How the generation shift is increasing the need for innovation

As the baby boomer generation edges closer to retirement, a new wave of workers are beginning to take their place.

Ashley Dyson
by Ashley Dyson
Millennials and need for innovation

Enter the millennials, a generation who have grown up with the world wide web from a young age and who consider time before the internet to be a dark and medieval era. Also known as Generation Z, these young people are characterised by their digital prowess and affinity to online socialising. With information at their fingertips, they are accustomed to a fast pace of life and attention spans are measured in seconds.

Accordingly, this shift in attitudes and way of life has had a huge impact on the business world, both in terms of consumer behaviour and employee expectations. With different beliefs of what a business should be and a heavy focus on the digital realm, never has there been a greater need for innovation. Adapting to new expectations and keeping ahead of the game in terms of both customer and employee retention is essential to staying afloat.

Millennials as Consumers

Having grown up with powerful companies like Apple, the millennial generation consider regular updates and the frequent release of new products to be the norm. Companies need to be visionary in their approach and relentlessly forward-thinking. With access to more choice across the marketplace, millennials are more unforgiving towards companies who fail to innovate. Those who fall behind get left behind.

With the unprecedented rise of social media, the relationship between a business and its consumers has become far more personal and transparent. Millennials are more receptive to a company getting to know them and in return they expect both openness and a more personalised service. As Micah Solomon explained in an article for Forbes:

“Millennials enjoy the possibility of collaborating with businesses and brands, as long as they believe that their say matters to the company in question. They don’t necessarily see a clear boundary between the customer and the brand, the customer and marketer, and the customer and service provider.”

Millennials are not afraid of making their voices heard and they expect to be listened to. Accordingly, companies need to be adaptable and open to suggestions, giving a clear indication that they are tuned in to their customers’ wants.

Millennials as Employees

The generation shift not only affects the way consumers are behaving, these new attitudes are also migrating into the workplace. Having grown up through the recession and witnessed relatives losing their once secure jobs, millennials have a tendency to swerve away from the more traditional career paths. Failing to keep up to date with the modern requirements of employees could mean losing out on the best talent. According to a recent report on millennials by Deloitte:

“44% percent of Millennials say, if given the choice, they would like to leave their current employers in the next two years. A perceived lack of leadership-skill development and feelings of being overlooked are compounded by larger issues around work/life balance, the desire for flexibility, and a conflict of values.”

With a greater entrepreneurial spirit than their predecessors, Generation Z favour a collaborative workplace where they can be a part of the decision making process. As with their expectations of the way businesses should behave towards their customers, millennials require a greater sense of openness and transparency from their employer.

Positioned at the forefront of digital trends, this savvy generation have a knack for innovation and companies should be leveraging these skills. Furthermore, the rise of the digital has facilitated flexible working arrangements. Employees should be armed with the appropriate tools to allow them to collaborate anytime and anywhere; no idea should be lost or forgotten in this digital age.

Keeping Up With the Millennials

The world that millennials are familiar with is one of vast technological improvements, increasing transparency and more personal relationships with brands. Constant shifting and reevaluating is becoming the norm and a strong innovation strategy should be at the heart of this:

  • Anticipate industry and technological changes through research and awareness so that your business can innovate ahead of time, placing it in the perfect position to embrace the changes, rather than be outpaced by them.
  • Engage with your customers on a personal level and take the time to listen. Collect feedback and gather data from your consumer base and use this to boost your innovation output.
  • Where can you find a group of smart, like-minded people who know your industry inside-out and have a myriad of ideas just waiting to be shared? Right inside your organisation is where! Crowdsourcing from your employees is a cost effective method of capturing new ideas and boosting business innovation internally.
  • Take calculated risks and do not be afraid to experiment with fresh ideas. Adopt a collaborative approach to innovation and run trials before implementing any new systems on a full scale.
  • With a strong innovation strategy and an appetite for positive change, your business will be able to thrive and navigate through a challenging marketplace.

Key Takeaways:

  • As increasing number of millennials are beginning to fill the void left by retiring baby boomers, the need for innovation will continue to rise.
  • Adapting to the attitudes and needs of a new generation is challenging but necessary, both in terms of maintaining consumer loyalty and satisfying employee expectations.
  • In a marketplace of fierce competition and fast-moving trends, remaining the same is no longer safe; disruption is key to remaining ahead of the innovation game.

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