“Lazy, poor and avocado? How two billion millennials are changing the world.”
A discussion with Markus Bihler from Builders Union. About millennials, their values and their influence as the largest global consumer group.
In your daily work and – recently – in your publication ‘The Millennial Generation in Seven Myths’ you address demographic shifts, and especially the growing influence of millennials. Which global economic developments do you think are related to this, and how will this impact on the “Future at Work”?
We draw three fundamental conclusions from our research:
Firstly: the millennial generation, born between 1981 and 1997, with its 2 billion people constitutes the largest working, income-generating generation to have ever lived. They are replacing, and have already overtaken, the 1 billion baby boomers – their parents’ generation – in today’s labour market. So the largest generation of their time is passing on the baton to the largest generation of today. Without doubt a generational transformation of significant proportion.
Secondly: we observe a significant geographical shift in both headcount and income distribution – away from Europe and North America towards Asia, Latin America and Africa. Already today, 90% of millennials and centennials (the “Generation Z” born after 1998) live outside of North America and Europe. They already account for 60% of global consumer spend and will see their incomes grow by 15% per annum over the next two decades. In other words, the young consumer epicentre is shifting into parts of the world still described as “developing countries” just a few years ago.
Thirdly: increasing digitalisation as a catalyst of generational change makes the millennial generation the most homogenous generation to have ever lived. Both in terms of their preferences, their consumption behaviour. Millennials in Indonesia, in London and in Berlin are more alike in their media consumption, their interests, and therefore in their role as consumers, than ever before. Culture is clearly becoming increasingly global.
How are these three findings changing the labour market – and are they really changing it? For one thing this means – for any manufacturing or service-providing business- that their market is becoming more global. Their customers are more likely to be Asian, African or Latin American. Technology-driven internationalisation implied that the European or American customer cannot remain the yardstick for international companies. In addition, talent acquisition will have to take place more globally. And that well beyond a mere adherence to the idea of diversity and plurality.
One core concern among the millennial generation is what they expect to get out of their work. It is no longer sufficient to just to be able to feed the family. People want to see in their work a relevance beyond profit and towards an impact within a broader social context. This notion is equally prevalent in millennials consumer behaviour. To a greater degree than any preceding generation, millennials use their purchasing power to signal what kind of world they want to live in. They quite literally vote with their wallet. They meticulously inspect a product’s label. They take a stance on a company’s production process, resource utilisation and mission statement, where customers of earlier generations would have bought products without giving it much of a second thought.
Which values have you identified as forming the basis for these decisions? This generation shares a conviction that a statement can be made with every purchase. One major global trend – not least promoted by millennials – is sustainably resource usage: in production processes, in private energy consumption, in consumer decisions. Subject areas that were much less the focus of popular debate a few years ago than they will undoubtedly be over the upcoming decade.
How does this new generation work? Do millennials work differently than the preceding generations, do they have special values and wishes? What is apparent is that millennials are often misunderstood and inaccurately judged. Young people are often labelled lazy and entitled, yet in fact we find that this generation works more and has less free time in the classic sense than the generations before them. There is a clear shift from ‘work-life balance’ to ‘work-life integration’. In part driven by the decreasing notion of ‘work’ as a location. Additionally supported by mobile technology, omnipresent internet access and the ability to work in connected but location-independent shifts, work is more modular than ever. Millennials feel like they’re always in working mode. Private, social and professional concerns conjoin, and less distinction is made between identifying private and professional personas.
If that’s the case, does an office even make sense in the future? We think personal interaction will remain important. For this, you need a space, a physical space, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be an office. Even today, people already work in co-working spaces, libraries and cafes.
The purpose of work, purpose of purchase – what does this mean for businesses? Is generating a profit still the most important business goal? Companies are increasingly being pressured to create value for their customers above and beyond profit maximisation. Mainly for the simple reason that millennials are demanding it. On top of this, millennials have the tools to penalise any corporate behaviour that violates their value expecctations. Thanks to their extensive social media networks, millennials are able to exert influence over consumer decisions in ways that makes even internationally listed companies vulnerable. You will find examples of this in our publication “The Millennial Generation in 7 Myths”. It includes lots of hopefullly fascinating stories and data points about what we are convinced is the most significant demographic shift in recent history. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us online at https://buam.com!
Markus Bihler, born in 1984, is a silver fox of the millennial generation. He is the co-founder and CEO of Builders Union, a technology-enabled global asset manager based in London & Singapore. The company’s Global Equity Fund invests behind the rising income and changing consumer behaviour of the millennial generation, based on proprietary research about how this generation actually ticks.