This article is byJeff Fromm, executiveVP at advertising agency Barkley and co-author of “Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever.”
A large amount of ink has been spilled over Millennial workplace issues: They can’t be led, they are lazy, they expect promotions too soon, and they bring their parents on job interviews.
Yet, like it or not, Millennials will soon be running the place. The oldest Millennials are entering their mid-thirties and are starting to assert new leadership of corporate America. What sort of changes will this generation bring?
Companies will become more pragmatic.Research tells us that Millennials are far more levelheaded than othergenerations give them credit for. Expect to see CEOs that are unwilling to take huge financial risks or spend with largesse. After all, this is a generation that has started their adult life with large amounts of student debt and is still struggling with underemployment.
Research and development budgets will be reimagined around purposeful innovation. While it may seem in conflict with the point above, keep in mind that Millennials expect companies to solve problems. Products must be useful or Millennials are not interested. This new wave of CEOs will choose to invest in places that create new ideas.
Bike lanes would be ubiquitous. While it’s a myth that Millennials don’t drive cars—this generation still demands access to better commuting options. Major cities would start to figure out how to create bike only lanes, more ride share programs and discounts for carpools will become the norm.
The food industry will transform. Millennials are paying close attention to the food they eat. Whether they are eating healthy, indulging, feeding their kids (yes, Millennials have kids) or going out to eat—this generation wants to know the story behind everything they eat. Food CEOs will make it a priority to label products well, educate and respond to consumer demand like never before.
Companies will care about employee health. Millennial CEOs will shepherd widespread adoption of workplace health education by rewarding employees that exercise, don’t smoke and maintain a healthy BMI. As the healthcare debate rages on, these new CEOs will do what they can to control rising costs by effecting change with the employees that they lead every day.
Mental health will join the corporate agenda. Millennials are acutely aware of two societal ills: the stigma of mental illness and the stress that jobs can bring to personal lives. With this generation as CEOs, they will consider mental health an important priority—one that has no distinction from physical health. Expect programs that support employees, provide counseling and allow workers to have a voice.
Hours will no longer be a productivity measurement. Millennial CEOs will care more about the economic value an employee creates than his or her time sheets. With respect to white-collar work, this generation of leaders will recognize the value in telecommuting by saving commuting time, fossil fuels and time with family. When it comes to hourly work, expect Millennial CEOs to be the driving force behind the creation of a living wage.
Customer service will be re-focused to the online channel. Online customer service would move from the stone ages to the modern era. Questions could be crowd-sourced as well as answered by corporate experts in every format and language you can imagine.
Content excellence will replace advertising excellence. Advertising isn’t dead but Millennial CEOs will demand their CMOs treat their consumer as a partner. Relevant, just in time content within your brand authority will start to emerge in the same manner that digital media jumped onto the agenda a few years ago.
Corporate social responsibility will reign. Expect that every company will add a CSR officer to the C-suite. Millennials expect brands to give back, be authentic and transparent. They will make it a part of the core company mission to support causes that matter the most to employees, customers and their hometown.
The Millennial generation is largely misunderstood. They are a diverse group that has faced real social and economic challenges during their most formative years. Smart companies will take heed of Millennials’ perspective—for they will soon be answering to them.
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