23-30-Year-Olds Are Not Millennials; Introducing Generation S
by Ken Dulaney, Betsy Burton, Samra Anees
We hear the term ‘millennials’ in almost every conversation or article about social change due to technical innovation these days. But that term is about 25-years-old and its hardly relevant to call the entire group of 23-38-year-olds by such an anachronistic description.
The term millennial is out of date with what behaviors are observed of the age group that is becoming adults today. In addition, grouping a 15 year span of people under one moniker will miss the opportunity to recognize how the generation coming to age today is distinct from Millennials, and also distinct from Generation Z, and thus require different engagement as customers, employees, and partners.
In this blog, we introduce the term and concept of Generation S, highlight how they are distinct from Millennials and Gen Z, and discuss how organizations need to support them differently. Generation S will be uniquely identified by their use of two key digital age capabilities: sharing and services.
Where Are the Millennials Today?
The term millennial generally refers to people who became adults during the turn of the 21st century. Millennials were the first smartphone/app generation and they were just beginning to use Facebook and Messaging. And as such, represented a significant technology-enabled cultural shift that impacted business and consumer behaviors. However, we must recognize that the breadth of available information, services, bandwidth and apps, have progressed way beyond that infantile state!
Millennials are quickly turning 40-years-old; they are not the group currently getting acquainted in the workforce. Millennials are managers, executives, presidential candidates, and members of congress. Millennials have children (even if they waited till they were in their 30s), mortgages, a career, a 401k…..and maybe a creeping back-ache.
From a lifespan perspective, Millennials have become their parents.
Sharing and Services Generation Comes of Age
The generation that is coming into adulthood today has grown-up with Uber/Lift, AirBnB, Youtube, Snapchat, and Slack available to them at any time and anywhere. People who are 18-30 today have always had food delivery, map directions, videos and music, and a cloud full of information always at their fingertips. They were raised talking to devices, accessing apps, and posting pictures, videos, and music. In speaking with this group, two key terms arise in conversation: sharing and services.
Millennials ages 23-30 are closer to Gen Z (1997 and onward) in terms of their experience coming of age with the same technologies. However, unlike Gen Z, 23-30 year-olds have already entered—and many are established in—the workforce. For this reason, we are separating this group out from Millennials and Gen Z as a whole, and calling the current generation coming to age Generation S.
Generation S Is Distinct From Millennials and Gen Z
Generation S (Gen S) grew up in a digital world. A Pew Research survey of late teens reveals that 95% surveyed individuals responded that they have a smartphone and 45% reporting that they are on-line “nearly constantly.”
Millennials grew up with the internet always available, which lead many of them to use the medium to create new companies, art forms, music and videos, nonprofits, communities, and forms of communication. Gen S grew up with a plethora of services, which means they are able to readily access, augment, and enhance these services, as well as create new services.
Generation S constituents, to save money, will often share services across non-related friends that the provider intended to be delivered through separate accounts. A Netflix subscriber gets several IDs and those are given to friends who in turn split the cost. Lyft and Uber drivers share their cars with paying customers and there are even services that let you rent out your car unattended by the owner. Medical costs can be shared among groups with certain religious or work affiliations (see www.freelancersunion.org). Sharing is pushing the benefits of ownership into the background.
As ownership declines, necessary functions for daily living come increasingly from services. Within 10 years, we expect self-driving cars to be prevalent. Why would one want to incur the capital cost of car, the maintenance headaches, and the expectedly higher costs of fuel and/or electricity when you will be able to summon a driverless car to wherever you wish (this assumes that without the Lyft or Uber driver, the cost of such services will continue to decline)? Generation S workers will rent apartments as a household service. The transition to services is endless across all types of capital expenses, cloths, bike, and decorations/furniture.
The Impact of Generation S
We believe that the Generation S will expect and demand more from organizations as a customers, employees, and partners, because they grew up with the expectation that services and information would be readily available.
Generation S will expect:
- Information and analytics to be easily accessible
- Technology to be pervasive, in fact they will likely not even think about it as technology just as the Baby Boomers didn’t think about the TV as technology
- Digital assistants, gaming, and immersive technologies will be part of their home and work experiences
- A high degree of customization by mixing and mashing services, rather that customized business processes and code
- Work flexibility in terms of hours, location, collaboration, and resources, since many Gen S’ grew-up with their parents having some degree of flexibility
Further, Gen S individuals won’t wait for their businesses or employers to provide these services; they will just find a way to procure it for themselves, which could introduce additional security, corporate privacy, information integrity, and integration (data and services) challenges.
Organizations must stop lumping individuals under 40 years old into one category—millennial. Gen S and Millennials are not the same—and neither are Gen S and Gen Z—and should be recognized for their distinct expectations and characteristics. Organizations must specifically start to prepare for Generation S by thinking about how these new customers and employees will want to access and share services–anywhere and anytime.