Millennials in the Workplace

Stocksy_txpd54be8a1J9B000_Medium_228670Maude Standish, Trends Analyst, Millennial, and Co-Founder of Tarot, tracks cultural trends and sociological back-stories of Millennials, particularly how they view and behave in the workplace in an inter-generational workforce. To put their worldview into perspective, here are the Top Five Myths About Millennials, notably held most often by Boomers—their parents!

1. Myth: They Only Want to Be Famous

Reality: Selfies aside, Millennials are building their personal brands by documenting and commenting on their lives as they live them. They actually prioritize family and friends higher than fame. They have been exposed to a world in which fame is a double-edged sword, and fleeting at best.

2. Myth: All Millennials Are Lazy

Reality: Just because it looks like they are online all the time, whatever screen of choice, they are not lazy. Millennials are on their Grind. They work long hours. They check in online vigilantly, both professionally and personally. They are constantly planning for the future. Most Millennials have a day job and are also into some entrepreneurial business they are creating on the side.

3. Myth: They All Leave After Two Years

Reality: They all leave after two years. They leave because they didn’t see a clear career pathway to the future with the company; there was no room for creativity; there was not enough flexibility in the workplace; or they were looking for a mentor and did not find one.

4. Myth: They Are Never Really Working

Reality: They draw no lines between leisure time and work time. Millennials demand balance in their lives. So for example, seamlessly alternating between Facebook and work is a way to squeeze in personal fulfillment to balance the demands of their jobs.

5. Myth: They Have No Loyalty

Reality: Millennials have trust Issues. The recession hit, their parents were losing their pension packages, and their homes were taken. If you give them reasons to trust you—benefits, mentorship, clear examples of career paths in the firm—they will become fiercely loyal.

Some Ah-Ha Insights

  • Millennials never have to leave friends behind because of social media and online connections
  • 6 out of 10 Millennial college graduates are women
  • They are fiscally conservative because they did everything they were told, but then few jobs were available to them when they graduated, and as a result they have trust issues.
  • They are not lazy and entitled, but rather they want to be rewarded for their Grind.
  • There are more Millennials than Baby Boomers.
  • No one, no matter how old, likes to be told “you have to do it this way…”
  • The reason most Millennials think and act the way they do is because they’re YOUNG! They think and act just the way everyone else did at the same age.
  • Headphones now are replacing office doors.

Holy Guacamole: Millennial Favorite Chipotle Turns Neurological Connectivity into Gastronomical Addiction

chipotleMy 16-year-old son John’s idea of a gourmet meal is a burger and fries, so I was surprised one evening a couple of weeks ago when, after a busy day that left me no time to cook, I asked him where we should get takeout, and his answer was: “Chipotle.”

Caught off guard, I had to think for a minute. “I don’t think there’s one nearby.”

“Yes there is, in Yonkers,” he said, then added sheepishly,“ and you told me I could choose where to go.” Sighing, I grabbed my purse and keys for the 20-minute drive.

Chipotle (named after a smoke-dried jalapeno pepper) is the wildly successful chain of casual Mexican-style restaurants known for its overstuffed burritos made from healthy and natural ingredients. It was founded more than 20 years ago by Stephen Ells, a graduate of the University of Colorado and the Culinary Institute of America who,  with the dream of someday opening his own restaurant, moved to San Francisco to work for a famous chef . One day, he noticed an assembly line of workers at a taqueria in the Mission District  efficiently serving a crowd of hungry customers. He decided he could open a similar place to generate the cash needed to fund his fancy dining establishment. He quit his job, moved back to Denver and, after borrowing $85,000 from his dad, opened the first Chipotle in mid-1993. The restaurant, which from the start operated on the principle that fast food doesn’t have to be low-quality and that delicious food doesn’t have to be expensive, offered crafted-to-order burritos made from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Within six months, the restaurant was reportedly selling 1,000 burritos per day, 10 times the level needed to break even. [Read more…]

Lessons from Offshore

paco1Lesson #1 – Returning Turtles

“Organized retail” is the term we use to describe modern trade in the emerging market. It is an explosion that has quietly been transforming access to goods across the planet. In most emerging markets, the first intrusion of organized retail is the modern grocery store or hypermarket; however, it has stretched beyond big boxes, to specialty retail, foodservice and how malls are built.

paco2Local merchants that have ventured to the United States and Europe are behind much of that transformation. They have left home to get educated, observe and process, and then return to to reinvent. One early example is Thailand-based Lotus, an agribusiness broker that saw organized retail as a way of vertically integrating in the early 1990s. During the first Asian money crisis of 1997, Lotus sold its first attempt at retail, a grocery chain in Thailand, to Tesco and then made the decision to bet on China. In 2014, Lotus not only operates nearly 60 retail superstores in China (which sell the food products they produce), but also owns many of the shopping malls (such as Super Brand Mall in Shanghai, pictured) where their stores are lead tenants. [Read more…]

Monitoring the Digital Watercooler

iStock_000023334231SmallEver since the first merchant set up a tent at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, the world’s first mall, or Sears met Roebuck, employees have complained about employers.

But there’s a new twist on the old dynamic thanks to that digital water cooler, a.k.a.  social media. It’s where the “look-at-me” or “listen-to-me” generation spews out opinions and every excruciating detail of their daily lives in 144-character rants or selfies.

Companies are wondering about their options when it comes to protecting their reputations from sometimes-libelous comments or disciplining employees who violate social media policy. [Read more…]

Social Networks – Flipping Traditional Marketing on its Head

FINAL-image-for-Robin-Article-to-run-5-7

Attention all: You are no longer in control of your marketing messages.

How many times, and in how many ways, have we declared that today’s consumer has total power over all of commerce? Hundreds? Thousands? I don’t know, but certainly enough that if there are any of our readers who still don’t get it, they need a brain transplant.

Just as retail, wholesale and service business models are being driven by consumers’ shifting desires, these same dynamics are driving an equally fundamental transformation in the communications, advertising and media industries.

Permission-Based Marketing

Reflecting consumer behavioral shifts, technological advances continue to expand an infinite number of distribution platforms for communications, products and services that can literally follow, and access, individual consumers 24/7. Unfortunately for marketers, technological innovations have allowed consumers to block what they don’t want entering their “personal spaces;” and also enable people to invite or grant permission to precisely what they do welcome. [Read more…]

FOMO & the Retail Experience

iStock_000018141330SmallA Nation of Smartphone Junkies

It’s a truism that an overwhelming number of people today are addicted to their electronic devices. According to Pew Research, the cell phone has been the most quickly adopted consumer technology in the history of the world. Over 90% of American adults (97% of the under-35 crowd) own them. It is estimated that by the end of this decade, all but the oldest, youngest, poorest and most technophobic among us will own smart phones.

We use our phones as camera, alarm clock, board game, metronome, magazine, map, bank, GPS tracking device, bank, TV, and more. Mostly, though, we use them for their original purpose: to stay connected. We can reach out to friends and family members instantaneously, and know where our kids are at every moment of the day or night. We can keep up on breaking news while hiking in the Adirondacks. We can watch a revolution unfolding in the city center of a Middle Eastern country thousands of miles away. Increasingly, we can do more than one of these things at a time. [Read more…]

Meet the Millennials

polaroid_1Multi-Faceted, But Not Beyond Understanding

Retailers need to tune into the 18-to-30 crowd that comprises almost a third of all Americans – a bigger population segment than Baby Boomers. The Millennial generation numbered 79 million in 2011, with an outlook to stay at 78 million by 2030. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers will be retracting from their current 76 million to 56 million by 2030. This enormous segment of the population tends to make more transactions, but spend less per transaction. They have discretionary income and are willing to spend it… but the question is how, and where? The answers can be contradictory.

At MasterCard, we have seen data pointing to some varied behaviors within the Millennials category, as well as how they like to shop and how they’ve started to change the nature of shopping itself. Not surprisingly, a comfort level with technology has a lot to do with their ease in navigating the multichannel retail landscape – after all, they’re the ones who’ve made social media into the retail marketing tool it currently is. MasterCard has data from 80 billion anonymous credit card transactions to help better understand the needs of the Millennial consumer segment. [Read more…]

The Harder They Fall

ex_tiger_woods_watchConsumers love celebrities and are more than willing to fork over billions of dollars for things they endorse. But do you want them to land on your product when they fall from grace?

That multi-million dollar celebrity endorsement deal for your store’s organic clothing line is going gangbusters, with sales soaring 20% in just four weeks.

But then your squeaky clean, environmentally-active spokesman is caught in a sleazy hotel room wearing a sequined ball gown, with two underage prostitutes, a German shepherd and a bag full of crack cocaine. What now?

A little over the top? Maybe. But when it comes to celebrities nothing is impossible. As someone once said, “you pay your dime and take your chances.” [Read more…]

What’s Wrong With This Employment Picture?

Last week’s employment data looked pretty rosy. The economy added 175,000 new jobs in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than many economy-watchers and investors anticipated, but not so many that the Fed might be tempted to tighten credit. Retail jobs comprised a sizable chunk of the increase, a net gain of 28,000, indicating an underlying bullishness on the part of retailers about consumer spending, since May is not typically a big hiring month for stores.

Looking behind the numbers, however, particularly in light of other recent economic data, a murkier picture emerges.

Job Growth is Slow

First, despite May’s jump, overall job growth has been painfully slow for the past year, ranging somewhere between 1.5% and 1.7% per month on a 12-month smoothed basis, as the chart below shows.

Click to enlarge chart

Click to enlarge chart

 The unemployment rate, though close to a four-and-a-half year low, actually increased in May, from 7.5% to 7.6%, as news of the improving job situation caused many of the unemployed who had given up looking to reenter the job-hunting fray.

Click to enlarge chart

Click to enlarge chart

And, as is usually the case this time of year, over a million newly-minted college graduates were thrust kicking and screaming into the real world (or at least back to their old bedroom at Mom and Dad’s). This year’s crop carried record loads of student debt.

New Jobs are Low-Level

Yet another problem is that the jobs that are being created are not exactly the most sought-after, and tend to earn less than those eliminated during the recession, a phenomenon that shows no sign of reversing itself any time soon.

For example, restaurants and bars added a whopping 38,000 jobs in May, evidence that people have finally started to eat out more, usually a sign of an improving economy.  However, these jobs tend to pay less than minimum wage – certainly not enough to eat out very often!

Professional and business services added a lot of jobs, too. But despite the media cacophony about a surge in tech and other math-and-science-related fields, only 5,000 jobs were in computer systems, and another 6,000 in engineering – hardly enough to satisfy the hundreds of thousands of recent IT and engineering graduates. The greatest number of new jobs in the professional services sector – 26,000, to be exact, was in the not-so-lofty temporary office help area.

Last month, one in every six new jobs was in retail. In fact, as the chart above shows, retail job growth has been outpacing that of total employment in the US since late 2012. However, most of these jobs are hourly jobs at the store level, and pay at or slightly above minimum wage.

Sluggish Income Growth

Income growth has been sluggish for the past several months, further evidence of the beating paychecks are taking, which means that the rampant price-and value-consciousness will persist for a while, and will continue to wield a huge influence on consumer behavior and retail strategy.

Click to enlarge chart

Click to enlarge chart

Stagnant Spending

Finally, consumer spending is nothing to get excited about. Although sales of durables like automobiles and furniture have been brisk, spending on nondurables like food, clothing and personal care items has slowed in recent months. Much of the slowdown is due to lower prices on food and gas, but nonetheless threatens to intensify the share wars taking place at retail.

Click to enlarge chart

Click to enlarge chart

It’s probably worthwhile to point out that while all this hiring was taking place, the Dow and S&P each continued their upward climbs, bringing year-to-date stock market gains to over 15% and reinforcing the wealth effect among the high-income folks. This has been fueling growth in luxury retailing and intensifying the polarization between haves and have-nots. How long this will last depends in large part on the financial markets. A big stock market correction could put the brakes on luxury spending.

Who’s Hiring At Retail?

Retailers, anxious to gain whatever share they can in this low-growth market, are making sure they are sufficiently staffed. General merchandise stores, including variety and the very popular dollar stores, have added the most jobs so far this year, at 44,000, as shown in the chart below, almost half the 93,000 new retail jobs. Dollar stores have been expanding their brick-and-mortar footprint faster than other channels.

Department stores have added 22,000 jobs, both in-store to provide improved service, and at the corporate level to fill expanding e-commerce and social media departments. Specialty apparel stores, many of whom are closing underperforming doors, have sustained a net loss of 17,000 jobs so far this year.

Click to enlarge chart

Click to enlarge chart

Amid all the uncertainty, though, the tough job market has been a windfall for retailers in one key way. These companies have access today to some of the most educated, innovative, tech-savvy and creative talent ever. Retailers should identify the high-potential employees early in their careers, and begin grooming them to be the next generation of industry leaders.

Innovators Unite!

kennethwalker“I told you so” seems to be the rallying cry of all the retail pundits out there who think they were smarter than Ron Johnson.

Every one is throwing stones and is offering multiple reasons for what went wrong at JCPenney. The reasons for failure are easy to categorize, and I sense a bunker mentality is settling over the retail community.

Beware.

In a business where real change comes very infrequently, the danger of the JCP fiasco may be the end of trying to do anything innovative. Many companies try and fail, but learn their lessons and bounce back by trying again.  The worst thing JCP can do is to go backwards to the status quo.

The vision Ron Johnson brought to the table was revolutionary.  The execution in hindsight was clearly flawed. Unfortunately very few people even got to experience what “the vision” was, as few elements were completed. It could have been a game changer for the retail community.

Current JCP management has a very focused and talented leader. The key investors in the company are smart and have the future in mind.  I hope this team will execute properly and harness the vision and innovation that Johnson began.   It would create a sorely needed new, and unique, customer experience.

Shoppers are always looking for something new. If they try it and like it, they will come back and tell others.   Word of mouth has a very big mouth…it’s called twitter and Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and the rest of them.

The poor execution of a vision should not be an excuse to abandon innovation.

Rules of Engagement

Cotton’s 24-Hour Runway Show and Push-Pull 2.0

Click to See Chart Full-Sized

Click to See Chart Full-Sized

The retail universe has long-since expanded beyond the confines of physical floor space and time. Online retail outlets have made shopping a 24-hour option for brands with or without brick-and-mortar complements. Brand marketing, too, is now a brave new digital world in which presence and consumer engagement are essential cogs in the machine. To succeed, there must be a synchronicity of disparate channels that encompass traditional advertising, digital advertising, social media and most importantly, the often-unpredictable consumer.

Hyper-dimensional marketing, or Push-Pull 2.0, plucks multiple messaging strings in the hopes of striking a chord with consumers. In traditional push-and-pull strategy, push referred to offering incentives to the supply chain, and consumer marketing was the pull. Today, Facebook, Twitter and the like, have shifted the strategic emphasis squarely on the consumer; push is now defined as brand outreach to the consumer, and pull is their outreach to the brand. The objective is to enthusiastically engage the co

nsumer in the brand experience; to have them participate, promote, and eventually purchase. [Read more…]

Millennials in the Workplace – True or False

grace_ehlersWe Millennials can be a little difficult to decode at work; our incessant attachment to our phones; our buddying up with senior executives; our loose understanding of office hours. Many of our coworkers ultimately begin to believe that we are haphazard workers and that everything you need to know about Millennials at work can be had from any Girls episode.

I am here to tell you otherwise: Millennials are incredibly dedicated workers—many of us placing work before our relationships and lives outside of work. Here are a few myths about Millennials in the workplace, busted or verified, to help you actualize the potential of your Millennials on staff.

1.They do not have a strong work ethic.

FALSE: This is the top Millennial-in-the-workplace myth I have come up against over and over again as a Millennial brand consultant. There are many reasons for this misinterpretation. They may be lackadaisical about office hours, but they will answer your email at any time of the day, any day of the week. They may be wallflowers inside sales meetings but will lead dynamic, impromptu brainstorms. Give them the benefit of the doubt and encourage them by showing them you have confidence in their work—they will show you their work ethic is strong and sustainable.

2. They feel they are entitled.

½ TRUE, ½ FALSE: While Millennials continue to be humbled by a 68% diminished net worth compared to the generation before them, not to mention crippling student loans, Millennials do feel entitled to a piece of the pie. In their eyes, pay scales should be relative to hard work and productivity, not exclusively based on seniority. Which is to say, yes, your associate is eyeballing your salary and willing it to be adjusted to his or her 20-hour workday.

3. They expect to be promoted without the years of experience necessary to warrant the promotion. They seem to think they can fast track it to the future.

TRUE: This is the #1 point of tension between Millennials and generations past. In our eyes, if we have the skills and can handle the responsibility of our superiors, and have demonstrated that we can, why shouldn’t we be allowed to advance? Why measure experience by time instead of skill level and capability? In your eyes, experience is developed over time. Agree to disagree.

4. They are not loyal and will bolt to another job if they feel like it.

½ TRUE, ½ FALSE: Millennials are very loyal employees, but if they feel stifled, or if the only way up is out, they have less than no problem showing you they know how to use the door.

5. They want to be part of the decision-making process, no matter what level they are.

TRUE: A truism of truisms for Millennials is that they want to be involved in the decision-making process; politically, professionally. What they love about work is seeing how their work ties into the bigger picture. Bringing them into the formation of that bigger picture will not only make their contributions richer, it make them emotionally invested in the company—and you will hold on to them longer because of it.