I recently attended an industry trade show – two days in a hotel/casino in Las Vegas, so jam packed with business seminars and product showcases that I had no time to drop even one coin into a slot machine. As office supply conferences go, this one was pretty good – the hotel had comfortable beds, and the food and coffee were far above average. The educational tracks were educational, particularly about the emerging trends in how office supply buyers use vendors, and how dedicated office supply and furniture dealers like Keeney’s can provide more value than the new crop of internet competitors, led by Amazon. Essendant, the hosts of the conference, were gracious as could be, and as always, every finding they presented in the keynote sessions was well supported by market research that reached deep into our customer base.
My biggest issue with the conference was that almost every seminar contained all sorts of warnings about the presence of Millennials – folks now between 23 and 35 years old – in the workforce. “They consume social media like a pack of rabid dogs!” “By 2020 they’ll be half the workforce!” “They only want to buy things online!” All of these breathlessly given utterances were pronounced as if Doomsday was at hand.
Here are some of the concrete things we heard about this much-feared segment of humanity:
1. They like collaboration more than competition.
2. They want flexible hours at work.
3. They prefer supervisors who listen to them, and mentor them, as opposed to just telling them what to do.
4. They like to buy things online, preferably with a mobile device.
5. They do their product research online
6. They are loyal to companies that add value – social value, lifestyle value, informational value – to transactional purchases
As I heard all of these frightful facts, I realized that…I prefer these things too, and I am more than twice as old as the average millennial.
Perhaps it is because I attended the conference with one of our own Millennial employees – someone to whom I can relate and with whom I can converse without having to filter my thoughts through a Millennial Interpretation Filter – I just couldn’t help but think that this group of supposedly alien and frightening people are pretty much the same as everyone else, but they have only experienced the world with the internet in it .
The takeaway for me is that anyone in business who wants to stay in business has to be able to collaborate, show real flexibility with coworkers, listen to and mentor employees, sell, buy and research online, and offer value along with commodities, or they won’t have customers for long. At Keeney’s we embrace these values with joy – all of us, young and old.
So, instead of obsessing over the Millennials, we obsess over how to serve all of our customers and employees with all of our technology, all of our hearts and all of our minds.