Older generations are constantly trying to understand the “millennial.” What makes us tick? How do we operate in the workforce? Why are we always on our cellphones? How can we possibly have 1,000 friends on Facebook?!
The answer is simple: millennials live in a sharing economy.
The research on millennials overwhelmingly confirms this one characteristic. We share. This can be seen through technology – ride-sharing and social media sharing. It can also be seen in our values – saving the planet and investing in brands that benefit society. And it can be seen through personality characteristics – collaborative and team-focused. It’s as if we as millennials are constantly looking to share ourselves, our belongings, and our lives with the world.
Millennials are 2.5 times more likely than other generations to be early adopters of technology. The exponential growth of technology over the past twenty years has fueled developers to innovate with our generation in mind. We are beginning to display a sharing economy through so many different aspects of technology that businesses have to meet these new needs through innovation and changes in business processes.
Think of Facebook. How many friends do you have? I currently have 650, but a friend of mine has upwards of 1,600! All social media platforms give this idea of success solely based on the number of friends, likes, and follows one has. This makes it incredibly important for a millennial to share their lives in order to entertain friends, show off, and moreover get recognition for what they are doing.
Additionally, millennials have transformed technology in more areas than social media. We can look to the incredible success of ride-sharing company, Uber. In only six years, Uber has its app available in over 60 countries with over 8.5 million users. Nearly 50% of these users are millennials! In fact, a large amount of millennials have little intention of buying their own car! The overwhelming need Uber has fulfilled has developed from the millennial’s interest to make ride-sharing more common than personal cars. Finally, the recent surge in music and video sharing adds to a millennial’s sharing economy. Music apps such as Spotify, Amazon, and Pandora make it possible for someone to listen and share music easily. ITunes has become an old person’s game. Additionally, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have fulfilled a need to watch and share movies and TV shows right from a mobile device. A millennial’s desire to go to the movie theater, rent a Blockbuster, or watch regular TV is decreasing each day. Ultimately, millennials have shown more interest in sharing these tech experiences and are beginning to live more virtually than ever before.
Next, consider the values of millennials. Millennials tend to be more value-driven than previous generations, although less religious overall. This can be seen most clearly through the growth in corporate responsibility. Businesses are finding success in treating the planet well and employees better. This aligns most directly with a firm’s reputation. Through the global economy and enabled advocacy, the world’s awareness for social situations has become vital through technology. When a company displays good deeds and good programs to help others, their reputation improves. However, when a company or employee of a company is seen doing something hurting society, it can spread quicker than ever before, seriously hurting a firm’s reputation. Although corporate responsibility costs money, there is success due to the desire young consumers have to invest in companies that stand for more than just a product.
Millennials make up 21% of consumer discretionary purchases. This equates to about $1 trillion in direct buying power. This has a huge influence over older generations in the markets right now. Businesses are adapting to sell to our market, and we are showing interest in those that are sharing their profits to become better companies and make the world better. This responsibility millennials have, and businesses have as a result of millennials, stems from the millennial’s desire to share.
Finally, think of the characteristics commonly seen in millennials: collaboration and teamwork. These stem from a constant need to share in order to receive recognition. Millennials are constantly connected with friends and what is going on in the world. In the workplace or academia, millennials work best in groups. It is becoming less common to see a millennial do things alone such as going to bars, grocery shopping, or even going to the gym. It is not that a millennial cannot do these things alone; they simply strive and do better in a group.
These characteristics are especially important when working in a business. Millennials are the most educated generation so far, and universities are reinforcing collaborative skills to carry to the workplace. It has been shown that working in a group can give members the ability to work on more complex problems than when alone, share diverse perspectives, delegate responsibilities more efficiently, and be held more accountable. The need to share with others thus becomes innovative and effective when looking to take large tasks on.
Ultimately, the world has catered to millennials in recent years developing this “sharing economy.” The traits millennials commonly display has exposed new possibilities for businesses today and in the future. Yes, the millennial is troubling to some and exhilarating for others; however, for millennials ourselves, today is only the beginning.