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ADWKDC 2015 - Let's Talk About Millennials

advertising research / arlington dc / featured

The other week, I returned to ADWKDC-DC Ad Club's weeklong industry event, culminating with a two-day conference where you learn from the area's best and brightest marketers and communicators. This year was ADWKDC's biggest event yet with three tracks—strategy, media, and creative—and several keynotes sprinkled across the two days. I stuck to the strategy track both days where a major theme across sessions was getting to know your audience to tailoring your messages for them—whether that entails applying concepts of behavioral economics to your communications or understanding how today's plethora of data impacts consumer targeting.

ADWKDC 2015 also marked the first year that Fors Marsh Group spoke at ADWKDC. Our Senior VP of Research, Dr. Brian Griepentrog, joined the panel "What Baby Boomers and Gen Xers Wish Millennials Knew" Thursday morning moderated by Laura Van Eperen of Van Eperen and Company. Below, is a recap of some key points Brian made during the discussion and added context from our youth and young adult research experience.


If you read or hear anything about Millennials, you likely hear a lot of crazy and sometimes conflicting claims. Throw the workplace into the mix and you'd think Millennials were an alien life form sent to destroy offices across America. Fact is, Millennials share a tremendous amount with their predecessors—it is just a commonly made error to conflate differences in life stage with differences in periods. So what should we know about Millennials?

First, we must understand the interaction of life stages and period effects (e.g., social movements, wars, economic downturns, technological breakthroughs, etc.) that occurred since 2000. This unique mix is what drives the tendencies and preferences that employers are seeing as Millennials enter the workplace. For the Millennial generation this includes greater ethnic diversity, holding off on marriage, high value of education and training, clustering in urban centers, high unemployment in their age group, commitment to early-career employers, and increase in values for leisure time, contributing to society and living close to friends and family—all of which and more can be found in the White House's report on Millennials available here.

Second, it is critical to understand the corresponding implications for employers and HR practices. Here are several that we emphasize:


  • Emphasis on career growth and training. This is a generation of young adults that understands the importance of investing in one's own skill development. Higher education rates are at all-time highs despite the cost of post-secondary education also being at all-time highs.
  • Prioritizing work/life balance. Millennials place higher value for leisure time and living closer to their family and friends than previous generations—employers need to recognize this and ensure work/life balance is a priority.
  • Providing outlets for service.. Young adults also place higher value on contributing to society and are participating in community service at record high rates. Provide opportunities for your employees to realize this goal within their company environment.
  • Emphasize Transparency.Although procedural and interactional fairness in management decision making has always been valued, information sharing was not always as ubiquitous. Get ahead of this; be clear and be transparent, because what happens in your company may not stay in your company. Glassdoor, Indeed, Vault, LinkedIn are a small subset of communication for employees to talk about their work experiences.

Understanding Millennials in your workplace is no different than getting to the core of your target audience to tailor your message—just take a deep breath and do your research.

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