Are Businesses Getting Ready for the Centennials?

As it appeared in the Daily Nation on August 13th 2019
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu

For the last two decades, businesses have been mulling over millennials both as employees and as customers. Today, these conversations have an additional generation to consider, the generation Z or the centennials. This demographic group is right after the millennials, it includes those born from the mid 1990’s to date. This age group accounts for a large percentage of the population especially in Africa. As employees, the centennials are currently entering the job market. As consumers, they are making their own purchase decisions and influencing those of their parents and grandparents. Are businesses ready for the centennials both as employees and as customers?

Getting ready for the centennials means understanding them more. This generation has never known a world without the internet and without online social networks. They have grown in an interconnected world where information flow is easy and instant. There is certainly a considerable difference between how centennials communicate and how other generations communicate. Every time I study my nieces’ communication, what stands out is length of messages and use of emojis. They like short messages and freely express their emotions in writing. They would rather text than call. This means that businesses need to rethink how they communicate with centennials; they cannot be reached through the traditional ways of communication.

As consumers, centennials trust the internet more than they trust their parents. When making purchases for themselves or others, they spend time reading online reviews. They also compare prices online before making a purchase decision. To them this is more efficient than moving from store to store. They certainly make purchase decisions that are more informed. In addition, this generation speaks out their mind and they do so in very unconventional ways; they often use social networks. How is your businesses connecting with centennials online? Smart businesses are listening more to online conversations!

At the workplace, there are many dilemmas facing those that lead the centennials. For example, should employees be allowed to use their personal smart phones at work all day? Should we be worried when an employee pulls out his or her phone during a meeting or a training? Could it be that the employee is genuinely taking notes on their phone? Or could it be that they are not attentive? I believe that the best way to deal with these dilemmas is to tighten how productivity and performance at the workplace are measured. Maybe into the future, smart phones will contribute more positively to productivity than harm it. How many have phone apps that communicates productivity or a dashboard that shows real-time business performance via employees’ smart-phones?

As we move from one generation to another, we witness a remarkable change in consumer and employee behaviour. Businesses that plan to survive from one generation to another need to agile. They need to respond to the needs of each generation. Today, businesses need to listen more to the centennials to win them over as employees and as customers. Further, businesses need appreciate the high expectations of this generation and involve them more in decision-making. By 2030, this age group will account for the world largest demographic. Is your business ready for the centennials?

Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy

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