Chris DeJong, founder and president of Big blue swimming schoolis a five-time U.S. national champion swimmer.
Since the pandemic hit, countless articles have emerged about the race for “digital transformation” as companies scramble to restructure their business models to meet customers online and support remote working. But a second kind of digital transformation has begun. While baby boomers are retiring en masse Gen-X remains ignoredMillennials will enter the C-Suite and mark a transition of power from analog to digital.
Although they are not true digital natives, millennials (of which I am a part) are very tech-first people. They went through the awkward teen years of the Internet themselves as teens, watching screaming dial-up connections turn into always-on broadband and mobile phones turning from indestructible bricks into pocket computers that put the desktops of their childhood to shame. Millennials have seen firsthand just how powerful and transformative technology can be, and it has had a strong influence on how they view the world and how they approach the issues.
With that in mind, here are four ways I predict the millennial perspective on technology will reshape the way business is done.
1. They think of the device first.
To be successful in business, it’s vital that you meet customers where they are – and that’s smartphones these days. In less than 20 years, these devices have solidified themselves as central tools in our daily lives. Now they are the main way we shop, consume entertainment and even manage our finances.
Older generations may have scolded millennials for their tech dependency, but as consumers become more device-centric, a device-centric mindset will be key to meeting their expectations and preferences. Companies that don’t approach their customer journey from a phone-first perspective, even if their business isn’t remotely technical, are likely to create friction-laden journeys that will leave customers frustrated and looking elsewhere for solutions.
2. They see technology as an improvement, not a replacement.
I’ve lost count of the number of headlines over the years proclaiming, “In these many years, this technology will make this industry completely obsolete.” But so far, apart from a few like Blockbuster, most of them have not materialized as predicted.
Despite their technical leanings, my experience is that digital natives and millennials have a good understanding of technology as just a tool, not a magic solution that can turn any company that comes into contact with it into a goldmine. Millennials saw the implosion of the dot-com bubble as children and witnessed the rise and fall of many a tech startup in the mid-2010s and early 2010s. Technology has the power to make things faster, easier and more convenient, but it still needs to be built on a solid business model to succeed.
3. They take a data-driven approach.
Growing up in an era of constant access to almost unlimited data, Millennials believe that if you can find the right information, you can find the answer to almost any question. And they’ve also developed the skills to find it. It may sound odd, but years of scrolling through search results, comparing websites, and digging through links to find original sources to win an argument with a stranger show strange parallels to data analytics. So it should come as no surprise that millennials were at home with business data. In my experience, if you can collect and measure something, you can use it to answer questions.
4. They see technology as constantly evolving.
The short lifespan of modern technology is relatively new and goes directly against the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality of non-digital generations. This has led many companies to use computer systems well past the last supported update, known as “legacy technology.”
However, as a digital generation, millennials come from the realm of frequent updates and upgrades. To them, these are signs of continued progress and the promise of something better. That’s why I believe millennial leadership will see the tech stack shift from a set of stagnant solutions to a set of tools that is constantly evolving.
To remain successful, companies need leaders who understand their consumers’ perspectives; and in today’s world, those consumers are becoming increasingly digital. Although the population has not yet become fully digital native, we are rapidly approaching that curve. Businesses will need to move quickly to adapt to changing preferences and meet new expectations, and that includes tapping into the skills and perspectives of millennials and other digital natives in the workforce.