Understanding Millennials a Must for Both Managers and Marketers

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Speaking to a large gathering of mostly non-millennials, MaryLeigh Bliss (pictured here), chief content officer for YPulse, was asked a key question at her BIMS keynote last week: “Is the blurring of personal and professional lives”—started mostly by people now in their 30s—“a good or bad thing?”

“I come from the point of view of a generation used to multitasking,” she said. “Many do work while texting and watching Netflix, with many sources of media around them at all times. They’re used to having two screens on at once. There’s a completely different skillset baked onto them. Millennials are adept at having that multitask mindset.”

In other words, it is neither good nor bad, it just is. “Are they meeting their results?” asked Heather Krentler, regional director human resources for Crain Communications, one of three early-30 somethings that formed a panel that Bliss brought on stage. “Do they have results established that are clear? If they can achieve those things, then it becomes a non-issue.”

So much of what we heard from Bliss makes sense—both business and common. Millennials are not from Mars—in fact she was quite specific about the generation that created them, using words like “coddled” and “helicopter.” They want "a role in a team that is contributing to the greater good... There are 95 million millennials, and you can see”—Bliss showed a chart—“how wildly connected they are and passionate about spreading the word.

"They are group oriented—remember, everybody on their soccer team got a trophy. They are trained to think as a team. They expect things to be very fast. Anything slow will turn them off quickly. They multitask and they're very visual."

Here are five themes the panel and Bliss addressed:

Retention - "At my previous employer, the [negative] management style definitely impacted my retention," said Tara Loszach, digital content director for WATT Global Media. "They didn't let me have full impact."

“They are completely driven by purpose,” said Bliss. “If they’re not serving a purpose that is larger than them, or doing something for a larger sense of good, they will leave you regardless of what you’re paying them… Give them a voice within the company. Provide an opportunity to develop skills. Understand that they have goals and aspirations. Yes, they want flexibility, but they will stay.”

Change – "I tend to question everything," said Blake Bobit, digital strategy and sales for Bobit Business Media. "Just because you've been doing something a certain way for 30 years doesn't make it the best way, Not that I know better, but I just want to better understand things."

"Millennials might be better equipped to handle change because constant change is all we know," said Krentler

“We are here to enhance, we come with confidence, are risk averse but have passions that create a sense of fearlessness,” said Loszach.

Development. “Being in HR, I’m in a position to do coaching,” said Krentler. “I’m constantly trying to break managers of [going by old misconceptions].”

You can trust them. “They were the first to adopt new technology and new platforms,” said Bliss. “We track media behavior, so it is much more difficult now to know what screen they’re on or where they are getting content.”

“They are focused on what they’re doing,” said Loszach. “They’ve just gotten really good at striking when the iron is hot.”

Leadership. "Focus on the development factor," advised Krentler, when asked about looking to millennials to take some leadership. “Millennials have a hunger. What can your former peer bring to your team in a leadership capacity? It will feel more like a development focus.”

“It’s still very uncomfortable for me telling [people my age] what to do,” said Bliss. “I’ve embraced seeing it as a team rather than a top-down relationship. It [just] may not be what the company is used to.”

As consumers. “Authenticity is real mantra for them,” said Bliss. “They want brands that feel authentic and are not trying to be what they’re not. They do not want to give money to brands making fun of them either. [She saw a commercial that basically said, “Haha you’re living in dad’s basement.”] They want to share stories and hear stories of brands and products they’re buying.”

“Think visual,” added Bliss. “That’s massively important. And they are very experience driven. They entered the workforce right after the recession. A luxury is not as interesting as an experience.”


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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…