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14 Apr 2024, Edition - 3197, Sunday

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Millennials : The future generation is here

K K Ramachandran


Since the latter half of the 20th century, the study of demographics has matured considerably and we have been introduced to many catchy-sounding terms: first, YUPPIES, soon followed by YUMPIES, DINKS and Generation X. Then came Generation Y, christened so by the international publication Advertising Age. The term ‘Generation Y’ lost out to the term ‘Millenials’ on the grounds that ‘Millenials’ was so much more evocative, vis-a-vis the the close of one millenium and the beginning of another. Formally, Millenials now designates anyone born in the late 1980’s, (possibly including the earlier years of that decade), which would make them in their mid to late 20’s now, and at the most, very close to their 30’s.

By way of an interesting observation, and important to anyone associated with the demograhics of education, New Year’s Eve 2017 was the only day when every adult was born in the 1900’s, and every minor was born in the 2000’s.

Millenials are the 21st century’s starring demographic and are the spotlight of fervent study and debate. They are the demographic novelty of the 21st century especially because of the unprecedented dynamics that went into their creation and their power and influence in the current and coming scheme of things.

There is no dearth of information on Millenials. Experts of every hue now jostle to offer their latest observation and opinion. As much as Millenials represent an academic challenge, they offer a marketing manna. There are reams of considerations about them. And as is always the case, clever observation and artful pronouncement is frequently peddled as “insight”.

What has turned out to be the most examined aspect of millenials is their motivations. The previous demograhic chunks were easier studies in the fact that their dominating characteristics were overt if not obvious. Yuppies? Upward financial and professional mobility, immediately calculable in status, position, money. DINKS? Double income, no kids …. what’s to intuit here? But Millenials? They are the most richly textured of the line.

The questions that occupies everyone is: What motivates millenials? What gets them out of bed in the morning? What makes these people tick? What sets them on fire? Is their core propulsion a reflection of their unprecedented environment, or the adopting of a philosophy whose time has come? When it comes to attracting them and their talent, what will get them through a company’s doors? In effect, what came first? The Millenial or the reason why?

The professional sphere offers some answers. One key understanding is that millenials don’t necessarily go for ‘money’. The size of a salary doesn’t cut the ice with them. What they want is to put their energies into a purpose. When selecting a company to work for, they first want to see if the company has a clearly defined mission and purpose in the first place. Unlike the previous generations, beginning with the post world war boomers, having a job to finance the rest of your life is not enough. In fact, merely being employed is to be shunned.

This in no way means that a Millenial does not care about earning good money. It is important to them but only because money makes a certain quality of enlightened life possible. But it is purpose and personal development that drives this generation Job satisfaction to them is in their personal development, not salary and designation. This generation has switched from paycheck to purpose. So if the paycheck doesn’t make one’s personal purpose possible, that paycheck will lose that millenial.

Millenials clearly want to be in jobs with which they have an emotional connection. The work has to be in agreement with their ideal of the maximum way to function. They cannot be bossed around or controlled. They can only be coached or mentored to understand and build their careers, each brick being placed in its due place with meaning and purpose. At the end of the day they would like both, to value the work they do, and be valued for the work they do.
There is only one way to communicate with them: you must set up a meaningful conversation. Reaching them is also unique to their time: since these are adult digital natives, they are available with texts, tweets and posts, and they will effortlessly continue a trend of communication on a videochat. Real time and continuous personal outreach is the key. The governing dynamic is conversation and feedback. Forget about an ‘annual review’ or a ‘performance evaluation’.

Millennials actively seek to be profoundly unattached. They value being unfettered, unconstrained. Ironically, while they welcome change, they seem to actually value not being at the mercy of the rapid changes of life that characterise this age. They prize equanimity and so, the frequency of change which can be so unsetting to those of us from other generations, is something they pride themselves on being immune to. This is not to mean that millenials have taken some kind of sanyaas; they value fellowship in a deeper sense, and this is made even more possible in this new age of connectedness.

They also don’t like having traditions and social mores imposed on them. This is a more idealistic conception of not being blindly bound to handed-down dictums be they societal, religious or professional. They respect the nature of things, they respect boundaries, they know their limits, but they also place their foot one step beyond a place that everyone else considers their horizon. They are willing to chart personal and professional courses that are path-breaking.

Millenials show understanding when dealing with their own strengths and courage when dealing with their own weaknesses. They don’t want to hide or just ‘fix’ their weaknesses. They want to be sure they are incorporating them as part of themselves and transcending them in an organic and constructive way. If you have a millenial in your care, understand that the key is to focus on strength. Avoid focussing on weaknesses. Do not try and ‘solve’ them.
The organisations which value the strength of a Millenial employee and their contributions will win with them. Because for them, a job is not just a job, it’s their life as well. They always want more out of life and they believe they can always achieve it.

In closing I would like to borrow a facebook post I came across when readying this presentation on millenials. It captures the millennial vibe well and I propose it as a eloquent guide to understanding millenials. I quote: Happiness is the new rich. Inner peace is the new success. Health is the new wealth.

Author of this Article is A full Bright Scholor : K K Ramachandran

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