Is the business world ready for us, millennials?

Mark Healy’s column in the Globe and Mail this week raises thoughtful questions about how employers need to change in order to satisfy the millennial generation. As he notes, how to “manage” generational changes and the approaching challenge that my generation presents to business and government is a topic of deep thought and debate.

He writes, “The conversations focused mainly on the differences in consumer behaviours between younger and older buyers, and in work and career orientation between millennials and those in senior management.”

These two fundamentals of business – consumer behaviour and human resource recruitment and retention – are in transition as the millennial generation emerges as a powerful force in consumer and public affairs.  While it is true that retiring boomers will place certain demands on consumers, from retirement and health services, millennials are demanding that companies and their associated brands act differently.

Healy points out that “Millennials discover music they like and download it immediately. They process three or more simultaneous, continuous streams of information and communication – conducting history research while BBMing friends and updating Facebook. The idea of a store isn’t necessarily relevant. Nor is the idea of investing, or putting in time. So they don’t wait to communicate, even one-to-many, they don’t wait to accumulate and process mass amounts of information, and they don’t wait to purchase and consume.”

That description nicely sums up my own behaviour – I rarely “window shop” anymore, instead using eCoupons to purchase things I want and need online.  Hear a song I like?  I use Shazam to find out what it is and instantly buy it on iTunes.  And I find myself shopping more and more with foreign retailers – especially for my cycling obsession.

The best line in his whole article is this: “Whatever you call this generation, running a successful business demands understanding its views.”

There is a change coming.  Business needs to adapt and evolve as the market changes.  The most important step in making the right changes is to understand the market, listen to what it wants, and to assess what you hear.    Finding a research and strategy partner who is in touch with the generation, and more importantly is of the generation, is why Abacus Data is focusing so much of its practice on helping connect business and decision makers with millennials.

What Canadians 30 and older said about millennials when asked about them.