What Gen X and Baby Boomers Can Learn From Millennials

Latest posts by Marshal Kushniruk (see all)

Millennials can often get a bad rap in the workplace. But let’s take a reality check: millennials are the best educated, most digitally savvy and fearless generation ever in the business world. They charge head first into markets, often loathe the shackles of a steady paycheck and assume there’s a technological solution to solve any problem. Therefore, millennials will transform how business is done.

Added to that, millennials can be your competitor, your customer, client or prospect, your co-worker, or your present or future manager. I cultivate relationships with young entrepreneurs to keep a finger on the pulse of how they are thinking and evolving.

In fact, rather than pitching millennials against generation X in the workplace, the question we should be asking is, “how can Gen Xers tap into millennials’ different way of thinking to create a winning business recipe?”

There are three best practices that Gen Xers and baby boomers can adopt from millennial entrepreneurs:

  1. Use technology to drive efficiencies, solve problems and land new opportunities

According to research, the average millennial owns nearly eight connected devices and spends an average of 18 hours on their smartphone each week, making them the most digitally-forward generation. But moreover, turning to technology to find the best solution comes as second nature to millennials; the generation that enters brick and mortar stores to check out the merchandise but doesn’t leave before looking where they can find the best deal on their smartphone.

Take a moment to think about how that mindset can benefit you in the work environment. Every industry is getting disrupted at a frenetic pace and a large part of a company’s ability to thrive depends on its power to leverage technology effectively. Because, while there are still opportunities for new businesses to prosper, the 24/7 pace and onslaught of new technologies means there is increasingly less room for error.

Adopting a digital-first approach will serve your business well on multiple levels:

  • Automate time-sucking back-end tasks that distract your team from growing your business. From paying bills, to delegating customer support issues and managing your tax compliance, because there’s a tool for that.
  • Use technology to avoid problems before they arise. Tools such as Carbonite automatically back up data at scheduled intervals so you rest easy knowing your data is intact and securely stored in the cloud.
  • Think about which technology will help you to land new opportunities. From using big data technology and real-time processing that allow you to glean meaningful insights on your customers and prospects, to considering the next tool to market your company. For instance, if visual marketing is a big deal to engage stakeholders, be out in front of what’s next after video and live streaming.
  1. Find new channels and partnerships to offer your products or services

Millennials embrace new ways of making purchases, from mobile commerce, to marketplaces and now in-social media buys. But anyone in business can identify these trends and benefit from them.

Entrepreneurs should not overlook the value of building partnerships and channels into their business models. For e-commerce businesses, the online marketplace is steadily rising and is the perfect example of how the right shared avenues can deliver huge value to customers and businesses.

This is especially true, since 65 percent of online shoppers feel comfortable purchasing from merchants they have never heard of on marketplaces. We all know Amazon, eBay and Alibaba, but consider that niche marketplaces and community-based sites such as Etsy and Houzz have a more curated and unique value offering, sometimes above the big players.

As always, do your research and know your audience (and their purchasing habits) to find the right channels and partnerships for your business.

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  1. Use crowdsourcing to understand and adapt to customer needs

Twenty-six-year old founder and CEO of Painless 1099s, Ace Callwood, has taught me multiple things about understanding your customers that I regard as some of the most important advice learned throughout my extensive entrepreneurial career.

Crowdsourcing is front of mind. Customers know their needs best and so being able to integrate the “crowd” in the product or solution innovation and development process is a critical advantage. From new ideas to testing functions, I see more companies turning to crowdsourcing because it helps them find out their customer needs quickly and adapt. Done right, such as being transparent, allowing a high level of participation and finding the right feedback channel, it results in a win for both parties.

What I love the most about Ace is that he’s modest about what he has taught me and others at Avalara, yet his depth of knowledge about crowdsourcing is incredible. This millennial knows more about crowdsourcing than I will know in a lifetime; I only aspire to be as good.

But what this relationship and others have taught me is that no matter what your industry or company, the secret to success lies in never stepping away from the learning process. Be open to learning from new millennial hires in your organization or contacts in your network to ensure your business stays relevant.

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