Millennials – a generation that receives mixed reviews – have not only been deemed as “entitled” or “narcissistic,” but they are also known as a very passionate group that hopes to change the world for the better. Often, a change to the status quo creates a ripple effect through the ways of old, temporarily marooning those individuals that created the revolution. Thus, millennials have changed the work force, as well as the way the service industry is set up. By altering how generations before them have done business, millennials have outcast themselves, operating outside of existing institutions. They strive for a stronger work-life balance, jump ship from job to job because they are not appreciated or want to create change in a deeper way, and take risk in their present lives but remain conservative with their futures. As a member of both Gen Y and the service industry, I have realized that working with millennials requires a much different approach.
As a financial planner, the common method is working alongside attorneys, CPAs, bankers and other professionals to help coordinate every aspect of our clients’ financial pictures. Services are paid for in a set, previously agreed upon manner with each of these individuals. However, growing up in the tech-driven, do-it-yourself age, many millennials either resort to online applications or YouTube videos to accomplish everyday tasks. Even when it comes to professional services, technology has changed the way we go about business, with online legal websites, robo-advisers, branchless banks, and the list goes on. Many millennials (especially those that offer a service of their own) even enact the barter system – no money, just one service as payment for the other. Even though millennials have grown up entranced in social media and online communication, they do still appreciate face-to-face interactions, and thus, there is still vast opportunity to network and to do business with members of the Peter Pan generation.
Understanding that their lifestyles are different is ultimately a vital step. Generation X and the baby boomers are known for their intense work ethic, often putting in hours of work outside of the typical business hours. The motto of “delayed gratification” strikes deep for them – make sacrifices now to enjoy life later. This approach led people to save money early on, to invest it in the markets for the future, to set up wills and trusts immediately, and to take out a mortgage. Millennials are much more keen on instant gratification and a balance between their work and personal lives. Their lifetimes have seen a period of exponential change with answers to all their questions with a couple of clicks. It’s conditioned in their DNA. As a group that changes jobs and cities frequently, working with knowledgeable professionals will be key, whether they realize it yet or not. However, unlike their older cohorts, many millennials leave their jobs because they are not appreciated or do not feel that their work is making a significant impact on the world. Money and benefits play a much smaller role in their decision-making. When prospecting with millennials, demonstrate the community efforts your company makes because millennials want to see a picture bigger than themselves. They want to be a part of something important and awe-inspiring, whether it’s the company they work for or the companies with which they do business.
A good approach is to include millennials in conversations and client meetings with their parents or grandparents. It’s an opportunity to build rapport and to instruct them on your services, strategies, and the application of both. Many millennials were old enough to watch the net worth of their families or of others plummet during the 2008 financial crisis. Just as The Great Depression led to an extended period of saving and fear in the financial markets, 2008 has had a similar effect on Gen Y. They’re fiscally conservative and hesitant to spend money for a service until they understand how every aspect of it operates. Educate them, showing how your services can help them protect themselves, whether it’s through insurance or trusts that will shield their assets. Although it may have been difficult to work with millennials up until now, they offer a lot of future growth opportunity. Establish your social media presence now. Construct a team of professionals to help refer millennials. Invite your current clients to bring their children. Commission your younger employees to help you break into their peer groups – millennials like to do business with other millennials. Regardless of the excuses you’ve used in the past, now is the time to devise a legitimate strategy toward prospecting the next generation. Make certain that you are the one they remember when they decide to take the leap. Taylor C. Irwin