When I say Millennial, you say....

A Millennial’s Attempt At Understanding Research About Her Own Generation – #ResearchAboutMillennials

By Giulia Gasperi

Ever attended a conference presentation feeling like you were in a Discovery Channel documentary about yourself? If so, you’re probably a Millennial.

Millennials have been placed in the world’s biggest petri dish, by a landslide. The Google search query “Research about Millennials” unleashes roughly 21,300,000 results – that’s 100 times more sources than what lurks behind the search term “Research about GenX”.

Unable to resist the idea of exploring a virtual landscape almost as vast as habitable Planet Earth, I wrote this blog post to start a conversation with you on the broader topic of Research By/About/For/Through/[insert preposition of your choice] Millennials.

I invite you, my fellow researchers, thinkers and Discovery Channel Docu-stars of the Millennial Generation, to help me untangle some of the seemingly contradicting insights related to Millennials. You can do so by casting your vote for different sides of my story in polls sprinkled throughout this post, and by sharing your thoughts in the comment box at the bottom. I look forward to collecting your opinions to tie them into upcoming stuff in my Research X Millennials content series.

“Only 40% of 18-34 year olds really consider themselves a Millennial.”– C+R Research

Out of hundreds of stats, this one is probably my favorite. As contradictory as it may sound, it perfectly summarizes what happens when you stuff billions of consumers into the same, enormous petri dish. And it begs the question: if they don’t consider themselves a Millennial, then what do they identify with, exactly? Curious to hear your thoughts on this.

Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/iphone-camera-coffee-table-9693/

Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/iphone-camera-coffee-table-9693/

1/ Millennials vs older generations


On the fence? Let’s review a few arguments in favor of either schools of thought.

They’re just like their (grand) parents They’re not like their (grand) parents
  1. Spouses and parents. Millennials’ top 2 long-term priorities are being a good parent and having a successful marriage
  2. Living the dream. When asked what they include in their definitions of the American Dream, Millennials rank home ownership as most important, before good work-life balance. Furthermore, 1 in 3 Millennials bought a home in 2015
  3. Easy Targets. Millennials respond to traditional marketing: more than 60% of them use loyalty cards and coupons, 50% read in-store circulars Musical Bonus: The Beatles, Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix are their top 3 musical performers across the decades
  1. NOT spouses and parents. Millennials are putting off marriage and kids, with the median age for both milestones jumping from 25 or younger in the 70s to 30 in 2010
  2. Living at home. The share of Millennials choosing to live at home with their parents is growing over time, and while they are considered the most educated generation ever, they are less employed than other generations, but the share of Millennials that believe their generation is better off than previous ones is double that of GenX
  3. Tough Crowd. Few millennials use television, newspapers or radio as information sourceMusical Bonus: Spotify’s most streamed artists of all times are Major Lazer, Ed Sheeran and OMI

So what? A solve to this divide in opinion proposes that Millennials follow the same life trajectory as previous generations, but with more stops along the way. Their path in life is a snakes and ladders game: less linear than before, a jumble of milestones that result in a more complex journey into adulthood. The differences between “Say” and “Do” are dictated by external factors, such as the economic climate they live in.

image 1


A more complicated life journey has repercussions on many aspects of life. Because “Millennials in the workplace” was one of the biggest themes in my 10-Google-page crusade. I decided to take a closer look at this aspect.

Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/suit-man-businessman-cup-9476/

Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/suit-man-businessman-cup-9476/

2/ Millennials in the workplace

Here are some more stats for both sides of this argument:

They have not significantly impacted dynamics in the workplace They have significantly impacted dynamics in the workplace
  1. No significant differences compared to previous generations: Millennials place the same weight on many of the same career goals as older employees do, i.e. making a positive impact on their organization, helping solve social/environmental problems and working with a diverse group of people
  2. On a day-to-day basis, they want to be given interesting work to do, to be rewarded on the basis of their contributions and to be given a chance to work hard to get ahead, just like employees in other generations

They make their own career decisions: they are less influenced by parents or friends than generally expected.

  1. Significantly more career driven, but with a different work ethic:
    1. 75% want to work flexibly and still be on track for promotion
    2. 53% of them want to get to the top of their career path, vs. 38% or less in other generations
    3. Most important employer choice drivers include work-life balance, opportunities to progress/be leaders, flexibility i.e. remote working, flexible hours, getting a sense of meaning from their work and benefitting from professional development programs
  2. Less loyal than older generations: 51% are looking for other career opportunities elsewhere vs. 37% or less in other generations

They rely on others for career decisions: Top 1 approach to seeking employment is to be referred by a friend, relative or other connection

So what? This was my Aha! moment:

  1. While the Economist and CEB Global agree that 51% of Millennials look for jobs elsewhere, compared to 37% of GenX, CEB adds that 53% of Millennials find internal opportunities desirable, suggesting that Millennials are not Job hopping – they’re Experience hopping.
  2. Why is that? My speculation leads me to think that companies are still looking for the right loyalty triggers to help Millennials stick around. For example:
    1. 63% believe their leadership skills are not being developed
    2. Hiring managers today choose to hire more and more freelancers because of their fit with current workplace realities – e.g. the ability to put a supplier to work immediately, scaling employment in a way that mirrors business priorities and accessing specific skills.

In a way, Millennials are thus left with no other choice than to adapt to a more dynamic workplace:

  1. 79% consider quitting their regular job to work for themselves
  2. 82% believe starting a business today is easier than it has ever been before.

What looks like a chicken vs. egg argument essentially implies that businesses could do a better job at bridging the gap to ensure a new generation of business leaders is created.

Unleashing loyalty and answering the question “what’s in it for me” is just as important in the Millennial workplace as in other aspects of their lives.

To unleash their loyalty, we need to look at what drives it and better understand Millennial Values and Attitudes.

This shifts the conversation into my third and last monologue/debate.

Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-street-walking-girl-2013/

Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-street-walking-girl-2013/

3/ Millennial Values & Attitudes

Hail The Stats!

Individualistic & Me-Minded Inclusive & We-Minded
  1. They are more competitive. 59% say that competition in the workplace is what gets them up in the morning, vs. 50% or less in other generations.
  2. They don’t trust others: 37% don’t trust their peer input at work, vs. 26% or less for GenX+
  3. They seem less caring. Only 35% state CSR is important to them, vs. 41% of Boomers
  4. They are narcissistic jetsetters. 32% like to impress people with their lifestyle, vs. 20% of GenX; 40% like to show off their taste and style (vs. 29% GenX)
  1. They are collaborative: 65% prefer face-to-face meetings with their managers, 49% never work from home
  2. They believe in co-decision making: 85% want to collaborate with brands they love
  3. They seem more caring: Success is being a good friend for 90%, working for a cause they believe in for 68% (vs. 56% GenX) and contributing to their community (58%)

They are comfortable in their home nest: 60% eat with their family 4-5 nights per week, 85% mention parents are their best friends

A few thoughts as to why we are so divided on this. The easiest approach is to fall back on the good old “we can’t bundle billions of people together” argument. This article looks at how Millennials choose where to live, and states that while 42% want to stay near their families, 41% decide where to live based on their job and career decisions – that’s an equal share on both sides of the value spectrum. Different people have different priorities, and being a Millennial doesn’t change that.

I’d be ok with that, was it not for the stat about trust, which caught me off guard. How can Millennials be socially minded and distrusting at the same time?

On the opposite side of the spectrum,

Next to this, Forbes argues that Millennials integrate their beliefs in causes of their choice, for companies they choose to support.

They are on the constant search for authenticity, for political and ethical truth.

Millennials are trying to shape their own way of navigating a reality sprinkled with corporate scandals, the fall of many long-standing financial institutions and the dot-com bubble burst. Disillusionment turns into learning experiences, and learning experiences turn one-track minds into multi-faceted chameleons.

Sometimes, the explanation lies on both sides of the spectrum.

Embracing their complexity can help us move closer to Millennial audiences and find new sweet spots to engage with them.

I mean us. 🙂

Enough from my end for now – curious to hear what you think, and specifically, what you believe this means for other big Millennial Labels, like “Shareconomy” or “The Wired Generation”.

Share your comments below!

Giulia Gasperi is known mostly for her faith in unicorns and love for fun facts, she speaks 5 languages and has resided in 9 countries across 4 continents. Today, as Research Director at InSites Consulting, she inspires top-tier brands all over the world and helps them unlock extraordinary insights from everyday consumer realities. Tomorrow, she hopes to become a ballerinastronaut.