Cam Marston, best-selling author and a generational expert, showed attendees at BAI’s Retail Delivery opening general session some of the ribbons his 12-year-old daughter has won for swimming meets.
“She received a ribbon for 11th place—in a six-lane pool,” joked Marston. “Our generation gives out these ribbons. We’ve created this situation. And now we need to address it.”
Marston attributes this phenomenon in which parents continually reinforce the view that their child is special or unique to affluence.
“In times of affluence, the individual supersedes the needs of the community,” said Marston.
How the younger generation views the world—their “generational lens”—will have a significant impact on banks’ ability to attract and retain both younger customers and employees, said Marston.
Cam Marston's daughter won these "participation ribbons" for swimming—as he says, coming in eleventh in a six-lane pool.
“The Happiness Promise”
Marston admits that parents, teachers, and coaches have taught the millennial generation (between 15 and 35 years of age) that they deserve happiness.
“We have promised this generation happiness, but we haven’t taught them how to achieve happiness,” said Marston. As a result, noted Marston, millennials who join the workforce expect that their employer will work hard to make them happy.
To illustrate his point, Marston asked, “How many of you have people in your workplace who want to be acknowledged just for showing up?”
The belief that their workplace must make them happy has been solidified by technology start-ups that offer young talent free smoothies, bring-your-dog-to-work-day, and casual dress codes.
“Tech companies have polluted what our younger workforce expects,” said Marston. “This generation wants you to make them feel important and to feel happy.”
But rather than bemoan the younger generation’s sense of entitlement to happiness, Marston recommends that banks provide a work environment for employees, and products and services for customers, that appeal to millennial’s needs.
It’s not just altruistic: Millennials will inherit $28 trillion from their baby boomer parents, said Marston, and banks need to work today to build relationships with the future wealth of tomorrow.
Growth of “Adultolesence”
So what makes else makes millennials different than other generations?
Many go through a stage that Marston calls “adultolesence” in which they physically mature but still behave like an adolescent. They are more likely to live with their parents. They marry and have children later.
It’s not that millennials are unmotivated or lazy, but their generational lens puts them about five to seven years behind older generations in maturity. For instance, a millennial’s birth certificate may say he or she is 30, but their thoughts are akin to what a baby boomer experienced at age 23.
There are exceptions, said Marston. Millennials who are the oldest children, from military or farming families, or from immigrant families from non-Western nations tend to be more akin to the generation preceding them.
Meeting millennial needs
To attract and retain millennials, banks need to focus on how their workplace—and financial products and services—will impact millennials as individuals. Millennials want to work for organizations that make them feel that they matter. Bank management should be visible, show interest in employees as individuals, and provide encouragement.
“Millennials need to feel the love,” said Marston.
Millennials are individualistic, but they also have a strong herd instinct. Millennials travel in packs, said Marston.
They rely heavily on recommendations from friends, making social media a key part of any bank marketing strategy.
Millennials also want to know that your bank has their best interests in mind. They are not impressed by how long your bank has been in business or its history, noted Marston. Instead, they want to feel that the bank cares about them as individuals, so he recommends stressing the value of their uniqueness in your marketing.