In a blow to the U.S. labor market, Ford is laying off 7,000 corporate workers. It says it is trying to eliminate bureaucracy and cut costs. I wish all these workers the best as they seek their next opportunity.
It's a hard time to sell automobiles, and some have blamed the up-and-coming millennials. But don't believe the spin. Millennials didn't "kill" anything. In many cases, what actually happened was legacy corporations failed to predict the future and offer it before it came, and now they're trying to blame consumers for their lack of acceptable offerings.
Millennials may not want to own a car. Don't blame them for it. Invest in on-demand ride options, transit, and whatever makes economic sense for a population. Twin Cities residents can access Duluth by bus or, soon, the train (if Amtrak makes it happen), because Uber and Lyft, public transit, and free brewery shuttles make getting around here a breeze (a refreshing Lake Superior breeze, that is).
Millennials might not want to eat at a sit-down chain restaurant or drink legacy brands. International beverage behemoth Anheuser-Busch InBev has already bought a raft of smaller breweries to try to stem the bleeding, Goose Island being the most prominent. "Dilly Dilly," in addition to a brilliant ad campaign, is unmistakably a makeshift tourniquet in the wild landscape of changing preferences.
Millennials might not want to buy a home. Can you blame them? They lived through the wonderful experience of a market correction to the housing bubble that unleashed the Great Recession. Many of their parents or friends' parents lost their homes. Find ways to meet their housing needs and talk to them about what's important to them.
Millennials want to understand how what they buy affects the people who make it and sell it, but they might not have the funds for American-made denim on a reclaimed North Carolina loom. So they buy what they can when they can. They scrimp and save and buy a belt that will last a lifetime or find a deal on a locally made handbag.
Millennials also realize what they own could own them, so they invest in experiences. They travel alone or with friends and family. They, as T.S. Eliot put it, know that the "end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." They travel not propelled by wanderlust or discontent as much as appreciation for the places they know already and the ones they have yet to find.
Millennials don't always jump around from job to job. In fact, the changing nature of work, the lack of worker benefits like pensions, and the high cost of student loans have changed much since their parents were starting their careers.
This said, let's not make the aloof caricature of a drifting twentysomething the representative for all millennials. In fact, as an "elder millennial" now in my mid 30s with a family, I'm in the middle of my career, focusing on experienced positions with longevity. (At this point, I can't afford to jump to an entry-level opportunity, and I recognize the huge cost of a lateral move that might not work for me and my family.)
So, I don't blame any age group, old or young. In fact, Generation Z, born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s, now has a lot to say, and they're different from my generation in key ways. So if you haven't been studying them, your obsolescence could be next.
Predict the future. Offer it before it comes. Repeat. That's the game.
Andrew Black of Cloquet is an editor and instructional designer for a digital learning company based in Minneapolis.