WTF are millennials anyway?
Most coverage of millennials treat them as though they are a mythical creature, an elusive group, unable to settle on what traits they want to attribute to them. Even millennials don’t seem to recognise the label (ref:1).
The problem with the term is that definitions of generations are too broad to handle any sort of nuance, especially given the rate of technological change.
As the Dean of Nottingham Business School stated (ref:2) recently:
Many students discover that by their mid-twenties even they are somewhat removed from new realities that confront those who come after them
In true millennial fashion I have made an infographic explaining my take on the different types of millennial (those born between 1982–2004 (ref:3)).
There is no way that Nicki, Ariana and Caitlin form the same meaningful bracket. I’m 28 and cannot use Snapchat as not enough of my friends use it to have a network. If I was 15, Snapchat could be my default communication channel.
So, please take a minute and think the next time you read or write a sentence that starts “A survey of millenials” “Millennials prefer” “Why millennials …” and think does this word add anything to the conversation?
Don’t ask how millennials transform the workplace, ask how technology changes everything. It isn’t that millennials want different things for their own sake, it is that new ways of working are possible. New forms of interaction are the norm. A work onboarding that starts with a heavy laptop and access to SAP isn’t necessarily aligned to that.
My suggested model for evaluating looks at the two critical factors: how instant is an interaction and how autonomous is it?
Instead of thinking Generation Z, Millennial or Baby Boomer think about what technology they are comfortable with. How automated is their default technology and how ready are they to adapt to automation? If we start viewing generations this way I think we might have a more powerful conversation.
If a millennial is someone who is comfortable with acceleration and automation of technology, then we are all millennials whether we like it or not.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please get in touch by commenting or on Twitter.
I’ll be using this model to look at how this impacts the future of work in later posts — please follow me to make sure you get the latest updates.