What Is a Millennial?

Guess number one – A thousand years?

Guess number two – A bug with a thousand legs?

Guess number three – Something bigger than a centennial?

Actually it is a term to describe the generation of workers born roughly between 1977 and 1995, known as millennials or Generation Y. This group represents the biggest shift in the U.S. workforce since the baby boomers came of age. They are eighty-million strong and will soon account for the majority of American workers, especially as boomers start to retire.

How big is this group? There are more millennials than baby boomers and there are more than 50 percent more millennials than Generation Xers.

Andrew Tilin has written an interesting article on BNET that answers the question “Why Millennials Matter to You“.

According to Tilin “these workers are also change agents who may force you to rethink and improve your methods of recruiting, training, and management — the lifeblood elements of your company. They’re accustomed to working away from their desks, using everything from library computers to smartphones and laptops. They got intense and individualized mentoring from teachers and coaches, and they were never told that their elders should intimidate them.”

According to Lynne Lancaster, a consultant on generational issues in the workplace, millennials were the first generation to grow up with soccer moms, doting dads, and trophies for participation. All that adult attention gave them confidence and a knack for following directions. In addition, says Lancaster, many millennials’ lives have been heavily scheduled since childhood, so they understand achievement and heavy workloads. And growing up with PCs has contributed to their comfort with technology and social networking.

Millennials are nicknamed Generation Why for a reason. Experts say they’re like living, breathing search engines, asking question after question.

As a marketer I was not familiar with the term millennial although I had used the Generation Y term and have 6 kids that fall into this category. I must admit that they are different than we are and everything I have read seems to hold true. They present a different challenge to employers and marketers than their Gen X predecessors.

Following are a few other terms that are associated with millennials that you might have heard:

Helicopter Parent: Parents who hover over their millennial offspring. Acting on the notion that they know best and can help their children make decisions, Helicopter Parents hope to prevent their kids from making missteps.

Black Hawk: A Helicopter Parent who goes to unethical lengths to help his/her child. A dad who helps write his kid’s college application essay is a Black Hawk.

Trophy Children: Children driven to succeed in part to please their parents’ need for elevated status and bragging rights.

Boomeranging: The act of children moving back into their parents’ homes after graduating from college. Parents often welcome their millennial children back into the house. The children are sorely missed and get the opportunity to squirrel away money for a down payment on a house or to start a business.

I am going to use this information to change some of my messaging to this group as I can see now that they will respond differently to marketing than their predecessors. I can also see why being a parent has been so challenging!

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