What Shortage of Skilled Workers? “Why Writing Off Millennials is a Big Mistake”
Entitled. Unambitious. Accustomed to instant gratification. And living under the self-centered delusion that they are unique and sought after since the day they were born. This is the reputation Millennials, or those who graduated high school in the year 2000 or later, have earned since they began to join the workforce in droves 10-15 years ago. Is this assessment true? Is it fair to them?
Simon Sinek, an expert on workplace motivation, addresses the weaknesses of Millennials and describes them as a direct effect of parenting and the environment created by older generations, not by any fault of their own. At times, Sinek paints a bleak picture of Millennials in the workplace, but also challenges both Millennials and their employers to find ways they can be happier and more motivated. As a manager, the inclination might be to write off Millennials for these weaknesses. But a worthy leader can harness the strengths of Millennials, turning those negative associations into a powerful workforce. Words I have heard used include:
“Entitled” – The idea behind this sentiment is that since Millennials have always been awarded “participation trophies” for coming in last place, as adults they now expect recognition when it’s not deserved. But there may also be another connection to be made from this effect: they don’t want the participation trophy. They never wanted it. They still want the blue ribbon. Just because there was a consolation prize for last place, there were still bigger, better awards for first place. But what the participation trophy has taught them is that within a group, kindness builds trust, and being a sore loser only breeds resentment. As a result, many Millennials work well in a team and flourish as collaborative problem solvers.
“Unambitious” – As a rule, Millennials aren’t typically driven by greed or power. This, however, does not make them unambitious. Because they spent their childhood being told they can be whatever they want when they grow up, Millennial ambitions are often driven by finding “who they are” or in other words, discovering a sense of purpose. As a leader, it’s your job to find or create purpose within your organization and use it as a motivational tool, instead of relying on your employee to inherently dream of a corner office just for the sake of money or status.
“Impatient” – While the age of social media has certainly created a tendency toward instant gratification, this is not always a bad thing. Instant results mean instant answers, and a predisposition to action instead of prolonged assessment that can waste time and money. In an age where speed is king, mistakes may also be quickly reversed, so having an employee who is willing to jump in headfirst can actually keep you a step ahead of the competition. Of course, when a situation calls for patience, this can create a challenge. But a good leader will steer through these waters and help their employees emerge a more well-rounded worker on the other side. And besides, haven’t all generations been a bit impatient when they were young?
With the current shortage of skilled workers and while it may require you to adjust your managerial styles, don’t make the mistake of writing off an entire generation of young workers. Millennials have proven to be smart, capable, and passionate workers who can help your company stay ahead of trends and rise to new heights.