Our population is changing. With more than fifty percent of the world’s population currently made up of people 30 years old or younger, millennials are now the largest generation on the planet [U.S. Census Bureau]. By 2017, Millennials will represent the majority in terms of purchasing power, and by 2025, they will be the majority of the workforce [Pew Research].
With these changes comes a new face of consumers and employees—that of the millennial.
A lot being’s published on the emergence of Generation Y, and many an organization is beginning to feel the effects of the generational gap that may exist between the 35 and under crowd and their more experienced predecessors.
Conflicting working styles, unique priorities, differing opinions of authority structure and social responsibility are a just few point of potential conflict these two generations encounter.
So whether you’re working with millennials as consumers or employees, here are three common points of disconnect between members of the millennial and Baby Boomer generation (and what to do about them):
The Good Ol’ Days
Presenting my recommendations for an established client’s digital marketing, I emphasized the changing landscape of social media platforms, and stressed the necessity of incorporating new platforms into the next quarter’s strategy. My updated strategy was interrupted by a Boomer member of the audience who said, “What?! We just got started with Facebook—we can’t change everything and move to this Insta-thing [Instagram]! Things sure were a lot simpler when it was just magazine spreads we were buying. What I wouldn’t give to go back to those days!”
Millennials feel there is no economic benefit of longing for the “good ol’ days” (especially when landline phones, and Betty Crocker inspired retro housewives make up the mix). The Connected Age we currently live in is changing fast - new technology, consumer trends, and social movements have the potential to “go viral” off just one simple YouTube video. While staying abreast such rapid shifts can be a challenge, change can be GREAT for business, as with change comes opportunity.
Rolling with the times does not have to be a cumbersome journey—it’s all about attitude. Millennials and Boomers should strive to collaborate; viewing changes as opportunities, not threats.
Current Events Conflict
“Leave it to the Boomers to lose a 14-year war and tank the economy, simultaneously!” said a millennial + veteran, currently battling unemployment, student loans, and backlogged VA healthcare.
While such a statement may rub many the wrong way, I feel its expression illustrates the disconnect millennials and Baby Boomers experience over recent events. 9/11 Stock market crash. Longest war in American history. Great Recession. It’s a far cry from the 1990’s.
Many millennials credit Baby Boomers’ aspirations of society focused on higher education flooding the market and landing their generation in over $1 trillion in student debt. Older generations’ oil dependency has been cited as the root cause of our sending hundreds of thousands of troops overseas to lose the longest war in U.S. history, only to come home unemployed “heroes” with subpar healthcare and historically high suicide rates. The subprime mortgage scheme that allowed a few Boomer white collar criminals to profit on housing upgrades busted, left many millennial home buyers with upside down investments and inflated rental markets. Yes, there’s a bit of a rift between millennials and Boomers.
Such divided perspectives serve a “burr under the saddle” for many a generational conflict. The world has changed drastically over the past forty, fifty years. The systems that worked in 1970’s and 80’s are now obsolete. Acknowledging the effects of recent world events on both generations, and commitment to implementation of timely effective solutions (improved healthcare for OEF/OIF veterans and updated student loan forgiveness programs, anyone?) would go a long, long way.
“Hannah, when will you just accept that the world will never be a better place!” my Baby Boomer colleague fumed.
“Well with that attitude, yours certainly won’t be!” I replied.
Millennials and Boomers have vastly different perceptions regarding one’s personal responsibility and philanthropic efforts. Donned by some as the “Giving Generation”, millennials passionately pursue philanthropy as volunteers and consumers. More than 85% of millennials correlate their purchasing decisions and their willingness to recommend a brand to the social good efforts a company is making [Millennial Momentum]. Giving back is a priority in all aspects of Gen Y’s life—whether it’s buying an $80 pair of TOMS shoes so that a poverty stricken child in Africa will no longer have to walk to school barefooted, or pledging two years of their life to teach underprivileged youth in disadvantaged schools via AmeriCorps.
Regardless of your personal convictions, developing an awareness of how important philanthropic priorities are to millennial consumers and leaders, will greatly assist you in developing collaborative relationships with Gen Y professionals and reaping the benefits of millennial patronized brands. Giving back is a good thing, and when implemented in business, can assist with building customer base and helping others.
Collectively, Millennials and Baby Boomers are representative of distinct generational differences. Baby Boomers enjoyed a working career characterized by economic boom and Cold War, while millennials started their professional journey in the Great Recession and defended their nation from homeland terrorist attacks before even of legal drinking age. While millennials and Baby Boomers may poses two very different perspectives, getting “hung up” on differences can only hurt productivity.
Millennials and Baby Boomers should strive to accept their differences as “assets” vs. “liabilities”, and embrace the hybrid vigor that comes from collaboration between contrasting perspectives. Instead of working against each other, both generations should seek to complement one another’s unique skill sets and experiences to address current economic and societal challenges in an effective way.
Becker Digital is a full-service Marketing and Public Relations Agency dedicated to empowering mission-driven organizations to reach their goals. We apply our expertise in community development, social media strategy, and public relations to connect organizational clients with today’s always-scrolling online users.