Sourcing the right candidate for the role is probably one of the most difficult things to do, particularly now as a third of the global workforce are millennials – a generation that receives a lot of negative press and by all accounts is not a group of employees you would want in the workplace.
Words that are synonymous with the group are entitled, unfocused, narcissistic, lazy, selfish – among a whole host of other words with negative connotations.
But what has cultivated such an entitled (enter other negative words here) generation? Or what has caused such a backlash against them?
In a popular viral video, motivational speaker and marketing consultant Simon Sinek gives four reasons as to why this has happened and ties it in to why it is now causing problems in the workplace. He attributes it to PARENTING.
Sinek claims that millennials have been subject to failed parenting strategies, derived from being mollycoddled in such scenarios where children have received participation medals when they've placed last, or received top grades in school for work because of the persistence of a parent. This then causes a problem in the workplace as parents are not there to secure a promotion for their child.
Technology is a problem for millennials according to Sinek because of engagement in social media. He states that millennials are constantly engaged with social media because it is an addiction – when a person receives a ‘like' for a status, picture etc., or receives a message, dopamine is released from the hypothalamus in the brain, the same chemical that is released when someone smokes, drinks, or gambles. Sinek says that technology is being used to deal with stress, much like an alcoholic would depend on alcohol, and has prevented millennials from developing meaningful relationships, as they will turn to technology as opposed to a friend.
Sinek also states that millennials are impatient – this has been caused by instant gratification because of the ability to buy something immediately off websites such as Amazon, or watch a film instantly via channels such as Netflix. Sinek comments that this instant gratification has followed millennials into the workplace, causing them to expect their work to create an immediate impact, leading to an immediate promotion. When this has not happened, the millennial will leave the workplace, which has resulted in a job hopping culture.
Sinek concludes by stating that the problems surrounding parenting, technology and impatience has been sustained as a result of the millennial's environment. The corporate environment has not helped millennials, as there is a larger focus on numbers rather than people; therefore, they have not developed the necessary skills to provide them with fulfilment from working towards something, so Sinek says that the generation needs to be helped in the corporate environment.
But who are the millennial generation behind the accusations? Much confusion has ensued over the defining of this generation, as societal changes and disruptions mean that history cannot be clearly set into neat labels. In fact, the only officially designated generation according to the US Census Bureau are baby boomers, as the start of this generation was a clear event – the aftermath of WWII. It is only recently that Pew Research has ‘defined' millennials as those people born between 1981 and 1996 due to being shaped by events such as 9/11 (although different sources state that millennials can be born as early as 1980 and as late as 2000).
Confusion over the generation also occurs, erroneously so, because people ascribe these generational characteristics to those that are simply young adults but, at the time of writing, the oldest of the generation are 36.
All that being said, there is no doubt that influences such as technology do play a bigger part in a millennials' life than it would a baby boomer and this does, of course, shape a person (just maybe not every single person born between 1st January 1981 and 31st December 1996). Sinek's piece does also have a valid point on technology's usage and how there is less face-to-face communication and how it can lead to impatience.
So does this mean that when employing people millennials need to be avoided, or afforded a special environment as Sinek suggests? Perhaps not, but there are common sense practices that can be put in place, and that are encouraged at Benchmark International, that any employee would appreciate.
BE A LEADER, NOT A MANAGER
This is important from Sinek's perspective, as millennials have become accustomed to constant feedback and want to be coached and trained. On the other hand, millennials are, as the youngest members of the office, the least experienced team members so will need coaching, as any inexperienced member of staff would. Either way, an employee can be empowered with training, leading to them making decisions in the workplace.
UTILISE AN EMPLOYEE'S SKILLSET
As technology plays such a big part in today's world, it does not have to be seen as an issue, but rather a solution. If a millennial (or any employee) is au fait with electronic literacy then this can be utilised, especially in an increasingly globalised world, as it helps employees on a business trip stay connected, or even facilitate communication with international offices.
OFFER CAREER SECURITY
Yes, millennials have been accused of changing jobs too frequently but it turns out that this could just be down to age as the preceding generation, Gen X, were shown to job hop as much at a similar age. Although, this could be prevented if it is demonstrated that staying with a company leads to career progression, in the sense of promotion or building a portfolio of skills and experience, instilling a sense of loyalty in the employee.
People are increasingly looking for a job that is flexible and are perhaps looking outside of the 9-5, Monday to Friday office regime. Utilise advancements in technology to allow for this, enabling employees to work outside of the traditional office setting.
ENCOURAGE IDEAS AND A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
According to Sinek, millennials have the mantra that they can do anything because their parents told them they could. To inspire in the workplace, encourage this mantra as it has potential to lead to the provision of good input and ideas.
To summarise, the stereotype of the millennial generation cannot be followed to the letter, as despite the, albeit loose, boundaries set by Pew Research, the point of such bodies is to see how coming of age during certain historical events and technological changes influence people – not to make sweeping generalisations as Sinek has done, especially as these negative perpetuations of millennials would make for an uncomfortable watch if about culture, race or gender. Nevertheless, the points above regarding practices in the workplace are worth heeding to help promote a happy workplace, millennial or not.