The Washington Post ran two interesting front-page articles about Millennials this past weekend. The first profiles their dislike of the phone. I wouldn’t have guessed it by the number of drivers I passed on the phone during this morning’s commute, but 18- to 34-year-olds’ average monthly voice minutes dropped from about 1,200 to 900 in the last two years. As one Millennial interviewed said, “I put [answering calls] off because there’s something confrontational about someone calling you.”
The second article outlined the impact younger workers have on the workplace (particularly in the federal government; it is DC’s paper, after all). Government personnel experts say that by 2020 about 400,000 of the 2 million federal workers will be younger than 35, and this demographic shift is creating tension and opportunity in every field. This new generation of workers is known for seeking risks and demanding regular feedback on their work. They are a results-driven group who push the bureaucratic status quo but are also learning to respect and learn from their more experienced peers.
MREB view: Shifting trends like these impact researchers’ jobs in two ways:
- changing consumer communication preferences and work dynamics impact how both B2C and B2B researchers gather intelligence
- the shifting workforce changes how you work and interact on your own team
Last week I blogged about engagement strategies for boosting research participation. These strategies (creating a joint benefit tool and creating a shared agenda) dovetail perfectly with Millennials’ desire for engagement in a non-obtrusive atmosphere.
As for a shift in workforce demographics, both younger and more tenured researchers now have a terrific opportunity to question existing practices, keeping what works well and enhancing programs that may be lacking. The Washington Post articles outlined some of the benefits from millennial expectations such as:
- Providing real-time feedback: Successful researchers need to continuously hone their business acumen, and our position working with multiple business partners on a variety of issues provides a terrific opportunity to learn and grow on the job. Even those on small teams can obtain feedback from a variety of sources: ask your line partners to provide credible feedback to your department. Coca-Cola took this type of feedback one step further, accelerating team development through carefully crafted feedback sessions.
- Focusing on career paths: Research teams can benefit from taking a more forward-looking career pathing perspective. Strategic researchers are motivated by career growth options, so successful departments look to create compelling options (and the positions don’t all need to be filled all of the time, for those with smaller teams). For example, Caterpillar created intermediary positions and specialty roles on its team, each of which require clear, additional responsibilities. Research departments can also benefit from looking outside the department for high-performing researcher career paths. Turn staff desires for mobility into an asset by supporting and even facilitating researcher transitions to other departments and (reciprocally) attracting staff from other departments. Kellogg used this theory to build stronger rapport with existing researchers and business partners (Research alumni).
- Embracing changing team dynamics: Cross-generation workers can help you encourage a team environment of principled risk-taking , which will improve the level of insights coming out of your department.
What impact have generation changes had on your career? In both day-to-day job requirements (shifts in research participant preferences) and as a member of a cross-generation work force, what changes do have you encountered?