Evelina and I had a conversation last night about some young people with whom she works. I don’t want to generalize, but when I added her experience to those I’ve had with the millennials in the newspaper biz, I am left with a little fear for our future. Now before some of you blow up my email inbox, I’m not saying that every single youngster has all the same problems. But I am beginning to notice that the vast majority of the younger generation display many of the same social issues at work.
In this situation a young man was stressing over talking to his boss at the firm about being uncomfortable with a few tasks he has recently been delegated and confided in my wife for advice. She explained to the lad that he needed to go to his boss and be honest, explain his situation and talk through the problem. After many minutes of giving advice the youngster asked my wife to go have the conversation for him. Obviously she didn’t.
Last night when Evelina and I were talking about the situation she explained to me that this boy didn’t comprehend how to express himself to his boss. In his view this was conflict and he had no clue how to proceed. The sad thing is I see this in millennials my company has hired time after time after time. We’ve had them quit without calling in. We’ve had them take multiple days off without letting anyone know they weren’t coming in. We’ve had them crying at work because of a simple reprimand and admonishment.
To make sure I’m not generalizing I reached out to three friends who work in HR for three separate companies and they experience the same challenges. I’m not sure why, but it seems that this generation has an issue with communication, work skills and basic social etiquette. One of our papers hired a young man who said “cool” so often that they couldn’t put him in front of clients. I know the managers attempted to coach him, but he didn’t possess the professional skills required to speak (for lack of better words) like an adult.
And there are countless articles I’ve read that express a similar theme: our young people have been raised in an online world and many simply don’t feel comfortable speaking to live human beings in a professional setting. And I can confirm that this is 1000% my experience with them. Most don’t understand the value of a firm handshake. They don’t feel comfortable, nor understand, how to conduct themselves in a professional business dinner meeting. They don’t possess the skill set to sit down and speak with a business owner and simply partake in small talk.
And don’t even get me started on time management.
According to my HR friends the problems they most often deal with when working with younger employees are as follows: they give up easily when challenged. They think admonishment is bullying. They show up late and want to leave early. Many lack the ability to communicate in writing. They lack the ability to problem-solve. They struggle when working on projects in groups. They struggle in interviews. And they lack the ability to negotiate through workplace conflicts.
When I listened to my friend Donna talk about her young employees I couldn’t help but feel so many emotions. What is happening to our younger generations? It almost feels like “internet-gone-wrong”. What I mean is that we unleashed the internet on a population of youngsters and had no clue what impact it would have on them. Let’s face it, we know what Facebook has done to productivity at work among adults! Adults spend up to 8 hours per week on their personal device while on the job. And if the digital world is having such a dramatic impact on adults, imagine what it is doing to our children!
Industries that rely on skilled labor are struggling. Industries which rely on inside and outside sales staff are struggling. Industries which rely on face-to-face, real-life interactions are struggling to find and keep younger employees and I have no clue what the solution might be; and neither does anyone else. I’ve not read a single industry-related publication that has announced “We figured it out!”. Quite the contrary. Industry leaders are perplexed.
One article I read relabeled the Millennial generation as “Generation Lacking” and, sadly, I must agree. The saddest part of all is none of this is their fault!! They’ve been raised in a world which puts more emphasis on social media than on social interaction.
My final conclusion is that in 100 years experts will look back at what we did to these kids by allowing them to have smart devices at such young ages much like we now view the use of mercury in making hats so many years ago.