I have spent about a quarter of my life working, two quarters studying, and the first one being a kid. This make me a millennial. Born late into the 80’s and grew up with technology. I am now the owner of a company that employs mostly millennials, and this has forced me to spend some time thinking about the behaviour I am constantly confronted with.
Now to start, I have had more than my fair share of ridiculous millennial interactions. One girl resigned, and stated when she left: “I don’t think work is for me.” Another one just didn’t show up to work after being at the company for one day, another guy resigned after two weeks stating that he had not received the necessary training to do a Facebook post and that is why he had not, for two weeks, made one single post. In his application he had examples of pages he had managed.
So from where I sit it is easy to agree that millennials are a jaded and challenge-averse group, and this is easily blamed on them having witnessed concepts like the rainbow nation or the American dream shatter into the dirty, politicised reality that hides behind such social norming propaganda. The kids have grown up and now face the reality that their parent have left them; directionless, over-indebted, over-stimulated, over-inflated and completely over-analysed. This is why we have so many people not choosing a career or settling down and having kids. However, for me, all of this sounds very convenient, for all parties involved.
It should be stated, I have not done a study or read more intensely than the next person on the question of Millennials, but from what I can discern, the truth about the current generation is that we have a strange interplay between fast-paced growth and self-awareness which causes much frustration for many business owners and parents.
In the last two decades the world has become more accessible and understandable, but it has also become a much more complex environment. While I type this, I have a Jordan Peterson YouTube clip in the background (on pause) talking about changing pronouns so they are more inclusive, I have Eminem’s new album (playing) spewing out thoughts at a million-miles -an-hour. My cellphone is uploading the 32 000 (!!) pictures I have taken with my iPhones over the last few years to my Google Photos library. Some of them I will share with my social media friends to add to my curated portrayal of self.
On WhatsApp my clients send me messages, my colleagues respond. Or do not respond. Or respond incorrectly so I need to re-respond. I get phone calls on my cell, office phone or on Skype or Google. An unstoppable stream that chooses when it wants to engage with me, not I with it.
These concepts did not exist thirty years ago. So prevalent is our social consciousness through these digital platforms that the thought of being disconnected is scary. We have in effect created a third person-personal, something other than the self-carried is constantly being addressed and scrutinized.
On top of this we now live in a world where the work we do, or the work that my company does, is very simple and very complex at the same time. My employees need to be able to work on their own, since ‘manager’, a person that checks that you do your work every day is an archaic concept. The people that work for me need to create, manage, strategize, plan, execute and give feedback on work that can be tracked, analyzed and scrutinized. This means they have to work in multiple traditional work-bands, and understand cause and effect much more than the previous generation.
And finally to compound it all, there is a serious self-esteem and communication issue. Most people are insecure to a fault, shy away from taking control and more often than not, will choose to let a small issue become a huge problem rather than speak up and take responsibility. Conversations that could be had on open channels are directed to one-on-one channels, and very seldom does someone choose to initiate ideas or projects without it being requested of them. This means you have a workforce that needs to, more than ever-before, communicate effectively, and be bold enough to make mistakes and own them.
And this is where it becomes interesting.. There are many, many things we can blame for this behaviour. But the reality of it is that this is not new. I have seen people from every generation act in a similar way. Yes, millennials might quit faster or be less inclined to put in the extra hours, but that is a byproduct of youth. I have seen many millennials step up to the plate and exceed my expectations on all fronts, from personal conflict to work based, getting tough work done on time and well. And I have seen many older people not do this.
This leads me to believe that millennials are not any worse than the previous generation. If anything they are in a much better state, intellectually and physically. The biggest issue we face is the challenge of finding good, reliable people to do work that is challenging and mundane at the same time. And to do this while there is a world of possibilities floating before their eyes every day.
So, yes, I have had, and still have, huge frustrations and joys from the people I live and work with, but none of this is ascribed to their generation. It is all about the quality of the person I engage with.
Now, I just need to figure out how to get all the good ones.