Millennials and the future of work

Simon Sinek recently went viral when he commented on millennials in the workplace. It’s about how they’ve been failed by parenting and basically expect everything on a plate. Then he followed up on this in the interview by the Independent with a jaw-dropping thought that “many millennials leave work on the dot of 5pm every day and refuse to answer work calls or emails over the weekend. This attitude is one of the reasons we have a reputation for entitlement”.

Job identity

I find most of Simon’s thoughts incredible, but I’m having a hard time agreeing with him on this one. It’s missing the fact that a job as a concept has changed over time. And it will continue to do so. What is being labeled as entitlement is instead an unfamiliarity with the terrible employee vs. employer relationship imbalance. Many people, myself included, have mostly seen good economy conditions. This makes you expect more from a job.

However powerful our technology and complex our corporations, the most remarkable feature of the modern working world may in the end be internal, consisting in an aspect of our mentalities: in the widely held belief that our work should make us happy. All societies have had work at their centre; ours is the first to suggest that it could be something more than a punishment or a penance. Ours is the first to imply that we should seek to work even in the absence of a financial imperative.
― Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Alain de Botton wrote a great book called “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work”. It’s a wonderful read on the history and impact of jobs to our lives. As he explains, in less than a century thanks to technology among other things jobs in western societies have become more than collecting a paycheck. This leads to a realization that what we should be talking about is companies who are able to survive in the future. The hardest task when scaling a company is finding great people. This is unachievable if you discard a whole group of people just for being millennials.

“Benefit of having a highly competent boss is the largest positive influence on typical worker’s job satisfaction” from Harvard Business Review. I’m guessing these sort of thoughts are foreign for older generations. But for an increasing number of workforce it’s a given - it’s all part of the same shift looking for meaning and purpose in a workplace. Ultimately, because of this the new generation is going to create better companies. Many startups today are great workplaces already, if not for a few mistakes. I think the entitlement Simon mentions is positive thing - the expectation to get more will force companies to do more, or they’ll find themselves with no one willing to work for them.

Who if not millennials is going to crack the puzzle of VR and AR? It’s definitely not going to be the people who think Snapchat is stupid. The different upbringing in generations, the different worldview they provide, is what allows companies to stay diverse. So I find myself thinking what can I do to make the generation of Snapchat work for me? with me? Because this is the important question, schooling them to do things different is like screaming at a passing by train.

*all illustrations done by Frits from hikingartist.com