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Millennials Are H(APP)y Folk

Millennials and their predecessors are polar opposites when it comes to how they engage with work and each other.

24/02/2017 04:55 SAST | Updated 24/02/2017 10:05 SAST
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'Entitled', 'narcissistic', 'self-interested', 'unfocused' and 'lazy' are a handful of the more favourable adjectives used to describe millennials and provide the very reason why many bosses are frustrated with their youngest employees. Millennials and their predecessors are polar opposites when it comes to how they engage with work and each other. This has created a tension between generation X and the so called selfi(e)sh generation. Millennials have also been referred to as 'opportunistic', 'yoloists' (if there is such a word) and 'adaptable'.

Towards the end of January I came across a tweet by @ValaAfshar. This tweet was captioned:

'Did not exist in 2006': and included the following

  • 'iPhone, iPad, Kindle, 4G, Uber, Airbnb, Android, Oculus, Spotify, Nest, Kickstarter, Stripe, Square, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp'

To add onto that list, twitter did not exist on 01 January 2006, Facebook did not exist on 01 January 2004, LinkedIn did not exist on 01 January 2002 and Wikipedia did not exist on 01 January 2001.' At least 3 of all of these platforms provide a necessary staple and way of life for the 'average' person reading this article. The mere fact that 11 years ago 85% of them did not exist is evidence that innovation is disrupting the world at a rapid pace. Further evidence of this disruption is, according to Forbes, in 2015 more data had been created two years prior (2011) than in the entire previous history of the human race.

Innovation is disrupting the way in which we communicate, engage with each other and engage with our work. With communication and social media platforms such as email, Skype, Slack, Viber, WhatsApp calling and messenger and with broadband technology connecting people in remote locations, 41% of millennials wonder why they should not leverage off of this enabling environment.

Why should they have a physical presence in the office when they can work just as efficiently, remotely using these enabling platforms which have provided them with options and flexibility? Millennials do not fare well with the rigid structures prevalent in the corporate environment. Millennials are adapting their behaviour to accommodate a world where connection and engagement no longer requires face time. Who needs physical presence when you have got the app? Digital technology has influenced this behavioural change and is often cited as a catalyst for intergenerational conflict in the workplace. (PWC, 2015)

Steve Jobs unarguably one of the most innovative people in our time passed away on 05 October 2011, however if Steve Jobs could spend one day on earth in 2017; a large portion of the data he knew at the time of his death would be irrelevant today. To put this statement in context, Steve Jobs probably would not know what 'Snapchat' - one of the greatest disruptions in social media is. This signals the rapid turnaround time for very successful businesses which have cultivated a new generation of 'overnight successes.' Today, the founder of 'Snapchat', Evan Spiegel has increased his net worth to $4 billion (R51 billion) over a period of five years. We live in a world with fast turnaround times for innovations.

Millennials expect rapid progression of achieving their career objectives and if 'Employment A' does not achieve the expectation within a set timeframe, the millennial will move to the next opportunity. After all, YOLO!

This also creates very successful entrepreneurs in a very short space of time. Every individual in every generation is influenced by their external environment. Millennials are influenced and inspired by entrepreneurs such as Evan Spiegel, Drew Houston (Dropbox), Kevin Systrom (Instagram), and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) who became super wealthy in their 20s. This is the expectation that millennials have for themselves and have thus increased pressure on themselves to achieve this. Millennials have been cited as competitive, however they live in a competitive environment where everybody is gunning to be the next 'big' thing. Millennials also hold a great desire for leadership development and if their workplace is not investing in developing them as leaders they may feel underutilised.

Dubbed as the 'fast food' generation infiltrated with instant gratification; are millennials not merely influenced by the environments that they live in? UberEATS, an on demand meal delivery service which matches service partners with a variety of restaurants, allows customers to order meals using the Uber app. This food is then delivered to your doorstep. Delivery time is estimated to be 10 minutes, however in my experience it has been a little longer (just a tad).

This environment has to have an effect on the expectations of those who live in it. In the workplace this manifests as impatience. This impatience multiplies when the millennial has options. Should UberEATS not deliver my food on time, I'll just try 'Appetite' and if 'Appetite' does not fulfil my expectations then I'll try 'Zulzi'. Millennials expect rapid progression of achieving their career objectives and if 'Employment A' does not achieve the expectation within a set timeframe, the millennial will move to the next opportunity. After all, YOLO!

The competitive environment creates a millennial who wishes to be valued and challenged to their full capacity. They realise that meaningless and repetitive tasks can be automated and performed by robots.

Millennials' understanding of digital technology, how to leverage off of it and how to create it is a trait that distinguishes them from their predecessors. They have grown up with applications, broadband, smartphones and social media amongst various other platforms which give them instant access to information. This is the standard, the groundwork that they are 'building' from. With digital technology being the foundation of future success for organisations globally, millennials are the first generation to enter the workplace with a better grasp of this key business tool than their predecessors.

The question is how can corporates leverage off of the strengths of millennials to achieve relevance, commercial viability and profitability?