Anton Cabral
Can you remember back to your first job, when you were the new kid with the shiny, fresh face and lofty career ideals, until the hard work brought you back down to earth with a thud? Apparently, the shock of the corporate environment is even greater for today’s young recruits where the ‘real world’ supposedly also comes with a sense of frustration that management “simply don’t get what us millennials have to offer”!


One has to wonder – from a slightly older, more experienced perspective – whether we also displayed such a vexed attitude…or did we just buckle down and get on with the job at hand? Were we less driven, less ambitious than the millennials coming through HR today?

There have always been seniors, juniors and newbies.

Multi-generational workplaces are not something new. There have always been seniors, juniors and newbies, with seasoned experts mentoring young talent. And there have always been differences between the wants, needs and expectations of professionals during their various life stages. Ignoring these nuances has always posed a threat for companies with progressive, innovative, long-term visions of longevity and success.

Enter the millennial…

Enter the millennial, and all of a sudden there’s a big fuss: a huge generation gap in the workplace! I’m not sure if it’s because as a society we’re more self-aware…or if millennials really are the unmanageable headaches they’re being made out to be. Are we simply making a mountain out of a millenni-hill, or do we really need to rethink the way we engage employees – across all generations – in an era of digital transformation?

Any organisation opposed to engaging the dynamic energy that a younger generation has to offer, not only removes itself from the positive transformative ideas of tech-astute talent, but it will, invariably, also suffer recurrent high costs of hiring and losing valuable, talented staff. Millennials really do represent a significant part of business future, particularly when it comes to taking digital transformation onward. They need to be nurtured, but not pandered to.

They often feel they’re not rising up.

Popular author and social commentator, Simon Sinek has very interesting opinions on what shapes the millennial mindset and why they’re prone to flightiness, despite being given purpose-driven opportunities to make a difference. Sinek believes they lack an understanding that true job satisfaction comes from immersing oneself in something that requires time and commitment. For a generation expecting immediate results and instant gratification, they often feel they’re not rising up the corporate ladder as fast as they’d like. And while their ambition is admirable, the lesson to be learnt is that success is only 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, grit and endurance.

Millennials’ self-esteem has been moulded through likes and shares.

Millennials also retreat to social media for affirmation and approval, where their self-esteem has been moulded through likes and shares, and personal relationships are often many but superficial (by Generation X standards!). Building real, face-to-face human relationships in the business setting, therefore, poses a steep learning curve for a cohort that is always attached or distracted by a mobile device. Building professional relationships take time, and they’re essential in a workplace where team effort is required…and this is something millennials can learn.

Despite Sinek’s insights, it would be a mistake to label disconnects strictly as a millennial issue, particularly when this generation has so much to offer in terms of progress and innovation. They’re just starting from a different base.

Ultimately, the generational issue is one where company leadership must take responsibility. It’s imperative that businesses construct a sensible platform to accommodate the best qualities of the millennial generation – tech-smarts and social media savvy – augmented by the disciplined, pragmatic, real-world experiences of seasoned experts.

Focus on win-win collaborations.

So, how do organisations deliver effective, multi-generational engagement and job satisfaction?

  • They allow individuals to express opinions, share insights and explore new ways of doing things – where the existing processes and tools do not hamper the forward movement of creative ideas and innovation.
  • They prioritise finding successful working solutions, without being slowed down by heavy administrative documentation requirements.
  • They focus on win-win collaborations that serve the needs of customers as well as the organisation, by giving their employees a sense of purpose that goes beyond simply negotiating a good deal for the company.
  • They implement digital transformation initiatives that allow their organisation to anticipate and respond rapidly to change. They are guided by roadmaps that allow for tactical flexibility, rather than being cramped by inflexible business plans.

Companies should use technology to empower employees towards decision-making.

In addition, motivational expert, Daniel Pink hits the nail on the head in defining three key elements that impact job satisfaction and motivate people to stick around for the long haul, and they’re valid across all levels of an organisation. Companies should use technology to empower employees towards decision-making autonomy, where outcomes are valued above process. This is where digital transformation allows new hires to get onboard and start performing sooner. It also sets them up with an earlier opportunity to achieve mastery – where they can become the best at what they do. Organisations that are able to communicate a sense of purpose about their business, one that makes employees feel proud, is the third part of a winning trifecta.

At the end of the day, being able to exercise autonomy, achieve mastery, and experience purpose are what binds people to a business…irrespective of age. With that being said, bring on the post-millennial Gen Zs!