A series of technological and cultural shifts is combining to transform employees into brands’ principle advocates — or detractors
Millennials’ attention (or lack of) span is notorious; particularly when it comes to reading information. Comscore suggests that millennial attention spans have fallen to just 5 to 6 seconds in length; a factor which renders the traditional 30sec TV advert pretty moot. If they were actually watching TV, according to the same report, this generation would be spending 61% of their online time in smartphone apps, 8% on the mobile Web, 25% on the desktop, and 5% on tablets. Nearly half never watch TV at all.
For the generation proceeding them – Generation Z – Snapchat is their medium of choice; in short, 10 second disposable videos. The UK literary magazine, The Bookseller, describes them as the “Blink, Share, Laugh, Forget” generation.
I’m not convinced that young people are simply more ‘dilettante’ than their predecessors; although that’s precisely how every generation describes the one before. They can absorb vast quantities of information, often in great detail – look at the speed with which this generation compares price, product features and user reviews before purchasing; often while queuing up for a coffee at the same time! But their preferred channels of communication have evolved.
Millennials and Gen Z prefer content ‘on demand’ when they want and on the device of their choosing; they also favour video, images and graphics – particularly on the small screen. And this isn’t just for entertainment-related content; brands (and employers) who want to reach this generation should take note. Video is proving particularly effective when engaging brands; one study revealed that 75% of executives watch videos on business-related websites at least once a week, while 65% said they visited vendors’ websites after viewing a video. A separate study, from Hubspot, indicates that 55% of users finish watching a video through to the end, compared with only 29% who report reading blog posts in their entirety.
So, technology – particularly, mobile – is a principle driver. But there is a separate, complementary force at play, particularly within the workplace. Millennials like to express themselves; 74% believe they can inspire the purchase decisions of others; seven in 10 believe it to be their responsibility to share feedback with brands when they have a good or bad experience. Such feedback reflects not merely the product or service experience, but their own values; 95% millennials actively seek out brands that display responsible behaviour, and 95% would switch brands to support a cause.
And this ‘commitment’ has now extended to the workplace. Here in India, for instance, according to Deloitte’s annual Generation Y survey, 76% millennials claimed to have chosen employers whose values matched their own.
When we combine these two trends – technological: the ease with which content can be created and deployed, and cultural: the reflex to apply one’s personal values to any engagement whether it be with a supplier or an employer – the issue of, not merely effective employee engagement, but employer behaviour, assumes an entirely new level.
The ease with which corporates can communicate with staff through alternative content such as video and graphics is matched only by the speed with which such content – or any other – can be shared with the outside world. Younger employees expect their employers to match their own values, ethics and behaviour; if those employers fall short, there is now a high chance that the outside world will find out.
Brands are – rightly – adapting their communications styles to cater to Millennial and Gen Z employees, towards participative, on-demand content, which is shareable. The inescapable consequence is that – in the event that an employer’s actions (even on the inside) don’t meet with the younger employees’ approval – such behaviour has never been easier to expose.