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Keeping up with the Millennials


By Kea Wheeler

It seems that many companies are trying to figure out what to do about millennials.  Employers are at a loss of how to incorporate them into the workforce, how to market to them, and how to recruit and engage them in the marketing research industry.

But being in this generation myself, I don’t necessarily see an issue with the group at large. According to some hiring manager’s opinions that is my narcissist side talking, which is heavily associated with millennials (Elance-oDesk & Millennial Branding, 2014). What I do see as an issue is the paradigm and infrastructure that was, and in some ways still is, not capable of adapting fast enough to keep up with this generation.

The same lack of quick adaption in the workplace also goes for the overall market research industry. By examining some of the ways millennials have affected the workforce with their unique generational desires, one can see clues into how this group is also impacting the qualitative marketing research industry specifically.

Millennials want experiences

Millennials are looking for experiences that will enrich their lives, not just their wallets.  In an article entitled How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America an Intelligence Group study found that almost two-thirds (64%) of Millennials say they would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring.”

The underlying good news is that perhaps lower incentives can be paid to millennials. The bad news is that a qualitative or clinic setting research has to be an event that peaks millennials interests and offers the chance for their personal enrichment. Coming to sit around a conference table to talk for two hours may not be their idea of an ‘enriching’ experience.  One way to combat this is to strive to have more interesting, unique locations and making seating arrangements less “bored” room style by providing an in-home or outside living space atmosphere.

The notion of this generation wanting more experiences may also affect how follow-up communications are sent to millennials. Putting more thought into the design of your email blasts and invite letters can make the research appear more like an event than a Q&A session – and therefore more appealing to millennials.

Millennials are looking for flexibility

Millennials want the flexibility to be and do what they please and to shift their schedules to accommodate the many facets of their life. Patrick Thean, CEO & Co-founder of Rhythm Systems, expounds on this notion of flexibility in his article, Millennials in the workforce – engaging them, retaining them. Thean states that “flexibility to get their work done any time, from anywhere, is something essentially appealing to this generation” (Thean, 2015).

In the past, flexibility has not been the market research industry’s strong suit. The industry was based on a “come to this location, on this date, at this time, and talk for this amount of time” paradigm. However, new methodologies are helping to give an “anytime, anywhere” aspect to research with the rise of online surveys and asynchronous platforms – like MROCS and smaller Qualitative diaries and boards. While we have a solution for the “anywhere” component with the advent of webcam focus groups, we still must have a dedicated time and date to participate in a discussion.

Trying to pigeonhole a millennial into a designated research time frame may be limiting the amount of this cohort’s participation.

Millennials communicate differently and that’s ok

There have been a myriad of articles about millennials’ inability to communicate through the written word, and particularly, verbally. I would not say that millennials’ verbal communication is lost, but it has shifted to quick bursts with the help of technology. Terri Klass and Judy Lindenberger write in their article Characteristics of Millennials in the Workplace, that “quick and efficient communication is the way Millennials choose to interact (Klass & Lindenberger, 2015).

How does this shift to quick and efficient communication impact qualitative research? Currently, focus groups are 2+ hours. Two or more hours of a millennials’ day may not be viewed as efficient when they believe the discussion can be streamlined down to 90 minutes. As communication has shifted for this generation, perhaps the set-up of research discussions also requires a revamp. Shortened sessions, with fewer participants, may be best when interviewing millennials.

Yes, millennials, including myself, have different views on many things which have shaped their ideals about the work environment and potentially the process of market research. But that does not mean we are disinterested in participating and engaging in either.  It only magnifies that what has worked for past generations does not work for millennials.

Jaleh Bisharat, SVP of Marketing at Elance-oDesk explains that millennials must be unique as “they are inventing what it means to be successful in a technology-driven world…where needs change on a dime and independence and flexibility are at a premium.”

I’ll be narcissistic enough to say that millennials have adapted to this new world and it looks like the ball is in everyone else’s court. How will you keep up?

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3 responses to “Keeping up with the Millennials

  1. While efficient communication is all well and good; it’s only good if it is also complete and well understood. I’ve too often seen millennials’ need for quick, short, efficient conversation result in information gaps, misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions.
    By all means, let’s not waste time; but let’s also get it right and complete.

  2. Millennials are fascinating! Truly a generation that is unlike any other. I think the first thing you stated about experience is right on. This generation wants an experience and something that makes and impact on their lives and others. I look forward to seeing what comes of this and how the business world will shift as they become the dominating force.

  3. The workplace isn’t flexible and it’s driving millenials away in droves. I don’t like wasting 4 hours a day commuting to work, participating in unecessary meetings without a clear agenda, sitting in my boss’ office while he searches for the reference material needed to answer my question. The workplacenter is stifling and there’s days I want to give it all up. I work at global company that strives to continuously improve…. why can’t we improve by offering flexibility and trust that us millenials will get the job done often even better if granted a little freedom and room to breath? Wasted hours = disgruntled, unhappy millenials.

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