Millennial Matters

Goodness, there’s a lot of talk about the Millennial generation (18-35’s) in the workplace. And arguably too much credence being given to management needing to change its style in response.Millennials will outnumber

I’m giving the matter some thought over the next few weeks, and I suspect I will be looking for ways for leadership to push back. But after listening to a podcast from the young American comedian Alex Edelmann, I thought I’d begin with the Millennials’ point of view.

Edelmann began by raising the case of Trail King Industries in Mitchell, South Dakota. The boss, Bruce Yackley, has gone head to head with the Millennial mindset, accusing young workers of being lazy and venal. Last year he recruited an additional 280 young workers for blue collar jobs in his plants. By December 279 had left his employment. (Why the one remainer stayed is not covered in the flurry of print and social media comment that followed).

Yackley sees no reason to change his leadership style or adjust his management approach. He sees Millennials as lightweights, sloping off to change jobs whenever they feel slighted.But, as Edelman says, if 99.6% of an employee intake leaves within 12 months, it does suggest a working environment that people don’t enjoy. He says that global economic changes have made it clear to young people that there are no jobs for life anymore. If that certainty has been removed, why should they put employer interests before their own?

These members have been stoked by commentators from Social Anthropology and Psychology, who urge Millennials to invest in their own ‘Identity Capital’. The best way of coping with uncertainty is to expose yourself to as many experiences and opinions as possible. From regular sabbaticals to travel the world, to job-hopping between unrelated work sectors, to quasi-academic research. Find out, they urge, why Macclesfield, England was the world centre for silk production in the 1800’s. Equip yourself to fascinate others; accelerate your maturity through eclecticism.

Edelmann also claims that Millennials are misunderstood as consumers. Marketers who bemoan their promiscuous attitude to brands need to examine their purchase behaviour in greater detail. Millennials ask more questions about brands, and about the organisations that purvey them. They are deeply suspicious of acronymic institutions, from KFC to IBM to GE … and remain so unless convinced that they are populated by people of good intent.

But even he says that their incessant questioning of ‘everything that has gone before’ can produce ridiculous outcomes. Some Millennials in the US are refusing to vaccinate their new-born babies because ‘the science is not complete’. They’ve clearly never heard of Smallpox or Diphtheria.

Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside


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