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Millennials: Perceptions and Expectations

Newsweek magazine reported that the Millennial generation was born between 1977 and 1994. Millennials are the largest generation in the workplace and, by 2030, will make up 75 per cent of the global workforce, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics. With this in mind, the significance of Millennials to an SME is huge.

Industry, and particularly marketing, brims with theories on what makes Millennials tick.

A simple solution for SME owners and managers wanting to find answers is to look to social science and the rule that satisfaction equals perception minus expectations. Just apply it to your SME business if you want to see good results with Millennial staff and customers.

Generation X, Y and Z
Gen X is aged between 28 and 38. Sometimes referred to as the “lost” generation, this was the first generation exposed to lots of daycare and divorce. Often characterized as highly skeptical with the “what’s in it for me” attitude, they are the best educated generation with 29% obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher. Concerns over avoiding broken homes, kids growing up without a parent around and financial planning are priorities. Hot on their heals is Gen Y, aged between 10 and 22, sophisticated, tech-savvy and immune to most traditional marketing and sales pitches as they grew up with it all. More racially and ethnically diverse, they are much more segmented as an audience aided by the rapid expansion digital technologies. Gen Y are less brand loyal and more fashion conscious with kids often raised in dual income or single parent families being more involved in family purchases. The world is still waiting for Gen Z.

Asian Millennials
New initiatives by and for Millennials are taking place such as the ‘South Asian Millennials Conference: A Spotlight on Change’, aiming to inspire South Asian millennials at Columbia University in 2016. The theme, “‘a spotlight on change’ is not only an effort to uncover the social justice issues that resonate with the South Asian Diaspora but also to inspire a collective call to action,” said an organiser. “As millennials, we are uniquely positioned to use our energy, spirit, and idealism to promote innovation and transformation in the spaces we enter,” adding, “through our keynote addresses, panels, and workshops, we hope the South Asian Millennials Conference will push you to challenge assumptions and drive social change in the communities you are a part of.”

GoDaddy conducted a study of 7,291 (of which 2,707 are small business owners or are self-employed) professionals worldwide from countries such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Singapore, Turkey, the UK and USA. 500 were Singaporeans. They found Millennials are six times more likely to start their own businesses at a younger age as compared to the previous generation. In Singapore, 4 out 10 respondents plan to either start their own small businesses or be their own boss in the next 10 years. 32% of Millennials entrepreneurs in Singapore started their business whilst still in school, as compared to the 24% average globally.

What makes Millennials tick?
A recent survey found flexibility as the number one driver for Singaporeans when becoming an entrepreneur with the ability to be autonomous outranking both financial reward (24%) and not having to worry about losing their job (15%). With flexibility comes the thirst to want more, as 68% want to own a business where they have customers from all over the world, and 79% also agreeing that current technology enables them to reach a wider, more global customer base, as well as to quickly create a business. A common underlying aspiration among entrepreneurs in Singapore is that they hope the government could do more to help and promote entrepreneurship in the country (57%). The survey suggested these concerns were valid, with more than half (56%) of Millennials saying they would turn down a job offer if they didn’t like the company culture, even if the salary was right.

An SME owner must first consider what Millennials perceive about their company and what they truly value and then think about they meet these expectations as an employer and provider. Research has shown five key traits that make a Millennial compatible with an SME;

Wellbeing at work
Having a good work life balance is something that is highly valued by Millennials, with a recent survey finding 69% as one of their biggest workplace worries. Research from Willis Towers Watson revealed that 88% of Millennials wish they could have greater opportunity to start and finish work at the times they choose. They value freedom and trust from their employer to get the job done in the hours they wish.

Digital World
Millennials are used to accessing information instantly and on the move, regardless of location, and expect speed, mobility and efficiency in all aspects of their lives. SMEs can adapt to this by offering Millennials the chance to continually develop their technological skills. Many SMEs have already embraced technology as a way of managing their company procedures, from marketing to payroll and, of course, accounting!

Listening to feedback
When it comes to launching new HR initiatives, SMEs should be more agile than large corporations so it will be easier for these companies to provide feedback on a personalized, regular basis. This method will appeal to the Millennial generation, who prefer ongoing dialogue in real time, rather than formal sit-downs.

Leadership and mentoring
Millennials prefer good leadership and a mentor figure in the workplace, rather than a traditional manager figure. They want someone that can support them in their career, which is something an SME can offer as they often work in smaller teams.

Millennials tend to thrive in an entrepreneurial culture where they are encouraged to think for themselves, making them better suited to working in an SME.

Experiences over material possessions
Driven by aspirations and dreams, Millennials are a significant force behind the ‘experience economy’, moving away from materialism in favour of experiential activities such as eating out and other leisure activities, with a recent survey by Eventbrite finding 78% of Millennials preferring to spend their money on an experience rather than on material possessions.

Millennials’ expectations and aspirations are different and evolving through Gen X and Y. SMEs need to consider offering these groups variations in marketing and talent management in order to get the best business results. If Millennials really want freedom and flexibility coupled with technology and leadership then following the rule that satisfaction equals perception minus expectations means your SME offerings must be perceived to provide these and meet or exceed expectations.

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