WHO Are These Millennials?
The term “Millennials” has become widely used to identify the generation of U.S. people born from 1980 through 2000. They also have been referred to as “Generation Y” (Gen Y) following the low birth rate generation born from 1960 to 1980 referred to as “Generation X” (Gen X) and, more descriptively, as the “Baby Boomer Babies”. More recently, others have referred to them as the “Boomerang Generation” because of the propensity to return to their parental homes upon being unsuccessful in securing employment after the Great Recession. That trend has declined with the improvement of employment potential in recent years.
A 2006 study, when the Millennials were age 6 to 25, reached the following observations:
- Special: As children their parents treated them as special and important with every milestone marked with celebrations and praise. They seemed to carry a sense of entitlement and have an expectation of frequent positive feedback. Author Ron Alsop called them “Trophy Kids” reflecting their involvement in competitive activities where mere participation often brings rewards (a potential issue in corporate environments). They claim to want privacy, but they crave attention.
- Sheltered: Highly protected with increasing safety measure; sheltered by parents who spared them from unpleasant experiences; expected others to resolve their conflicts; focus of the most sweeping youth safety movement in American history.
- Confident: motivated, goal oriented and confident in themselves and the future. Brag about their generation’s power. They believe they are right.
- Team Oriented: group oriented rather than individualistic; prefer egalitarian leadership, not hierarchies; often exclude other generations; dislike selfishness; oriented to service, learning and volunteerism.
- Achieving: Grades rising, crime is falling; focus on good grades, hard work, extracurricular activities, leading to higher achievement levels.
More recently, as the age group shifted to 15-35, they became a diverse and politically progressive group, a major shift from prior generations, with the following characteristics.
- Social Profile: More racially diverse than prior generations with a shift in family values: 43 percent Hispanic, African American, Asian or identify with another non-white group. Fewer marriages with average marriage age 29 for men and 27 for women (six years higher than in 1975); also higher proportion of non-traditional families.
- Political Progressivism: more likely to embrace progressive views, but unaffiliated with a political party; strong support for cooperative foreign policy, universal health care, positive immigration and clear path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
- Social Attitudes: religious affiliation is declining; only 36 percent are “a religious person” (versus half of prior generation; politically independent. They represent changing attitudes toward social issues and perceives racial and gender equality as socially given.
- Education: highest level of education in American history (one-third of 25-29 year-old Americans had earned a bachelor’s degree). A 1978 poll of young people by Pew Research reflected 36 percent of respondents characterized college as “very important” compared to 75 percent in 2010. Nonetheless, although a recent Pew Research study held that these young people are more upbeat than their seniors about America’s future, with 49 percent saying that the country’s best years are ahead, they are the first generation in recent history to have higher levels of student loan debt and unemployment.
So, what do all these characteristics mean for America’s home builders who plan to hire and sell homes to these Millennials? Clearly the examples of egalitarian leadership and informal teamwork set by successful new companies such as Google provide models that appeal to this generation. The informality and group behavior have already proven attractive to this age group and they continue to attain educational achievements to warrant the trust of management in setting and applying new policies. Older owners and managers would be well advised to explore how to attract Millennials into their organizations under the above guidelines.
Adapting sales techniques to the above characteristics is more straightforward, assuming that the age-old guidelines of listening to the customer continues to be the strongest tactic for any generation. There can be no relaxation to the prohibition of casual introduction of politics or religion into the selling process. Proven principles of “you” selling are even more appropriate with these confident and goal-directed customers.
Of greater importance to selling new homes to Millennials is the product itself. Although many will purchase starter homes within constraints of their finances, those destined for higher paid professional or management positions will be eager to own cutting edge electronic and energy features in their new home with design features to match. The indoor and outdoor safety taught to them as children will become equally important for their current or planned children. Remembering that your Millennial buyers are team players and innovators, community amenities must be suited to small and large gatherings as well as leave room for trend-setting innovations by future residents. The developer and builder’s skills at addressing the characteristics and goals of Millennials will separate the successful versus the followers for the next two decades.