What Millennials and Gen Z Actually Want

Your organization is acquiring more Millennials and Gen Z employees every day. In fact, according to a study by EY, by 2025, Millennials will comprise three-quarters of the global workforce. Today, people between the ages of 15 to 24 make up nearly 20% of the world’s population. And Nielsen’s Total Audience Report shows that Millennials and Gen Z now comprise 48% of the total media audience. If you seek to build and develop a digital workspace for the future, you’re making it for these generations. We’re different than the generations before us—we work differently, we communicate differently, we have different expectations, and quite frankly we scare you. We all fear what we don’t understand, so let’s start there. Who the heck are we?   

Millennial—a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000

We spent most of our childhoods without mobile devices, I can vividly replay the crashing sounds of dial-up, and I registered for the student-only version of Facebook in my dorm room.   

Gen Z— a person born in 1995 or later

They don’t know a world without mobile devices. They have grown up with a computer in their pocket, and this generation has watched us millennials’ public online failures and they’re learning from them.  
For the sake of getting my point across, I am going to talk about Millennials and Gen Z as a collective. However, I acknowledge the absurd hypocrisy of looking at these two very different groups as one. What I want to focus on here is what both groups collectively seek from the digital workspace. For a primer on the differences between Millennials and Gen Z check these two articles, Gen Z’s Habits Different From Millenials and Eight Key Differences Between Gen Z and Millennials. The biggest takeaway from our differences—and what we should all be thinking about—is how Gen Z has already learned from Millennials paving the way through the uncharted waters of social media. Bottom-line, if Millennials are already sick of a social media platform, you know Gen Z is already miles further removed.   

What Millennials and Gen Z Want 

We want clean UI, modern design, and ease of use anywhere, on any device, not regurgitated social media platforms that we’re already so sick of we are defecting faster than you can say Snapchat. Now, I’ll be the first to admit I was an early adopter and still use social media quite a bit today to stay in touch with family and friends and I also use it to promote my passion as a musical theatre performer. There is undeniable power in social media; it can connect us and bring about significant social change (in a recent study 66% say social media makes it easier to connect with people), but it also has proven to have the opposite effect (in that same study, 68% say social media sometimes or often makes them feel sad, anxious, or depressed). The key here is moderation. Just like anything truly significant in life, it’s all about finding balance. Working out is great; it’s crucial to our overall health. But we can’t do it all day, or our bodies would shut down on us. Why should social media be any different? This ‘always on’ mentality is breaking us, and as we all struggle to build and protect a work/life balance, we should also be protecting our virtual/IRL (In Real Life) balance as well.  

We all need to put our phones down and experience the world around us. I was at a Hall & Oats concert recently, and at one point I looked around the stadium and realized that more than 75% of the audience (most of which were NOT Millennials or Gen Z) was viewing the concert through a little phone screen raised above their head. We’re missing out on amazing, once-in-a-lifetime moments because we’re so focused on capturing everything to share with the rest of the world.  
What do we do about this? Well, perhaps we can all take a lesson from Gen Z who is clearly learning from our mistakes. The Hill Holliday research shows that 58% of Gen Z is seeking relief from social media. They found that more than half of Gen Z is seeking relief from social media temporarily while over a third (34%) have left or deleted an account for good. 

Why are they running for the hills? And why are you looking to model your digital workspace platform after ones that we are already removing from our personal lives?  
As we look to bring aspects of social media to the workspace, we should be thinking about what elements bring efficiency and connectivity, and what factors bring negative implications. In the Holliday study, 72% said people their peers are too distracted by social media.  

Lesson 1, cut the noise and build a solution that pulls in the best components of social media and takes away the frustrations. It all comes down to uncovering your team’s needs and solving for them. The real goal is to build a beautiful, easy-to-navigate solution that helps them do their job better. It really is that simple.   

Let’s look at the evolution of social media platforms for further proof that less is more. With each new social media landscape, things start simple and attract users because of it. Then they begin to add in additional features that find success on other platforms and soon there are too many options, too much noise, and not enough useful content that we move onto the next platform. One that promises some simplicity, positivity, and in many cases privacy. 

Take the Facebook to Instagram conversion. Many abandoned or at least cheated on Facebook for Instagram’s simplicity. In fact, the Instagram motto as coined by co-founder Kevin Systrom is, “do one thing and do it well.” As they continued to add features from other successful platforms like Facebook and Snapchat, it muddied the motto quite a bit. Despite the loud complaints, Instagram’s additions have encouraged greater engagement. Sure, people complained, but they are using it. Why? While they have continued to add new features, they enlisted some of the most celebrated UX designers and researchers who not only build and design based on quantitative and qualitative research, but are continually monitoring users’ behavior, identifying issues, and solving them.   

What can we learn from this? People hate change. 

They’re going to complain no matter what change you make. So, only make an educated change, and inform your users not just that it’s coming, but why. Show your users how a new feature or design will help them get their job done. If research informs the UI/UX, user adoption and engagement will follow. 
This lesson leads to my biggest gripe about social media today—etiquette or lack thereof. 
Growing up we are taught rules of etiquette in how we talk to our teacher, answer the phone, or write a letter, and yet today we are given free rein to a VERY public platform at the age of 14. We hide behind a screen of faux anonymity, and suddenly all sense of decency and etiquette fly out the window. As the line between IRL and the digital continues to blur, it’s time for us to realize the lasting effects that social media will play in our lives and follow some unwritten rules. Check that, please write them down.  

  • Be respectful.  
  • Don’t engage with trolls.  
  • If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it online.  
  • If you don’t want your grandma or your boss to see it, don’t post it.  
  • If you haven’t even attempted to fact-check it, don’t share it.   

Why am I rambling on about social media etiquette? Well, because when social media rolled out, it didn’t come with an instruction manual or training session. We weren’t given any guidelines or rules to follow; we’re all still learning together, and in many cases, failing together. 
What can we take away from this? If we’re going to offer new digital tools to our team, we need to set expectations, guidelines, and rules so we can collaborate and communicate effectively. This is where governance and training come in. 

You can build a beautiful solution, but if you don’t make it clear how you expect your team to use it and enforce those expectations, your team will create their own rules that could diminish the effectiveness of your solution.   

Let’s look at what elements of social media attract and engage users for some takeaways:   

  • Its clean, modern design focuses on engaging the user to take action. 
  • Its filtered feed ensures the information is relevant to the user.  
  • It allows us to stay connected to a large group of people despite location barriers. 
  • It’s personal—social media encourages us to share our unique stories, humanizing the digital.  
  • It’s almost always image-focused, and when it’s not, it encourages concise messaging.  
  • Responsive design—you can take it anywhere with you.  
  • DM/Public options — Users control permissions of the content and can take conversations “offline” if necessary through a direct message. This will become increasingly more important as privacy is extremely important to Gen Z. 

What harmful elements of social media do we want to avoid?  

  • Information overload  
  • Poor filtering of relevant information  
  • Unclear navigation or path to action  
  • Change without explanation or notice  

What don’t Millennials and Gen Z want?

To be frank, Facebook for work. You don’t need to bring social media to the workspace just because you think we’re using it. Understand WHY we are using it and more importantly why so many of us are NOT using it.   

What do Millennials and Gen Z want?

We want you to listen to us. Ask us what we need, don’t just assume you know. We want a modern design that focuses on getting the right information in front of us whenever and wherever we need it. We want clear rules and etiquette, so we know what is expected of us and what isn’t. We need your help to unburden the always-on mentality and bring back balance to both work/life and digital/IRL. 
A thoughtfully designed digital workspace can make your employee’s job easier, and it’s your job as an employer to ensure that as the digital workspace allows for more flexibility, it doesn’t encroach on your employees’ lives outside of work. Set expectations and enforce them. Don’t just set expectations of what we SHOULD do, but also, what we should NOT do.   
PixelMill is devoted to building digital workspace solutions with the end-user in mind. Our goal with any project is to uncover your user’s needs and design and deliver a platform that meets those needs. By building for the user, we create custom communication and collaboration solutions that your team will use and love. We believe that empowering employees with the tools they need to collaborate and communicate effectively extends your culture digitally and fosters trust throughout the organization. Just like any successful brick-and-mortar business, a company’s digital workspace must attract users, make them feel at home, and encourage them to stick around. These are the same goals of any social media platform. Our goals are similar, because, at the root of it all, we’re all trying to carve out a virtual space that humans want to be part of—it’s all about fostering a sense of community. How can PixelMill do this for your team? 

We listen to your users.

“Build it and they will come” simply doesn’t apply in the digital world. We must build a solution that addresses your users’ needs. Empathy in analysis and design is crucial to creating a digital workspace that your team loves to use. This leads to greater user adoption, higher efficiency, and a better ROI for your bottom line.   

We ask the hard questions.

We’re not interested in building you what you think you want; we build you what you need. This often means asking questions and proposing options you may not have considered. Once we’ve uncovered your user’s needs, we design and build a solution that meets those needs.   
We’re the bridge between art and code.   
Your company culture and brand are unique, and so should your portal. Our UI/UX designers are artists and Office 365 experts. This means you get a beautiful solution that plays nicely with the platform.   

We build for the future.

There’s no such thing as future proof, but we get darn close. Our President is a dual Microsoft MVP and Microsoft Regional Director, which gives him access to insider information coming from Microsoft, who is always thinking about the next generation. He may not be able to share it all (some info can be hush-hush), but he ensures our team is always planning, designing, and developing with the future in mind. This means you get a solution that is ready for what’s ahead.  

Ready to transform your digital workspace and prepare for the future? We’re here to help! Contact PixelMill today.

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