Millennials are a valuable and influential generation with immense potential to enrich the business landscape.
As consumers, millennials are commanding the marketplace. They are telling businesses what they want, how they want it, and how much they want to pay – and this phenomenon spans virtually every industry, including telecommunications. For providers, as well as telcos themselves, this presents equal challenges and opportunities to harness the potential of the millennial market. It’s important to be able to cater to the specific needs of millennials; but it is not always easy to do so because millennial expectations come in varying forms and are perpetually evolving.
Millennials are a diverse and adaptive consumer demographic. They think very fast as consumers, and as a result, it isn’t easy for telcos to underestimate what may come next. This is why, in order to understand the millennial consumer, it’s important for employers to bring more millennials into their organizations. This way, they can be the ones to innovate and create the ideas, products, and services that speak to their generational counterparts as consumers.
However, this philosophy poses challenges in itself. Typically as employees, millennials don’t want to stay too long in one position. They aren’t like the corporate employees from previous generations who expect to work for 15 years in one company. To millennials, the employment journey is about flexibility and mobility, which is why they tend to be attracted to fast-changing organizations like startups. But given their skills, talents, and digital literacy, millennials are still an invaluable asset for companies everywhere despite their potential volatility.
As such, it is vital to think of millennials as valued employees and ask ourselves how we can retain them and get the most out of their creative minds. This is difficult though, because they don’t often have the patience to grow within a single organization. They don’t want to wait until vacancies open up to be filled. Millennials think they know a lot, and they do – but we need to figure out how we can nurture their sills and talent by engaging with them and helping them grow into leadership roles over time.
The same tendency for millennials to crave mobility in the workplace applies to their lifestyle habits as well. It’s not easy to keep millennials in one place: to them, the world has no geographic boundaries and the desire to travel is arguably stronger than it has been with any previous generation. Today, travel is more accessible and affordable than ever – and the millennial mindset is that there is greater value in experiences than in material possessions. This is an interesting paradigm shift, and the readiness for us to work with it will be imperative from the telco perspective.
Millennials bring fresh skills and help us identify goals for the future to create competitive solutions that are sustainable, flexible, and adaptable. However, in the MENA region, it is particularly challenging to leverage their unique value. Many countries in the region are dealing with political turmoil which means a lot of young talent don’t want to live in the MENA for very long – they’d rather go to Europe or the United States because they feel that it’s safer and there are more opportunities.
Nonetheless, there will come a time when we have enough local and international universities in the region to attract MENA millennials, in turn leading to opportunities like internships in the region, which will segue into careers. The hope is that they will develop a sense of loyalty and purpose in the MENA, incentivizing them to stay in their home countries long-term or return to them later on. In order to facilitate this, it is crucial to allow and encourage them to go out and experience the world, then welcome them back when they’re ready. In a world that embraces mobility and cultural experiences, we should not keep our borders so rigid.
Millennials present immense value as consumers, employees, and citizens. They are eager to learn and ambitious by nature; and in order for organizations to harness these qualities and the potential that comes along with them, they must make a conscious effort to attract and retain millennial talent. In a constantly evolving marketplace, millennials offer the flexibility and adaptability that will drive sustainability agendas everywhere.
*By Rafiah Ibrahim, Head of Ericsson Middle East and Africa