January 1, 2012
This age group currently dominates the service industry. They are the most sought after demographic that businesses try to reach today. They currently bring in $214 billion dollars in revenue to businesses, and by 2017 they will outspend the next largest group, Baby Boomers. They are the largest generation to enter adulthood since the Boomers, consisting of approximately 79.8 million people in the U.S. alone.
They are Gen Y — your potential customers and for many of you, your newest employees.
Jason Ryan Dorsey, Gen Y speaker, consultant, and author, has done extensive research on generations and is a bestselling author on the subject. He has identified the distinguishing characteristics of Gen Y.
"Based on my extensive research, I define Gen Y as those born from 1977 to 1995,” said Dorsey. “I reached this conclusion after studying the factors that shape a generation and put those in the context of sequential generational defining moments. However, this range of birth years is widely disputed and there is likely no perfect answer. This is particularly true considering a person can be born five years before or after the stated beginning or ending of a generation and exhibit all or most of the characteristics of the generation before or after their actual birth.
Here are a few areas where Gen Y contrasts with other generations in the workplace and society:
• Gen Y often has a feeling of entitlement (or at least a belief they shouldn’t have to pay all their dues to get where they want to go). However, keep in mind that while this is a prevalent Gen Y mindset it is not true for everyone in this generation.
• Gen Y loves instant gratification. Gen Y is notorious for not being able to wait in line — especially when getting coffee!
• Gen Y is known for having big expectations. “What do you mean I can’t start as a manager? I was told if I went to college …”
• Gen Y is tech-dependent. If you don’t believe me, watch what happens when they lose their cell phone.
The extensive research that Dorsey has conducted backs up findings reported in the first installment of marketing to the generations seen in the last issue of Automotive Recycling. He agrees that the automotive recycling industry has many elements that Gen Y are looking for, it’s just a matter of marketing them correctly.
“I would argue that Gen Y has the biggest potential of any age group for the auto recycling industry — as long as you hit their marketing buttons,” said Dorsey. “The elements of the industry that you really want to play up include the environmental, technical, entrepreneurial, and family-owned business.”
Y Pay Attention
Dorsey says that Gen Y is attracted to local products and the idea of family-owned businesses vs. huge corporations. They want to feel connected. They like the personal, individualized approach. They distrust the corporate image and tend to not trust anything that is “too polished.”
According to Dorsey they are a generation who are interested in how things are made, perhaps speaking to their dependence on technology. He suggests to attract their attention, include videos, or the very least photos, of your technical salvage processes (like dismantling, draining fluids in an environmentally-friendly way, etc.) on your Web site.
As you may already be aware, ARA has really started a push to educate the public and change the image of auto recycling. The goal is to reshape perceptions of the auto salvage industry from that of a bunch of junkyards into one that really understands the incredible impact the industry has on the economy and the environment.
Dorsey agrees that this should be a major focal point when marketing to the Gen Y crowd and beyond.
“The auto recycling industry really needs to push more to bring up the mission of auto recycling and make it come to life to attract Gen Y,” said Dorsey. “We call it employment branding and the auto recycling industry needs to let them know ‘it’s not your Dad’s junkyard.’ Gen Y loves to see things connected to some kind of social cause so if you can show that auto recycling turns something into something good — like recycled tires being used to make flip-flops for people in Africa, then you’ve got their attention.”
Here are some of Dorsey’s suggestions for marketing your brand to the Gen Y audience:
• Social media — you don’ t have to be on all sites but pick one or two and create a Fan page. If you only want to go with one, choose Facebook. It’s the best bet with 750 million users and it provides Gen Y with the most efficient way to communicate with family and friends. Twitter would be another good choice.
However, be aware of push marketing on these sites. That completely turns this generation off. What they want from you is interaction. They want to feel like you were sitting down having coffee with them. What kind of comments and questions would you ask if you were face to face with someone? For example, to get a dialogue going, Dorsey commented on his Facebook page about his 6-month-old daughter opening her birthday presents, “when was the last time you enjoyed the wrapping more than the present?”
• Utilize YouTube! This generation loves to see things on YouTube. In fact, according to Dorsey they trust this site more than any other and it’s where they go when they need to learn something new.
Consider filming your processes and other elements of your business that would attract Gen Y. For example, any technical process or anything that would show them how environmentally-friendly you are. The good news about this is that it can be done without lots of cash. Simply use an iPhone or digital video camera to shoot homemade footage. Oh, and Dorsey says you definitely want someone who is actually a member of Gen Y to be on camera. What appeals to them is authentic content and homemade videos. They trust those more than smooth polished-looking ones.
Examples of how to utilize YouTube include:
• Interview a third generation (Gen Y) auto recycler to explain why salvaging cars is so important to the environment. They could possibly give a video tour of your facility as they do.
• Have a Gen Y recycler discuss the craziest thing that has ever happened at the yard or myths and facts about auto recycling. Gen Y enjoys anything that can be presented with witty humor or that might be unusual.
• Hold contests – Gen Y loves games and contests. For example, how about a “Crush Your Car” contest based on a video of cars being crushed. Then, the viewer has to guess how many are done in a day. Anything that might have some interesting facts or results qualifies for a contest. In other words, present things with an element of fun in them. They love fun.
• Educate them on the modern auto recycling facility and the great job opportunities that might go with it. Involve your team and make it lively.
• Use the Green Parts Marketing information to explain, in your own way, how your facility is not a “junk yard,” a term carried over from older generations. Explain auto recycling processes and why it matters to the earth and people.
• Link your business to a social cause, such as donating a dollar for every recycled sold towards feeding the homeless or building homes for the needy.
• Advertise a collection event at your location with YouTube, such as collecting coats for the homeless or food for the local food pantry. Have your social media-savvy Gen Y staff invite their friends to participate.
• Whatever you do, be sure to play up the technical side of the industry, the environmental benefits, the fact that you are local and family-owned, and the entrepreneurialism behind the industry.
When it comes to attracting Gen Y as potential future employees, Dorsey says they need to feel that it’s a professional industry. But, it doesn’t have to be portrayed as a “career,” frankly because that might be a bit of a stretch for this free-spirited generation. Dorsey says that most people are shocked to learn that Gen Y is the only generation in the current workforce that has never expected to work for one company their entire life.
For Gen Y, it is the little things that matter. To get a business card with their name on it the first day of work is huge to them. “Employers need to show that they are there for a Gen Y employee and that they will develop them,” said Dorsey. “This is a significant differentiator between a corporation where they would be one of many, and a more personalized smaller family-owned business. They are looking to be engaged and for individual connection.
“Despite this fact, and some of the quirky characteristics that Gen Y possess, they should be considered for future employment because they can become loyal, hard working, and reliable employees,” said Dorsey. “Where companies and organizations struggle in managing Gen Y is when they rely solely on employment strategies that worked well in the past but are not a fit for this generation.
“I do not advocate catering to Gen Y. Some other experts use this approach, but to me it only reinforces negative stereotypes and can actually increase the gap between generations. The bottom line is that every new generation that enters the workforce frustrates the ones already there and each generation assumes the one after them has it easier than they did. My approach is to find the common ground between the generations so Gen Y and their three generations of co-workers perform at their highest level.”
In a few years the next generation will rise to the occasion. Dorsey calls them the “I” generation, representing those born after 1995. Here is how they differ from Gen Y:
• I Gen parents are Gen X so they are brought up with more consequences and skepticism.
• They are tech savvy whereas Gen Y is tech dependent. I Gen has always had instant access to information, they don’t know what it is like to have to wait for information.
• They are used to globalization.
• They will strive even more for efficiency than the Gen Y does.
• They are self-organized – they can go on a social media and create a community around themselves.
• I Gen is more focused on environmental issues simply because it’s discussed more now than previously.
• They are more likely to perceive the world as a level playing field than previous generations that knew world powers in military and economic strength.
To make the most of Gen Y as customers and employees, Dorsey’s book – Y-Size Your Business: How Gen Y Employees Can Save You Money and Grow Your Business – can help. It features more than 50 ready-to-use ideas. You can also watch his funny presentation on the differences between Gen Y and Boomers at www.JasonDorsey.com.
Michelle Keadle-Taylor is a freelance writer based in Northern Virginia