settling in with my cup of coffee, sun streaming in through the window, my dog Wulfie sprawled on the “dog sofa”, excited to digest this research report. The very first “take-away” from the research is that “Millennials will make up 75% of the Australian workforce in 2025.” REALLY? Guys– do the math. A generation, by definition, lasts 18 to 22 years. Let’s just say 20-years. The workforce is made up of people roughly 20 to 60-years old, right? That’s a 40-year span, meaning that at a MAXIMUM, Millennials could only represent is 50%, but that’s only assuming we are counting 2 generations.

I know many of you don’t care about this, but I’m a stickler for data accuracy. I would hope Kronos would be too. I’m giving then a “D” on this report for demographic accuracy.

Oh– if you want to know how many Millennials will be in the workforce by any given year, I am including a Link to a spreadsheet we put together by looking at census estimates. Max percentage is 51% in 2034. This is for the US, but population pyramids run roughly parallel between Australia and the US.

Bravo, Kronos, for recognizing that Mentorship programs should be a core part on Millennial’s development– (see our take on Mentorship), but its better if you stick with your core competency– software development.

Percent of Millennials in the workforce.xlsx

Millennial Footprint

The Millennial Footprint on Media and Entertainment

Millennial Footprint

The millennial generation will continue to leave a lasting footprint on American culture.

Every generation leaves their footprint on media and entertainment, and it looks like the Millennials’ footprint is likely to be a big one.

Last week at the ThinkLA conference in Los Angeles, I gave a Presentation on this topic. Attending were over 600 executives in the media and entertainment business. Among this group, there is a growing sense of unease about where it’s all going. Long standing business models have been disrupted overnight. In a recent research paper conducted by Ipsos for the Social Media Advertising Consortium, it was reported that 30% of Millennials’ media time (5 hours/day) is now spent with User Generated Content (UGC) created by their friends and peers. Our own research at LifeCourse confirms this. In a recent survey we conducted for twitch.tv, we found that  93% of Millennials go to social networking sites on their smart phones. This compares to 85% of GenXers and only 52% of Boomers. Conventional media like broadcast television is under enormous pressure to stem eroding market share from emerging media, and Millennials are leading this shift.

History shapes generations. Generations shape history.

To understand how Millennials  influence these new trends and discern where it is all going, we need to go back in time to the formative years of their childhood, and their coming of age experience– their own history. These early experiences shape their values and beliefs that remain enduring and unique, and can give us a glimpse into the future. Every generation is shaped by their place in history. Aristotle said that history shapes generations, and then generations shape history.

Millennials were raised during a time of increasing parental involvement. We’ve all heard stories of helicopter parents, clearing the way for their child’s success and achievement. Indeed, Millennials were raised to feel special and instilled with an ethic of achievement. Surrounded by a team of parents, teachers, coaches, and tutors, the expectation of individualized attention as well as a trusting support network allowing them to grow and achieve has always been part of the Millennials coming of age story. Role models at an early age encouraged teamwork and cooperation. Do you remember Barney the Dinosaur? I love you, you love me, we’re one big happy family… By contrast, GenXers grew up to learn to fend for themselves– it was a time of declining parental involvement. One of the iconic figures of their coming of age experience was a Muppet who lived in a garbage can– Oscar the Grouch!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4Sml5MgOcM&rel=0&w=560&h=315]

 

In my presentation, I’ve identified four shaping criteria that is now influencing, and will continue to influence the direction of entertainment and media usage:

  • Hyper-Socialization

Millennials are a connected generation, but it is more than the technology that allows them to connect. Millennials are social, and they seem to love everybody. They love their parents, they love their friends, and they love the community where they live. 82% of teenagers in 2005 (now Millennials in their late 20’s) reported “no problem at all with any family member”. This compares to 75% in 1983, and 48% in 1974. We all know that Millennials are the “friend” generation. In our 2014 LifeCourse survey, 55% of Millennials agreed with the statement, “My friends are the most important thing in my life”. This compares to 44% for GenXers and 40% of Boomers. But it is not just about being social and liking friends and family… it is about doing things together. Millennials like to work with others and collaborate in teams. In the world of video gaming, long thought of as a lonely geek activity, 72% of Millennials play video games with their friends or family members.

Perhaps the most telling event in recent media history about Millennials’ propensity for hyper-socialization and doing things together was the recent phenomenon called Twitch Plays Pokémon. Here is how it worked: An anonymous gamer from Australia developed a program on one of the world’s most popular live streaming sites for Millennials called twitch.tv. On twitch.tv, gamers input over 112 million commands to vote on how the main character should move. Together, they beat the game in 16 days. Twitch Plays Pokémon is now a regular site feature where users play assorted Pokémon titles together. Furthermore, users have also enhanced the game in ways the creator could not have anticipated, from creating memes in Photoshop to planning Pokémon battle strategies on social media.  In essence, this one game created a thriving community of its own.

  • First Life/Second Life Blend

Unlike Boomer and GenXers, who adapted to today’s technology, Millennials are digital natives. Their orientation is entirely different than older generations. They spend more time in front of a screen (10 hrs per days vs. 8 hrs for Xers and 7 hrs for Boomers), and they are the first generation that feels as much ‘at home’ with their second life on the internet as their first life (their actual real life). IRL is a common acronym going around today– it stands for In Real Life, as opposed to “life” on the internet. The fact that Millennials need to distinguish between the two suggests that there would otherwise be confusion for which is which. This is a remarkable paradigm shift that can’t be overstated. Indeed, in the LifeCourse survey for twitch, 52% of Millennials think that life is like a video game. Millennials quite simply trust technology. It was there with them in their crib, and has always been a dependable partner, so no wonder Millennials gravitate toward this second life of technology.

All of this means that as far as media and entertainment preferences, Millennials are likely to get deeper into interactive media– spend more time and become more engaged on the internet and in their second life, and of course, bringing their friends and family with them.

  • The Maker Movement

Like many new movements in the last few years, this one started with geeks in their basements. The whole maker culture represents learning by doing in a social environment. The maker movement is networked, informal, peer-led, and motivated by fun, learning, and achievement. This is quintessential Millennial! We know that Millennials are highly networked to their peers, and we also know that the notion of achievement is very important to them. Schools have increasingly been focused on achievement standards, and Millennials are on track to becoming the best educated generation in U.S. history. Good performance is a source of pride and social capital for Millennials, and the maker culture encourages both.

The rise in Millennials time spend with User Generated Content (UGC) is up to 30%. This is content that is created by their friends and peers. Earlier this year, Disney purchased Maker Studios for a deal worth about $900 million. Microsoft introduced Project Spark to the gaming community, and program that allows players to create their own characters, plot lines, settings, etc. All of these events point to a Maker Movement and this has “Millennial” written all over it.

As to the implications of Maker Movement on Media and Entertainment, expect more Millennials to be using today’s technology tools to advance their education and the their avocation. I predict that the entertainment industry will reshape the education business in America and throughout the world. After all, entertainers know how to grab your attention and keep you engaged.

  • The Barney Effect

The purple dinosaur that millions of Millennials watched as children encouraged teamwork, cooperation, respect, and fairness. Whether it is support for same sex marriage, or support to reduce the income gap, Millennials’ values of equity, respect and fairness were forged in their early years. Millennials are the first generation since the GI’s (pre-WW II) to value a middle class. 72% of Millennials believe the government should work hard to reduce the income gap between the rich and the poor, according to a 2014 CNN poll.

Along with this fairness and equity ethic comes Millennials’ embrace for brands that have a socially conscious element to it. Millennials scored higher than GenXers of Boomers when agreeing with the two statement “having a positive impact on society is important to me” and “It is important to me companies I buy products from support social causes.”

This notion of equity and fairness extends to expectations Millennials have on their participation in how products and brands are developed. This is often accomplished through crowdsourcing, which is second nature to Millennials. Ben and Jerry’s was one of the first companies to crowdsource flavors. According to the LifeCourse publication Social Intelligence, “Millennials expect brands to listen to their feedback and engage in two-way, interactive conversation with them.” Wasn’t it Barney who originally taught them to participate and share?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqfJ1_zjEjA]

The Three Key Words for the Footprint: Participate, Create, and Share

Those that are paying attention to the footprint are finding ways for Millennials to participate, create, and share in their media experience: Participate because Millennials feel that it is important to have their voice heard in the decisions being made, whether it is an ice cream flavor, or privacy policy on Facebook. Create because Millennials are leading the original Maker culture with an active and engaged mindset to learn, build, and achieve. And finally, Share, because Millennials value open transparency and dialogue, and advocate a crowdsourcing mentality. Follow the Participate-Create-Share mantra and watch your audience grow.

-Warren Wright
@MillennialCoach

http://www.CoachingMillennials.com