Over the years we have written many times on this subject but still it appears in many presentations; the fact that millennials do not stay in roles and move between roles. Of course there is truth in this but the real question is never asked by many senior players as to why?
The answer is simple and moreover the baby boomers would have behaved in thje same manner if they were presented with the same background conditions. One must remember that the baby boom generation grew up in an age when there was no university debt; instead they were given grants to attend university. The 1980s was a socially mobile period which had far more freedom to make mistakes, have a voice and be aggressive in one’s career. It was an era which was far less judgemental, pressurised and transparent.
Most senior players, if they recall, expected to be directors by the age of 30. In fact, this was a commonly discussed benchmark for success. Today, the average age of a board director is more than twenty years older.
Would the baby boomers really have had the same work ethic if they had less freedom than they enjoyed, had to endure twenty more years to reach a senior level and had to carry university debt of between £30-50,000?
Today’s emerging talent have to grow up in a working environment which is more transparent, more controlled, more passive in many ways, more expectant of high behaviours and with more baggage placed upon their shoulders.
The real question which should be asked – is how can we help engage and support the younger generations?
And it does need far more thought than is often made. If more is being asked of young talent, then more needs to be provided in order to support that talent.
It is important to create structures where talent can take controlled risk and be allowed to fail. In a recent workshop with MBA students, over 35% openly noted that they felt the pressure not to fail – not to let down their parents who have invested in their education, not to be able to improve their careers to repay the debt, not to fall behind their peer group. They were carrying too many pressures which maybe they should not need to feel?
One of the great advantages that the baby boomers had was they did not have to carry the same pressures on their shoulders. It was a far more adventurous, devil may care age which allowed failures to be brushed under the carpet and for characters to grow safely. Most senior leaders will talk privately of their many failures and yet there is no record of them bar the honesty of the leader in their own failing. Today there would be a record somewhere. This age does ask much more of each and every individual than ever before and have we, it must be asked, created structures which effectively support those emerging talents?
There is genuinely exciting new generation emerging. They possess stronger values. They possess a wider lens. They are more community and socially focused; more inclusive and compassionate. It is to be nurtured and yet again if the hard questions are being asked, it needs to be asked if more can be done to help and support?
So what can be done now?