“Why do millennials have such a bad reputation?” a millennial plaintively asked in a recent mobile ethnography project that we ran on behalf of the Advertising Research Foundation for the Re:think 2013 conference just winding up. “I just read another article quoting ad industry execs talking about how millennials act entitled and spoiled,” she wrote alongside an uploaded photo of yet another article about her generation. “…How reductive and insulting!”
This understandably irate young woman was one of 34 market research and consumer insights specialists under the age of 30 whom we asked to share some of the highlights and lowlights of their days. Specifically, we asked them to report on at least one:
- Frustrating, eye-rolling moment
- Instant of personal or professional triumph
- Promising tool or process
- Moment when they felt they had a better way to answer a question or accomplish an objective than the more senior members of their organization
- Moment when they learned something from a mentor
Some of their observations were surprising. As a boomer – equivalent in age to two millennials – I was taken aback by their low-level scorn for use of the telephone. (And the landline – fuhgettaboutit!) I was sympathetic to their resentment of being generationally stereotyped as spoiled or entitled. But primarily, I was encouraged to see that despite the frustrations – many of them tied to obsolete processes or tools – the moments of personal or professional triumph exceeded the eye-rollers.
What kept these young professionals motivated and engaged; what fueled them in their drive to change and innovate within their companies, was feeling heard and recognized. It was experiencing not just pride in their work, but reciprocity with their colleagues and bosses. As one young woman wrote, “I’m helping them learn new things just like they’re helping me.”
As we at Communispace have been saying since the last millennium, people want to be heard. The companies and brands that endure and prosper will be those that not only enable their employees to feel that way, but that also establish that kind of relationship with their customers.
But don’t take this boomer’s word for it. Just ask Honey Boo Boo … whoever she is.