Originally Published in AM Best in March 2017
Recently, I’ve been seeing a clip of Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last, talking about the problem of Millennials in the workplace on an episode of Inside Quest popping up on LinkedIn and Facebook. Sinek says Millennials have a reputation for being lazy, narcissistic, unfocused, and of course, entitled. We’ve all heard this before. The interesting piece of this video was when Sinek explained that he believes there are four factors that contributed to the behaviors which created the stereotype of Millennials. The four factors are parenting, technology, impatience, and the environment. He says it’s the result of failed parenting tactics, like those infamous participation trophies we always hear about. He says it’s amplified by our constant access to our phones and the filters of Instagram and Facebook. He says these technologies and millennials’ constant use of them have taught millennials to present themselves as though they have it all figured out In order to keep their social media profiles as exciting as possible, and this has spilled over in the perceived confidence of the requests that they make when asked for input at work. He says that our on-demand lifestyles and learned belief that they can have anything they want has led to impatience in the workplace. Finally, he says that workplace environments are different than those the Millennials grew up in. Their parents don’t have the influence they had in other environments, technology is often behind what they’re used to in other facets of their lives, and workplaces generally move slower than they’re used to.
In the video, he says a corporation that’s looking for employees must expect the new generation of workers to come with these characteristics and past experiences. Corporations cannot control the first three factors. They can only control the environment of their workplace. Millennials respond positively to feedback, mentoring, and coaching, and workplaces ought to take advantage of this characteristic of millennials. Corporations must train these employees to see not just the end goal of the impact that they’re searching for but the mountain that one must climb to make that impact. A corporation must teach its new employees the skills to fit into the culture and form the relationships that are necessary for the success of that Corporation.
If we look at job postings today, we often expect employees to come to us prepared for a work environment that hasn’t changed in the last 50 years. We expect new employees to easily assimilate into the structures that are in place. However new employees are often coming to us straight from college. Some of these employees may have had part-time jobs or earned money babysitting more pet sitting throughout their college careers. Most of the environments they’ve been in have been casual. They probably grew up with parents who involved them in their decisions, and in their college classrooms, they were likely encouraged to question authority. Assimilating to an office environment can, therefore, require some coaching.
To me, the most important take-away from Simon Sinek’s comments was that we should be prepared to train the employees in the behaviors that will lead to job satisfaction and deep relationships. In the past, many employees came to their first jobs with only a high school diploma. Corporations expected to train their new employees, and they expected their employees to stay with their company for their entire career. While the new normal cannot allow us to believe the employees will stay with one company for their entire career, we must train new employees not only in technical matters but also provide them a background in the soft skills that they will need to be successful. The insurance industry already embraces training, and it is a benefit to Millennials that we ought to be more vocal about.