Dissecting the “Upgrade Cycle” Generation of Millennials - dummies

Dissecting the “Upgrade Cycle” Generation of Millennials

By Hannah L. Ubl, Lisa X. Walden, Debra Arbit

As Millennials were growing up, one of the constants in an ever-changing world was the rate of change itself. While previous generations have experienced impressive technological innovations (for example, radio and television), Millennials were teens during some of the fastest evolutions in technology the world has seen to date.

This phenomenon of the increasing rate of change can be known as the “upgrade cycle,” and it applies to everything from the phones in Millennials’ pockets to how quickly they can access the Internet, to how quickly they want to move up in organizations, and even to the advancement of human rights.

Here is a snapshot of the key influencers of the upgrade cycle during the formative years (1993 to 2014):

  • Cellphones:
    • At the outset (1993): Unsightly candy-bar cellphones (size and shape of a candy bar)
    • By the end (2014): Slim and sleek iPhone 6 Plus
  • Home movies:
    • At the outset (1993): VCRs (“Be Kind, Please Rewind”)
    • By the end (2014): Streaming Netflix on mobile devices
  • Internet access:
    • At the outset (1993): Toasting a Pop-Tart at home while waiting to connect to less-than-reliable dial-up
    • By the end (2014): Ubiquitous WiFi — coffee shop, airport, even on the bus
  • Music:
    • At the outset (1993): Sitting by the radio to record your favorite song on a mixtape
    • By the end (2014): Paying a monthly subscription to stream music at any time, from any device, wherever you are
  • Video games:
    • At the outset (1993): Taking turns playing Super Mario AllStars on your dope Super Nintendo Entertainment System
    • By the end (2014): Watching others play Halo on Twitch

Understanding the rate of change itself

Have you heard the term planned obsolescence? It’s something that’s become part of the Millennial expectation. When this generation gets a new phone, they know it’s not a forever phone, because there’s always going to be a new have-to-have innovation on the horizon.

The rate of change has sped up so quickly that it’s actually created segmentations within the Millennial generation itself — the early Millennials may have used a Nokia phone in high school and upgraded to a smartphone later on. Later Millennials used a smartphone in high school, and an upgraded version of that same touchscreen smart technology in college. This seemingly minor difference in experience shifts educational style preferences, communication amongst friends, and awareness of what’s happening in the world.

The cellphones in their pockets weren’t the only things subject to the upgrade cycle. Internet access has become better and better. Video games have improved to the point of virtual reality gaming. Even social media networks have upgraded and evolved, offering changing functionalities and uses. Is it any surprise that when Millennials enter the workforce, they may be looking to upgrade their jobs? It’s built in as a part of their understanding of the world around them and their place within it.

One of the most pervasive complaints about the Millennial generation is that they’re entitled. Employers complain that new hires enter organizations and expect to be promoted within a year or two, even if they’ve never had experience in that particular industry. The root of this expectation is likely quite obvious to you now: The upgrade cycle shifted not just Millennial expectations about technology, but their expectations about the work world as well.

In addition to that, their parents raised them with the message, “You can be anything you want to be,” so that desire to move quickly through the ranks makes sense. If they’re not reaching their goals within your company, or they feel stagnant after five years, their eyes will wander. It’s only natural, because for Millennials, the status quo was always evolving, changing, and being disrupted.

Millennials connecting on speed

In the beginning, there was dial-up. Older Millennials can remember the slow, tedious process of waiting for the all-too-familiar dial-up jingle to go through its ditty, with no guarantee of any connection at the end of its tune.

If you did manage to connect, there followed the long periods of waiting for pictures to load, programs to download, basically anything at all to happen. Oh, and if your mom or dad needed to make a call, forget it. Time to switch over to TV for a bit, because the line had to be freed for the phone to work.

Fast forward to now, and it’s a completely different ballgame. Access to the Internet isn’t constrained to one location. Smartphones in your pocket guarantee that the amazing Internet is almost always accessible.

Whether it’s through WiFi hotspots or 4G, access to all information, resources, and tools is always at your fingertips, quite literally. It has changed the speed at which humans can get things done, and it’s broken down physical barriers — work can now be accomplished anywhere, not just at your desktop that’s tethered to the Interweb via Ethernet cables.

The following formula has cemented itself in people’s minds, and sadly has become inextricably associated with Millennials:

Instant access = instant gratification = spoiled + entitled humans

If any generation had grown up with instant access to all things like Millennials did, they’d probably have developed similar perceptions of the world around them. So before you (or someone you know) gets frustrated and/or annoyed by Millennials, remember that instantaneous access hasn’t created an entitled generation, but it has resulted in a desire for the following:

  • A flattening of power structures
  • Access to people in positions of power
  • Cutting-edge (or at least modern) tech in the workplace
  • Fast, efficient working style with efficient tools available to speed up the process