Student expectations are changing. That’s in part because students themselves are changing.
Generation Y students, also known as Millennials, are the generation who came of age after the new millennium. Aged between 18 and 32 today, they already represent about 25% of the UK population, but Millennials are different to other generations at the same age. For anyone who works in higher education, you cannot afford to ignore their needs and concerns.
What defines Gen Y most of all is the ease with which they use technology. These are tech natives. Globally, more than three quarters have smartphones and 25% typically have three or more Wi-Fi-enabled devices on them at any time. They also spend on average six hours A DAY online and use the internet as their primary source for everything from news to entertainment.
Many are online longer than they sleep. Indeed, plenty are online when they should be asleep! Research from the Pew Research Center showed 60% of US 18-29 year olds sleep with their phone so they don’t miss an update.
This is also mainly a liberal minded and tolerant group. Most see themselves as less devout than their parents and a significant majority have no issues with proposals like gay marriage. However, unlike baby boomers, this is a generation who’ve largely turned their back on traditional politics. Only 45% agree that it is everyone’s duty to vote and half don’t associate themselves with any political party.
They also have different expectations from the workplace. Although money remains an important consideration, most are willing to make trade-offs if they can work at a company with a good reputation, which provides them with opportunities for the future. Millennials don’t expect to stay in the same job for years, so long-term promises may not count for much with them. Either help them to get on or they will get out.
Finally, millennials are all about the experience. They are driving a renewed popularity of live music and entertainment, and choose holiday locations by what you can do when you get there rather than where you will stay. This is a group willing to compromise massively on certain aspects of their trip if it means they have more to spend on the most fantastic experience.
For organisations that engage with millennials, there are some watch-outs. For one thing, don’t underestimate what their addiction to technology means for you. For Gen Y, Wi-Fi I is no more a luxury than water, food and shelter. And when they say Wi-FI, they don’t mean a pathetic connection that runs at a snail’s pace and costs the earth. Fail in this fundamental area and you will lose them.
Actually you won’t just lose them: they will also tweet how rubbish you are. Millennials are complainers. A quarter of US millennials posted a negative review online in the last year, much higher than for older audiences. Customer service is no longer a quiet phone call or sincere letter of apology. Their criticisms and your responses are all played out in public.
Finally, despite growing debt, a shortage of jobs and many millennials now living back at home, this group is typically optimistic about their life. In 27 markets surveyed for Telefonica, an average of 83% agreed they were optimistic about their future, and a full 75% said they knew exactly where they want to be in 10 years’ time.
Millennials have high expectations about what life will offer them and they aren’t easy to please, as students, employees or customers. But win them and you gain a vocal, committed and connected crowd.
And you could try by starting with the Wi-Fi!
Dr Matt Carter is founder of Message House, a campaigns and research company that helps organisations to get their message right. He regularly speaks and writes about millennials. To contact Matt tweet to @MattCarterUK or email firstname.lastname@example.org