4 things you need to know about your future employees

You might as well get used to the idea and prepare yourself for the task. The generation that is currently in the process of passing through the education system and into the companies places great demands on you as a leader. For better or for worse. The Millennials are digitally native, razor-sharp and top-motivated, but they also fight some ghosts that will scare you if you are not prepared. If you are, you can use most of the ghosts constructively.

At least one thing is for sure: they are not like you and me, the generation that is heading out into the companies, and thus becoming your employees and colleagues in the coming many years. The Millennium generation, the digital natives, the pampered generation – it goes by many names. And like any other generation, the terms cover a number of characteristics that you, as a leader, need to know if you want to make sure your new employees thrive, produce, and deliver. When you plunge into describing an entire generation in this way, there are, of course, talk of generalizations. Here too. I paint with the wide brush and I admit it. But I’m not alone. The American author and lecturer, Simon Sinek, has identified four overriding features that The Millennials have in the baggage. You can hear him talk about them in the video here. The video is inspiring and there are many truths in it, but I still think it lacks something. Namely, focus on how you, as a leader, can utilize the properties that Sinek by far way only sees problems in.

Let us take the challenges one by one and look at what risks they contain – and opportunities.

1. They are over protected (wrapped in cotton)

The Millennials have been “cultivated” by their parents. They have all the way through their childhood:

  • been told that they are something special. All the time. 
  • Learned that they can get and achieve anything just because they want it. 
  • Get better grades than they deserve because the parents complained and the teachers didn’t want to argue with them (the parents, that is). 

They even got medals and trophies just to participate – even if they came in last. But the moment they get up from the school bench and march into the business, the real world hits them right in the eye. They discover that:

  • They are nothing special
  • Their mother cannot get them promoted
  • There is no reward for coming last
  • They can’t get anything just because they want to.

When the real world in that way tears off the childhood blanket of the young, there are, of course, some illusions that fail. I am not saying that we should not pull the blanket off them, but perhaps we do not have to throw it out.

Perhaps we can take the learning with us as leaders, that it is motivating and engaging to be met with positivity and a pat on the shoulder. That we in “the real world” praise each other too little and are too bad to celebrate our successes. Something that sportsmen and coaches often emphasize as something business can learn from the elite sport. Namely, evaluating both failures and successes and – not least – using both constructively.


2. They are doped by technology

Another attribute, or perhaps a lack of attribute, of the young people is that they have never learned to deal with stress or build deep and meaningful relationships. Sinek also has a little – admitted – unacceptable bid for that. He explains that interaction via mobile phones and social media triggers the drug Dopamine in the brain. The same thing happens when we smoke, drink and play. The material is the same and the immediate feeling is good. But just like an alcoholic opens the bottle when he or she is stressed or sad, the young people grab their phones. Instead of talking to someone. It is striking, Sinek points out, that we have age limits for when to smoke, drink and play, but not for when we may use social media or get mobile phones. It is like saying to children: If you are sorry, then you know where the bar is, he states. There is no doubt that social media, smartphones and the constant online presence have a downside. But what about the sunny side? How can you, as a leader, utilize the young people’s unmatched digital properties and insight to solve one of your company’s biggest challenges in the coming years: Digitization? I have not got the right answer, but to me it is obvious that the youth will be far better at helping you with the challenge than your peer colleagues and employees.

3. They are impatient because they are accustomed to “instant gratification”

If you want to buy something, order it online and it will be delivered the next day. If you want to watch a movie, press the button. If you want a date, swipe right on your mobile until you find a profile that is appealing. Instant gratification! Patience is – at best – a city in Russia. Sinek uses an example: “I meet many wonderful, idealistic, tenacious and wise young people. They just got their exam and they are in the first job of their career. And I ask them: How are you? They say: I think I’ll quit. I ask: Why? They say: I don’t feel I make a difference. Then I exclaim: You’ve been here for eight months!” It takes patience and hard work to create a career, and it takes even more patience and even more hard work to get there where one can really make a difference. Of course, the young people must understand. On the other hand, we must understand to add fuel to the fire that burns in them. To take advantage of the fact that they are actually ambitious and sincerely want to make a difference. For themselves, in their workplace and in the world. We must give them the possibilities. We must listen to them, learn from them, and let us inspire them. We have to give them space and let them develop. It is my clear opinion that they should probably acknowledge for the confidence by bringing lots of energy into the companies.

4. They enter companies that do not understand them

The young people are focused on purpose. They will make a difference and they will work in companies that will make a difference. Unlike previous generations, The Millennials are not primarily concerned with personal success, high salaries, bonus schemes and free fitness. They are concerned that their work and their workplace have a stated purpose.

Like Velux, who “brings daylight into people’s everyday life” and Novo Nordisk, who “gives sick people a better everyday life”. And like Apple, who “believes that everything we do must challenging status quoit by thinking differently” to name just a few of the more prominent companies who have been working hard to formulate an emotionally appealing purpose.

The young people seek a meaning with life – and with their working life. The companies need to understand how to give it to them. But many of the Millennials enter companies that focus unilaterally on the bottom line and not on the difference they want to make in the world. On the shareholders’ return rather than the employees’ working life and on profit rather than purpose. It is too short-sighted, and the worst thing of all is that we risk being skewed by a whole generation of competent and ambitious employees. Maybe they have theirs to fight with. But, so do we.

Authors: Hansen Toft

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