Generation Why?

It is official! I’ve had enough! This is the last time I am discussing this topic.

It seems to take the piss out of many of my friends and colleagues in the past few weeks who had sent me the „Simon Sinek” video that went viral on the internet.

They all know that I am often asked to take part in panel discussions on a wide variety of topics. They also know that there is one topic in particular that I feel very strongly about and that is discussing millenials.

In many of these panel discussions I am being asked what does the bank do to attract millenials? Do we have special programs for them? How do we cater to their special needs?

Usually this is the point when I lose it…

Don’t misunderstand me, sourcing talents of any kind – irrespective of their age- is a great challenge for the banking industry in Central Eastern Europe. And let’s face it the financial sector scores quite low on the sexy profession scale nowadays.

But that has more to do with general public sentiment towards banking, or internally and externally overregulated environment and also the artificial extrapolization between huge multinational corporations and fancy, easy-going start-ups.

As if those who are about to start their careers only have two options: whether to join the dark side -a mammoth company- or be hip, cool, leader of the pack in a Silicon Valley start-up.

It seems like an unfair and unrealistically tall order of a choice for anyone.

Many „experts” (including the one in the video I mentioned earlier) say that millenials are a special breed. They are addicted to their devices, the umbilical chord is their phone and they despise the fact that they need to turn up at work in the morning and that they need to spend their time in the office. They are not humble enough to learn, they want quick wins whether it is an actual professional success or higher earning possibilities or a managerial position it doesn’t matter to them. They need to be challenged and entertained otherwise they get bored and leave you for a fancier, shinier position.They value freedom and flexibility above all, so the balance between the time spent in the office and their private lives needs to be in balance. That they care more about the CSR activities and they choose their workplace based on diversity rates.

So let me reflect on that based on my experience not only as a professional but also as a mother bringing up two of these millenials and knowing many of their friends as well.

1. „Millenials are a special breed that need special treatment.” It does sound like they are an extraterrestrial virus that we need to find the cure for. But they are not and isolated kind of species. We –the previous generation- brought them to the world, we have been bringing them up, we have been showing them the ropes and in return they also share with us how to post on Instagram and what is the use of Snapchat. You see this reciprocity is fully taken out of the picture when they are being discussed. They are not on their own. They are woven into the diverse fabric of today’s society.

2. „They are gadget dependent.” That is true.

Having said that I am also edgy if I accidentally leave my phone at home.

3. „Working in an office day in day out is quite a tedious „job” –pun intended. But so was going to school. Unless you were home schooled chances are you were used to getting up, going there and staying there. I understand that open office spaces deprive you of your privacy and sometimes there is so much noise you can not hear your own thoughts but this is what regular home office or remote work possibility is invented for. What I see is that this generation craves the company of others. They value the benefits of a social environment. I am also sure that those who want to get up at 10 in the morning and prefer working by themselves from an armchair at their local Starbucks and at 14 o’clock they call it a day, do not end up working for a bank.

And that’s another thing. Many of these young ones are just as clueless about life and ’what they want to be when they grow up’ as we were. Of course there are those ones who have a special talent or „calling” at a very young age. And although I have been in this business for more than 25 years I yet to meet someone who had been dreaming of becoming a credit risk analyst since pre-school.

4. „Being humble enough to learn new things” – is a tricky one. After being in the educational system for a good 20 years you might be under the impression that you have done with learning foerever. I remember I did. It has nothing to do with being humble. It has everything to do with how you acquire new skills in a new environment that has its own rules. I find that many of our interns and young colleagues value their mentors very much. The opportunity that you can ask questions and you are being taken seriously is what they cherish the most.

5. „They want quick wins- they live in a much faster pace.” Don’t we all? They want to see things happening, results, quick decisions and achievements. Impatience is each new generation’s prerogative. Then they learn to live with its consequences. In Central Eastern Europe today’s millenials are the first ones who might have seen their parents really succeed. In earlier times when everyone seemed equal, success was not happening out in the open. Since 1980s success has become public –admired or shamed in equal proportions- and that is something that is clearly desired by this generation (the admiration part). They have access to limitless stories of overnight success and fame and they want it too. Who could blame them? However they are also willing to work for it. And that is a characteristic that we seem to forget about when we are quickly jumping to judge them.

6. „Do they want to be challenged all the time otherwise they lose interest?” Some of them for sure. But they also learn how to challenge themselves. Often enough we see them pushing themselves just to see if they are capable for more without any external initiative or reward.

7. Work-life balance (another term I despise but more on that some other time). Is it really something that only milleanials want? I challenge you to jot down an ideal day for yourself that includes doing actual work as well. Would you spend 8-10 or more hours working? Really?! All I am saying is this is what most of us want regardless what generations we call „ours”.

8. „Social issues are the most important deciding factor when it comes to chosing their future workplace.” You can look for and find any cause, topic or theme that you feel close to your heart. The fact that the younger generation is susceptible to many of them means that us as parents have done a very good job of raising a new generation with empathy and care for the good of others.

So there, I am done with this topic for once and for all. All I am asking of you is to give them a break. Make an effort to get to know them as precious individuals, like them for who they are and stop „treating them” like they were some peculiar disease. They are kind. Our kind.