Can Multigenerations Coexist in the Workplace? Part 2
Below is part two of a three-part series that Total Retail Executive will be publishing over three weeks. You can read part one here.
There's no doubt that millennials are now the most active part of the U.S. workforce and are motivated by “different” forces than baby boomers. In summary, millennials don't remember a time when there were no computers, cell phones or social media. No matter how practiced the baby boomer becomes in regard to technology, he/she likely will never be as natural as a millennial. Baby boomers learned technology; millennials were born with it. Because of this reality, millennials prefer texting or sharing information via social media rather than in-person interaction, cell phone conversation or (heaven forbid) a land line.
Let’s look at texting. Meticulous attention to grammar and spelling take second or third place in this type of communication. Furthermore, the nuances of body language, facial expressions and voice tone are really nonexistent. Texting is parallel to how cursive writing affected baby boomers. Yet “cursive” is pretty much an extinct practice among younger generations who primarily “write” via an electronic device.
Generally, most millennials who pursue a white collar job are well educated; however, their education differs from previous generations, again due to the proliferation of technology. In many ways their skills are different. How millennials learn is tied to their dependence on a device. Ask a 20-something executive to borrow a pen and paper to demonstrate a point and watch the look you get.
Common practices for baby boomers are nonexistent for millennials. Most 25- to 35-year-olds rarely visit a bank. They may use an ATM, but not often as they pay for everything via a debit card or some other transfer program. They take a picture on their phone to make a deposit. They think nothing of walking around without cash, even when traveling. Millennials rarely write thank-you notes; they text. They would never have a physical “planner” or address book. These are obvious differences between generations, but they have profound effects on human behavior as defined by older generations.
How millennials look and interview for jobs illustrates this new reality even more clearly. Most baby boomers secured jobs through on-campus interviewing, phone screens, recruiter meetings, etc. The practice began and ended with a “live” human interaction. A Wall Street Journal article titled “Texting Might Help Land You a Job” explores the changing trends in recruitment. “People don’t want to have that 10-minute (phone) conversation any more if they could just reply with a quick text,” said Kirby Cuniffe, chief executive of staffing firm Aegis Worldwide, LLC.
More and more employers are turning to apps with interview questions such as “What motivates you?” and then software analyzes the responses.
Some 12 percent of millennials prefer the phone for business communication; by contrast, 45 percent prefer chatting online, or through email or text messages, according to the Wall Street Journal article. Unilever recently launched a program where it ditched resumes and traditional campus recruiting. The CPG company's new process relies on algorithms to sort and target young professional hires where they spend much of their time — their smartphones. The takeaway is that millennials respond to “interaction” differently than older generations.
Many industries are affected by these differences, however, the retail industry is particularly in flux. Most argue that some type of brick-and-mortar retail will continue to exist, but not in the way older generations recognize it. Malls are becoming museums, office space, etc. Big-box stores are “downsizing” or going out of business. Why? Because technology has changed the landscape. Even our 80-plus year-old parents buy things online now. There's no need for a record or CD. The smart television gives you any choice in viewership. These are benefits for baby boomers who adapt. For millennials, this has been their reality. In fact, most don’t even own or watch content on a TV. The retail space has profoundly been affected by technology and the millennial customer — and it won't get any less challenging any time soon.