The children of the (digital) revolution
The Millennial Generation, or Generation Y, refers to people born from 1980–2000. A generation that has grown up with the Internet a constant presence in their lives.
This has given them the means to be more socially and ethically aware. And the proliferation of activity on online discussion forums worldwide, that sees members of the generation try to solve the problems of the world, attests to the idea that this generation has a very strong sense of global and local community.
People thought, in fact, that Generation Y would be the greatest generation of all time. Perhaps it’s still too early to reach a conclusion about that; the history books still need to be written. But their impact on the workplace is already hard to deny.
The millennials have revolutionized our workplaces with entirely new demands and ushered companies into the new digital age, probably faster than they otherwise would have been able to do.
This has resulted in somewhat of a workplace culture clash between the younger generation and the established business world. A clash that is now requiring employers to adapt if they want to exploit the new talent base and stay relevant to customers.
Flora Wiström is a 23-year old, self-employed writer/blogger and producer and very much a member of Generation Y. Her followers are entering the job market with a totally new mindset about what a job and by extension a career-worthy employer means.
“My followers and I are children of the digital revolution and social media has a clear place in our lives,” Wiström says. “It helps us in our careers. An Instagram account, for example, can easily become a resume. I know many people who have been discovered after publishing their poems, embroidery carrying powerful messages or fashion photographs on their Instagram account.”
Wiström adds that something many members of Generation Y have in common is that they often have several jobs at the same time. “Our creativity stretches beyond an expression and we often spread ourselves across multiple media. There is, of course, a risk of becoming divided artistically, but I also maintain that one creative expression feeds another.”
There are those who say that Generation Y is demanding. Spoiled even. And Wiström admits that her capacity for cooperation is perhaps not her best trait, as she’s been her own boss for so long. But what makes those in Generation Y special, she adds, is that they are fearless. “We dare to stick our necks out. We dare to try out new jobs. We dare to discover new jobs. We are restless, but also bold.”
She cites these characteristics as factors in the creation, over the past ten years, of new digital professions, with blogging as an obvious example. But, she points out, this means that there are no old-hands in the industry to ask for advice. “This can create a feeling of aimlessness, but also an infinite freedom.”
Another characteristic of Generation Y, says Wiström, is that there isn’t one answer, there are many. “Whatever I write about – whether it’s relationships, politics or clothes – it is challenged by my followers. Not necessarily because the person in question wants to take me down, but because there is a need to see things in a different light.”
This, she reasons, means that for companies to attract millennials, they must dare to take a stand and be transparent. “The relationship must be built on genuine trust, otherwise we start to feel uncertain about it,” she says. “We millennials are highly aware and we are attracted to those brands that are too.”
“Our restlessness and creative abilities must be used correctly, which is why I believe in giving millennials space to find their own approach and methods,” she continues. “The analytical and critical trait that characterizes our generation is a resource for employers. We aren’t easily satisfied and that will step up development.”
Digital content expert Pontus Staunstrup, age 55, Head of Content Marketing at energy company Climeon, is someone who now recruits and works with the millennium generation. While acknowledging the possible challenges posed by the millennials’ expectations, he sees plenty of positives as well.
“I think they are both more ambitious about being successful themselves and more ambitious about changing the world than previous generations,” Staunstrup says. “I perceive them as more realistic about the future, they do not expect the employer to solve it for them. They are not afraid to switch jobs if they do not develop sufficiently or if the workplace does not fit their values.”
Staunstrup also thinks millennials have more drive and put greater demands on themselves and their co-workers. “They are also more likely to work in a group and to help and learn from colleagues. They are more active in the recruitment process and demand greater control over their working hours and to be able to work offline outside the office.”
“On the plus side, millennials dare to push barriers, they aren’t so afraid of what the boss thinks or likes,” he continues. “I also think that the pace has increased. The downside is that some of them find it difficult to accept that boring routine work also needs to be done. The 60s and 70s generations are generally more loyal to the company and stay longer.”
Staunstrup says that, overall, working with and recruiting millennials has been a positive experience. “I have never noticed what is sometimes said that they have been spoiled and overprotected by their parents, even at work,” he says.
It could be argued that the organizations that have taken on board the millennial’s requirements are perhaps some of the more successful entities operating today. These are the companies that have introduced more flexible working hours and the ability to work from home via laptops and mobile phones. And those that discourage individualistic approaches to work in favor of group work see transfers of millennials as a result.
Millennials understand contemporary consumers, helping drive companies on to the Internet and to use social media to get closer to the consumer.
And it could just be that through their influence on the corporate environment, Generation Y will change the world afterall.
It is arguably the millennials who have helped make ideas like corporate social responsibility more mainstream, in which environmental and ethical issues become important aspects of how companies do business and important brand values, influencing consumer choice.
Perhaps it is not too early to write those history books. But to be on the right side of history, companies that haven’t already done so should get smart about how they work and where they let their employees work. The future of the world may depend on it.
Published: July 16, 2018
Last edited: July 16, 2018