Millennials Incorporated: Our Student Cohort
At the AACSB Associate Deans Conference in Houston, Texas, Andrea Hershatter, Senior Associate Dean at the Goizueta Business School, Emory University gave a wonderful presentation about the Millennial Generation. It was such a rich, entertaining and well researched talk, that it really would be difficult to do it justice in a short blog. (And no, I’m not her agent!) This short article sets out some of the main ideas, but if you get the chance I highly recommend that you go and see her speak.
An awful lot has been written about the Millennial Generation and not all of it is good. Rather than go down the easy path of repeating many of the gripes, Ms Hershatter began her presentation with a basic question:
“Are these students really any different?”
Many studies contradict each other. However, there are two phenomena which have most definitely changed:
- Their relationship with technology
- Their relationship with institutions
“Entitlement” is the word that systematically comes back when talking of this generation. In part this is due to the parents. Because there isn’t a stable economy, parents have tried “to put as many tools in their toolbox” as possible so that they will be in a position to deal with a changing world.
“So, God forbid that anyone should come along and get in the way of this.”
This includes all types of organizations and naturally universities and their employees. It is estimated that educating a child in the US costs around $250 000. The return on investment is therefore measured in starting salary and parents are anxious to get the best possible deal for thier children.
The term ‘helicopter parents’ has now become common place in the USA (Asia follows in this and Europe tends to lag behind for this change.). Ms. Hershatter goes even further than that labelling some as ‘stealth bomber parents’ who swoop down on the university as and when they wish. There are even the ‘snow plough’ parents who just push everything out of their way. Of course, universities themselves are rather ambiguous about this given that:
“We invite parents in many ways and we shut them out in other ways.”
Incoming freshman report that their primary reason to attend college today is to get a good salary.
Gen Xers would complain but they wouldn’t expect they didn’t collectively expect things to be changed for them. This is not the case with the millennials. Given their upbringing they fully expect things can and will be modified if they ask.
A recent survey of Millennials in the USA gave some interesting results on the way they think.
- 70% would choose smarter over better looking.
- 83% of women believe they should achieve more than the previous generations. (There appears to be less pressure on men) This may explain why in student associations women are far more active.
- 63% volunteered for a non-profit in 2011.
- 53% would give up sense of smell so that they can keep their iPhone.
Millennials are far more compliant to rules than previous generations. They fear not having a plan or a road map. They are in need of constant feedback. Gen Xers and Millennials were asked if they wanted a structured environment with clear rules, Gen Xers were fairly neutral, whereas 80% of Millennials agreed. (Source Molly Epstein 2005 Millenial Impact.)
According to Ms. Hershatter, emails are not the preferred communication tool for Millennials. They use them and accept them but they are far happier on Twitter and Facebook.
Millennials at work
Ms. Hershatter makes the comparison between starting a job and learning to swim. The Gen Xers were thrown into the deep end. Now we set up a six month training course.
“However our job is to show a messy ambiguous world. This is difficult to do with students that want a structure. If they don’t get the result they complain that it isn’t fair.”
There are four key millennial motivators
- Mentors (=someone who has seen this before)
Millennials were bred for achievement. They have a great desire to please the people they most trust. They can live with change if the story changes, but what people say and how they formulate their arguments is crucial to their acceptance. They are hardworking and the good news is that:
“Our future is better in their hands.”
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Parents who will soon be seeing their children desert the family nest for the dangerous world of higher education will fully understand this message. After all those years of worrying and caring, it is tough giving up our precious offspring to the unknown.
For professors though, those same students are NOT children but future managers. Their job is to prepare them for the business world. Time for the parents to let go.
Across Europe, Business Schools are now getting in the full swing of the new academic year. So comes the moment to deal with subject that is on all business students’ minds and to wonder whether they are really that different to previous generations.
Cloudy, with a Chance of Wine: “1. They’ll never have to know what it’s like to live without straightening balms, flat irons, and frizz control products. 2. They’ll never have to bother themselves with silly things like the Dewey Decimal System, microfiches, and Encyclopedia Britannica.”
Where Westport meets the world: “A provocative article in the New York Times suggests that the massive money today’s “economic elite” spend on their kids may not have the desired effect. “Being groomed for the winner-take-all economy starting in nursery school turns out to exact a toll on the children at the top,” writes Chrystia Freeland, editor of Thomson Reuters Digital.”
Portfolio & Blog: “As a Millennial now teaching Millennials, I initially found myself trying to incorporate technology into the classroom simply for the sake of relevance. Incorporating Twitter into my first-year English courses has been one of the biggest undertakings of new media of my teaching career so far.”
Education Stormfront: “I’m sure you are asking how can a TV you can talk to affect education? Well, children will become conditioned to just asking for information and getting it instantly.”
AACSB Grenoble Studying in Grenoble Business School Grenoble EM International Affairs Higher Education ESC Grenoble Strategy Blog Global Ed Graduate Business School Mark Thomas
AACSB Associate Deans Conference: Leading in Challenging Economic Times by Karyl B. Leggio
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