Four Things Companies Can learn from Simon Sinek about Millennials at Work
Just when you thought 2017 would be the year we all stopped obsessing about millennials, Simon Sinek put us back on the map.
Inside Quest recently interviewed the famous author and speaker about why so many millennials are still unhappy at work, despite receiving everything they asked for including a company purpose, free lunch, and beanbags. The 18-minute video instantly went viral with almost 30 million views to date.
While Sinek has been criticized for making some sweeping generalizations about this diverse generation, the content clearly struck a chord. He touches on the influence of failed parenting techniques, technology, and millennials’ desire for instant gratification, but his ultimate conclusion is that companies and employers have a responsibility - a duty even - to act. They can continue to agonize over management woes, blaming boomer parents or social media for “young,” “lazy,” and “narcissistic” employees, but this will get them nowhere. Companies who take Sinek’s message to heart, on the other hand, and accept their responsibility to create an environment in which millennials can thrive, will win in the long run.
So what should companies take away from Simon Sinek’s speech?
#1. Don’t confuse insecurity with entitlement.
Millennials were raised by parents who told them they were “special” and that they could be anything and have anything they wanted. After leaving the safe confines of their family home, millennials were forced to learn the hard way that they had been grossly misinformed - the world owed them nothing. As a result, millennials’ self esteem was shattered and many of the characteristics managers complain about are, in fact, rooted in deep insecurity. Try approaching these young idealists with empathy and an open mind, instead of assuming all the stereotypes are true.
#2. Social media addiction is real.
Sinek equates millennials’ addiction to social media with alcoholism. Engaging with technology - which often shows a “filtered” or manipulated worldview - triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, the same “feel-good” chemical associated with drinking or gambling. Millennials are using social media to cope with the stresses of young adult life, because they have never learned how to build deep, meaningful relationships with their peers. They rely on the quick hit of dopamine from a “like” or a text message when feeling stuck or sad, instead of turning to a close friend. Companies can help is by encouraging young employees to develop a healthy balance when it comes to technology. Avoid setting expectations around checking work emails on the weekend or before coming into the office. This will give them one less reason to reach for their smartphone.
#3. Millennials have never had to practice patience.
Millennials have grown up in a world of instant gratification. Whether they are looking for a date, a pizza, or their favorite TV show - everything is available on demand. The only two things, Sinek observes, that cannot be achieved instantaneously are job satisfaction and meaningful relationships. Both are slow, often messy processes that cannot (and should not) be rushed. Millennials start a new job expecting to have an impact within a few weeks or months. This desire may come across as “entitled”, but Sinek implores managers to understand that this demographic has never had to practice patience before. It is up to you to teach them that certain things are worth waiting for.
#4. Removing the temptations will make everyone’s life easier.
Sinek provides several solid arguments for why millennials are so challenging to manage; who’s to blame for this - millennials themselves, their parents, technology - is besides the point. The point is that in order for this generation to reach its potential in the workplace, companies are going to have to adapt. Most notably, they are going to have to remove the many temptations that surround millennials at work. How many recovering alcoholics choose to work at a bar, after all? One example Sinek suggests is to ban cell phones from meetings. Other generations know from experience how critical the five minutes of “small talk” before or after a meeting can be when it comes to forming relationships at work, but millennials may not yet grasp this concept. Instead of getting frustrated every time your younger colleague looks down at his or her phone during a presentation, eliminate that temptation entirely. You may be surprised at how engaged and innovative they can be