There are a lot of opinions about millennials, and this young generation has gathered a fair amount of criticism as well. This generation and their characteristics have been studied and talked about a vast amount of times. Because of the characteristics this generation possesses, they have been called the generation jobless or the lazy generation. But how can employers better take into consideration these unique qualities to help millennials reach their full potential?
In a recent episode of Inside Quest, Simon Sinek talks about “The Millennial Question”. He says that as millennials have a strong trust over leaders, leaders are asking the young generation what they want. But even after offering them free food and a creative working environment and the possibility to work towards a purpose and make an impact, the millennials are still not happy. According to Sinek, there are four reasons that make up this missing piece that prevents millennials to feel fulfilled: parenting, technology, impatience, and environment.
When growing up, the millennials were constantly told that they are special, that they can have anything in life just because they want it and received medals just for participating in a race. I personally remember a song from elementary school that we used to sing: “I am special, I am special, so are you, so are you. Friends are special, friends are special, it is true, it is true”. This song has been stuck to my head for the past 15 years – and I think it is a very true representation of how my generation was brought up. Sinek says, that because of this bringing up, when millennials enter the real world and realize they are not special and they can’t have something just because they want it, their whole self-image is shattered, making the millennials a generation with lower self-esteem than the generations before.
Millennials, being digital natives, have always been surrounded by technology. Social media enables us to put filters on everything and show only the bright side of things. As Sinek says: “Everybody sounds tough and everybody sounds like they have it all figured out”. However, engaging with social media also releases dopamine, the same chemical that makes you feel good after you smoke, drink or gamble. Dopamine is highly addictive, so it makes you keep going back. When millennials are growing up and face stress, they will turn to social media because they have no coping mechanism for stress. Before, we used to turn to our friends in these cases, but millennials do not know how to form deep, meaningful relationships. Friends are there to have fun with, but they will bail on you if something better comes up.
On top of technology, millennials have also grown up in a world of instant gratification. Nowadays you don’t even need to leave your couch to watch a movie or shop for new clothes. Even dating is as easy as swiping right on your mobile phone. Simon Sinek explains, because millennials can get everything instantly, they do not know how to cope with the slow and uncomfortable processes of achieving job satisfaction or building strong relationships. Sinek uses the example of a mountain. At the top of the mountain is the goal and we are at the bottom, but millennials do not see the mountain. They need to learn that the climb up is long and difficult and impossible to achieve without asking for help or learning a new set of skills.
Lastly, Sinek lists the corporate environment as a reason why millennials are failing at life. The corporate environment that cares more about numbers and the short-term gains that the millennials are making them feel depressed – and the millennials are blaming themselves for not being able to cope. However, according to Sinek, it is not them, but the lack of good leadership and the corporate environment.
So how will this generation of technology-addicted, impatient, and “special” people translate into effective employees who enjoy working and feel fulfilled in their lives? Simon Sinek insists it’s the companies of today who have the responsibility of helping the millennials build confidence, learn patience, find the balance between life and technology, and learn the necessary social skills to be able to bring out the best of this generation. So, what are you doing to develop your millennials employees?2