‘Generation snowflake’ is to my mind a hugely offensive and widely inaccurate term that has been adopted to describe the latest generation of young people now active in the job market.
Now – I really do not like labels and to my mind this new generation of workers is as diverse as any that has followed it. In fact, I find labelling an entire generation with an inaccurate stereotype as fundamentally ignorant! That said though, I can accept a small band of the millennial generation– those born between the early 80s and mid 90s – are attracting a large amount of attention for the wrong reasons!
Many employers seem capable of sharing horror stories of the latest graduates showing an inability to communicate, to cope, to just stay-off social media long enough to actually have a conversation. They are apparently harder to manage, feel stress quicker, required increased guidance compared to others in the workplace…and god forbid they be reprimanded by their line manager!
Their salary expectations are increasingly unrealistic and of even greater concern for employers is the attrition of this generation. Apparently two-thirds of millennials plan to stay in their current role for less than two years, and a quarter reportedly hope to leave within a year. This restlessness, combined with the rumours of their behavioural traits mean most employers wonder what is the reward in engaging this generation?
Well – life is tough – and in a world of zero-hour contracts, low pay, economic instability and homeownership being an unattainable goal – millennials do have their fair share of issues to deal with. One might argue they are allowed a defence mechanism that involves supreme confidence, a sense of self-entitlement and more interest in the number of hits on Instagram than career progression. We live in a world of ‘instants’, and the millennial generation have not experienced anything different.
Granted, the snowflake generation are not helping their cause by turning Universities into ‘safe zones’ where freedom of speech, ideas that could be opposed to their own or that may their damage fragile self-esteems are not tolerated. In fact, in extreme cases it seems that student voices are the only valid voice and this attitude has been taken into the workplace.
But enough of this negativity. This generation is the future and employers need to get onboard with that idea and quickly. And by that I don’t mean undertaking Kyle Reye’s #snowflaketest! That was just slick marketing and not an answer.
Firstly in a broad sense new blood in the office can give any organisation energy, hunger and a motivational boost. Secondly, for the first time, an office could now have 5 different generations working side by side. That is a lot. With the latest generation the longer we dwell on the differences and the more we stereotype then the greater we make the problem.
In terms of motivating a work force with such a large age range one should think about their life path. Consider where employees or potential employees are in their life. A young employee may not have many responsibilities outside of work. They can be motivated by new experiences and career building opportunities. Employees in their 30s and 40s can have children and mortgages. They need money and flexibility. While those in the autumn of their career may want interesting projects or a work/life balance…..HOLD ON! A work/life balance just like what generation snowflake demand! Yes. The modern world of work has maybe somethings to thank and learn from millennials and what they demand.
I think this is the key point. Let us not criticise the latest generation, instead let us welcome them and learn from them. Let us try cross-generational mentoring where appropriate, build collaborative relationships and enjoy the differences that such a diverse age range in the office can bring.
If we don’t, and no one retires, then goodness knows what will happen if or when a 6th generation enters the world of work!
Many of the millennials I have worked with have been fantastic co-workers and in my opinion the term generation snowflake could not be further from the reality! It’s time to embrace them.