MTV Studies Millennials In The Workplace: Uses It To Transform Its Own, Maybe Even Yours

Nick-Shore

When it launched to a generation of baby boomers in the early 1980s, the “M” in MTV stood for “music” -- but based on some new research, the letter now stands more for “Millennials,” the generation that is reshaping today’s consumer and media markets, and even MTV itself. While it’s no surprise that the Viacom network has been refocusing on the current youth market, it’s also allowing today’s youth to refocus MTV, both from the outside in, and the inside out.

On the outside, MTV has just completed one of the most in-depth studies of the work habits of Millennials, the findings of which may surprise some. On the inside, it is using that research -- and some seemingly counterintuitive organizational strategies -- to transform its own workplace, in an effort to remain relevant with a generation MTV believes will reshape everything about, well, everything.

“These are the people who are going to be the new idea generators,” says Nick Shore, senior vice president-strategic insights and research at MTV, in a briefing with MediaDailyNews.

Shore, who oversaw the research (highlighted below and in an op-ed commentary in today’s edition), says many organizations, particularly marketers, think of Millennials as the same kind of slackers that the Generation Xers that preceded them were perceived as being, but the truth is that they have a strong worth ethic, and in some ways, integrate their work lives with their personal lives in an even bigger way than Boomers have.

“They’re really different in the workplace,” he explains, noting: “If there are distinctions between things -- if you put things into boxes of black and white -- Millennials are really good at melting those boundaries, at creating a smoothification of things.”

Shore believes this is among the key differences that set Millennials apart from preceding generations, and that companies that understand that will be able to tap their innovation, and create new products, services -- and yes, even work cultures -- for the future.

He says MTV believes that so much that the first product it is using the research to transform is its own work culture. In an array of initiatives spawned by President of MTV Stephen Friedman, top MTV executives are now being told what to do by the youngest members of their teams. Friedman coins the concept “reverse mentoring,” and the idea was that the only way MTV’s largely GenX management team would be able to get inside the mindsets of Millennials would be to put them more in charge.

Shore says it starts at the top, and that Friedman’s Millennial mentor has already has a profound influence on MTV and even its product: Friedman’s mentor came up with a new category in MTV’s vaunted Video Music Awards recognizing the “best video with a message.”

Shore says his own Millennial mentor “is not shy,” and recently asked him “why we don’t get to review you.”

In fact, he says an important distinction about Millennials in the workplace is that they actually want a “perpetual feedback loop.” Whereas Xers may have eschewed any feedback -- even an annual review -- Shore says, “Millennials are like, ‘Can you give me daily reviews?’ Their drive to self-improve is extremely high, and it reflects the world they grew up in, because they’re in a constant feedback loop.”

Shore says that begins with their parents, the super-achieving Boomer generation that some criticize for over-parenting their kids -- a term Shore calls “peerenting” -- but also the media they grew up with, especially social media.

Shore says MTV is in the process of “socializing” the research findings with some of MTV’s biggest clients, but the biggest impact of the new research so far is internal, both in terms of the way MTV is organized and in terms of its product. Because Shore also advises MTV’s programming team, some of the Millennials’ workplace perspectives have begun to infuse MTV’s new programming, especially new Millennial workplace series “Underemployed,” as well as some other series in development.

Millennials In The Workplace Research Highlights

  • 93% of Millennials want a job that works with their lifestyle
  • 93% of Millennials want a job where they can be themselves
  • 88% of Millennials (and 95% of Hispanic Millennials) want their coworkers to be their friends
  • 89% of Millennials want their workplace to be social and fun (compared to only 60% of Boomers)
  • 79% of Millennials think they should be allowed to wear jeans to work at least sometimes (compared to only 60% of Boomers)
  • 79% of Millennials (and 95% of Hispanic Millennials) think it is okay to ¨friend¨ their co-workers
  • 70% of Millennial guys think they should be allowed to date co-workers (compared to only 51% of Millennial gals)
  • 63% of Millennial guys think it´s okay for their boss to ¨friend¨ them (compared to only 40% of Millennial gals)
  • 89% of Millennials want to be able to decide how to do a project at work (no difference from GenX and Boomers)
  • 81% of Millennials think they should be allowed to make their own hours at work (compared to only 69% of Boomers)
  • Three-fourths of Millennials want to work for themselves one day
  • Three-fourths of Millennials (and 82% of Hispanic Millennials) would like to have a mentor
  • 89% of Millennials want to be able to decide how to do a project at work (no difference from GenX and Boomers)
  • 81% of Millennials think they should be allowed to make their own hours at work (compared to only 69% of Boomers)
  • Three-fourths of Millennials want to work for themselves one day
  • Three-fourths of Millennials (and 82% of Hispanic Millennials) would like to have a mentor
  • 61% of Millennials say they need specific directions from their boss to do their best work -- a level twice as high as observed among Boomers
  • 61% of Millennials say they need specific directions from their boss to do their best work -- a level twice as high as observed among Boomers
  • 63% of Millennial guys think it´s okay to ¨friend¨ their boss (compared to only 42% of Millennial gals)
  • 92% of Millennials think their company is lucky to have them as an employee
  • 85% of Millennials think their mastery of technology makes them faster than their older coworkers
  • 76% of Millennials think their boss could learn a lot from them (compared to only 50% of Boomers)
  • Two-thirds of Millennials think they should be mentoring older co-workers on technology
  • 8 out of 10 Millennials want regular feedback from their boss
  • 8 out of 10 Millennials think they deserve to be recognized more for their work
  • Over half of Millennials want feedback at least once a week or more. 
  • Only 6% of Millennials prefer annual reviews from their bosses.
  • 89% of Millennials think it is important to be constantly learning at their job
  • 90% of Millennials think they deserve their dream job
  • Nearly 6 in 10 Millennials feel that they will switch jobs in less than 5 years
  • Half of Millennials would rather have no job than have a job they hate
  • Nearly 60% of Millennials think the perfect job might exist
  • In the workplace ¨game,¨ more than three-fourths of Millennials think they are smarter players than most
  • Three-fourths of Millennials think that if the workplace were like a game, they'd know how to "level up" faster than others
  • Three-fourths of Millennials think they will find a way to advance in their corporation faster than others, compared to only half of Boomers
  • Having a good balance between work/personal life and good benefits are more important to Female Millennials than to Male Millennials
  • Among Millennials, the three most critical aspects of their work are work/life balance, loving what they do, and having good benefits.  Having a good salary and vacation time are important, but not their key drivers.
  • A higher salary is the preferred reward among two-thirds of Millennials, but a full one-third prefer recognition from their boss or coworkers or a promotion over higher pay
  • Only one quarter of Millennials say they are completely satisfied in their current job -- half the level for Boomers.
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1 comment about "MTV Studies Millennials In The Workplace: Uses It To Transform Its Own, Maybe Even Yours".
  1. Steven Ustaris from OwnerIQ, Inc. , March 15, 2012 at 2:04 p.m.
    Ironically, couldn't one make the argument that MTV's programming is one of the biggest contributors to Millennials' over inflated sense of self? i.e. - getting recognition for minimal talent and effort?