As he spoke about solving tough generational challenges for organizations and leaders, leading Millennial and Gen Z researcher Jason Dorsey peppered his session with penetrating insights illustrating distinct generational differences, such as Boomers and Gen X’ers clinging to pen and paper while Millennials Tweet, Snap and live video their experiences. At the same time, he noted that generations “are not a box we fit neatly inside”—but that studying them provides powerful and predictive clues to understand and connect to different groups.

Everyone has a different natural relationship to tech, which Dorsey said is “invisible until we are forced to interact with someone else who has a different relationship to tech” and that “[it’s] only new if you remember the way it was before.”

He countered the myth that we are “tech-savvy” saying we’re just “tech-dependent,” because we don’t know how it works. We just know we can’t live without it. And with virtual home assistants becoming valuable “homework assistants,” the native relationship to technology is changing: Gen Z will be the one that primarily searches online.

Dorsey attributed the most college degrees in the work force—and the most education debt—to Millennials, who are delaying major life decisions, such as home buying and parenthood, but are also outspending all other generations this year—creating a dynamic of “freedom without responsibility.”

[Don’t] Call Me: Communicating and Marketing to Millennials

Leading Millennial and Gen Z researcher Jason Dorsey countered the myth that we are “tech-savvy” saying we’re just “tech-dependent,” because we don’t know
how it works.
For Millennials, who Dorsey said start their first jobs on average one to five years later than prior generations, job applications must not only be available online—completing and submitting them must be mobile-friendly too. As for the job description, the first sentence is the most important.

On the ECP’s website, he suggested putting a video, not a block of “About Us” text, on the home page to showcase the practice and company culture. With Millennials as the largest generational representation in the U.S. work force—and the most diverse generation in history—they “demand diversity” in their organizations and seek out those that embody this.

Dorsey highlighted a key difference between Gen X and Millennial employees: among the former group, if your boss talks to you, you’re doing something wrong; for the latter, if your boss is not talking to you, you’re doing something wrong. To successfully manage and work with Millennials, he recommended providing specific examples of expected performance, including visuals (photo or video) wherever possible, and “quick hit feedback,” delivered in more frequent bursts, instead of a long annual review.

How to best deliver the message?

1. Text, not voice. “Real friends don’t call”—parents do!

2. Email. (But, Dorsey cautioned, “they only read the subject line”—rendering it akin to a text)

3. Social media. Millennials perceive it as the quickest, most trusted way to get an answer. Dorsey encouraged the audience to not only maintain a LinkedIn account, but to “connect with influencers because it makes you look influential,” thus ranking higher in the program’s algorithm.

Dorsey noted that Gen Xers, who are “naturally skeptical,” feel that actions speak louder than words (and they still like to have paper handouts, whereas Millennials want the video recap). He said that products, services and experiences marketed to Millennials need to be presented as one of a kind, “as unique as they are,” but cautioned against using terms like individualized or customized, which are dated concepts of the prior generation.

Despite the popularity of the term, Dorsey maintained “that there is no such thing as real-time data—it already happened; you can’t measure something until after it happens.”

Through his research and work with leaders from around the globe, Dorsey aims to separate myth from truth regarding generational gaps, zeroing in on interest and trust: key “hidden drivers” which have been shaped by parenting and technology trends. With these forces driving Millennial consumer choices and employee behavior, and an ever-increasing number of Millennial managers in the work force, we’re seeing industries transforming at nearly every turn—including optical.