Millennials: Generation snowflake or agents of change?

"Entitled", "narcissistic" and "lazy" - millennials get a bad rap, but if we don't do something to keep this talent in our business, another industry will.

According to the CBI, a third of employers are dissatisfied with current graduates’ "attitudes and behaviours of self-management and resilience", and you could fill a library with reports claiming that ‘generation snowflake’ aren’t fit to enter the world of work.

This is a demographic that’s projected to make up 70 per cent of the country’s workforce by 2025, and already occupies a large proportion of jobs in the PR industry, but many continue to berate them for their arrogance and reticence to assimilate.

Not only are they more socially, ethically and environmentally conscious than their predecessors – this is the generation that coined the term ‘woke’ after all – they’re also more independent thinkers, willing to disrupt the status quo in favour of a more sensible solution, be it dating apps over dinner dates or Airbnb over hotels.

In today's rapidly evolving world, seismic shifts in consumer and employee behaviour are forcing whole industries into extinction and if we don't start taking Millennials seriously, ours could be next.

Here's why we need to stop belittling and start listening instead:

Staying ahead of the cultural curve

In an industry that’s expected to be ahead of the curve both technologically and culturally, it’s time we recognise the potential of the tech and social savviness of this group, who grew up immersed in digital technology and social media.

These are increasingly integral to effective communications.

It’s fair to ask, for example, whether making better use of these qualities could have helped avoid Pepsi’s tone-deaf Kendall Jenner advert, which co-opted the resistance movement, or Walkers’ ill-fated marketing stunt which led to the company inadvertently tweeting user-generated pictures of serial killers.

Where were the young people when these ideas were dreamt up – making the coffee?

Where were the young people when these ideas were dreamt up – making the coffee?

Simon Peck, MD at Engine UK

Hire, inspire and retain

Millennials are often accused of having a tendency to job hop, or being allergic to traditional working routines.

Instead, we need to ask ourselves whether in fact we as companies are doing enough to evolve the workplace in order to attract and retain them.

Modern technology means that it’s no longer necessary to commute into work every day from 9 to 5, and traditional office jobs unsurprisingly lack appeal in our increasingly globalised and connected world.

We shouldn’t be challenging this spirit, we should be harnessing it and adapting our workplaces to bring the best out of our staff. Flexible working is crucial to retention.

Put simply, if we don't do something to keep top Millennial talent in our business, another industry will.

A better workplace for all

Millennials have been accused of "killing" everything, from doorbells to the diamond industry, and have faced similar criticism in the workplace for their disregard of conventional line management structures and work practices.

But before we chastise them for disrupting yet another comfortable status quo, we should ask ourselves whether maybe the changes they covet might hold wider benefits for the rest of us.

Ask any working father whether he’s benefitted from the advances our industry has made in the way it treats working mothers and he’s bound to wax lyrical about the improved flexibility and better work-life balance born of better parental leave policies.

Perhaps we will all benefit from workplaces designed to appeal to Millennials, and we could all learn from their willingness to do things differently.

Simon Peck is MD at Engine UK

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