Why the millennial ‘issue’, isn’t an issue

1st November by Robin Chu

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Why the millennial ‘issue’, isn’t an issue

I am one of 13.8 million people in the UK who are called millennials and make up 35% of the workforce.

The term “millennials” broadly describes those born between 1980-1995. Generation Y is another term for this group, and the internet was born when we were children so we are history’s first ‘Digital Natives’.

Employers often see us as “ego-massaging” graduates who are not ready for the “real world of work”. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) states that a third of companies are unsatisfied with our work because we do not show resilience, self-management and social skills. This phenomenon has been labelled by author Simon Sinek as “the millennial problem”, characterised by our need for constant praise and organisations often losing people they want to keep. In fact, around 43% of millennials plan to leave their jobs within the next two years.

However, organisations can take various opportunities to inspire the next generation of leaders to achieve their true best in the world of work. We are more purpose-driven, collaborative and creative than any other generation.

Firstly, consider purpose:  75% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a company with more social responsibility compared to 55% of people from previous generations. Having lived through the financial crisis of 2007-08 and starting our careers in debt through student finance, we require more from businesses than just profit making. We want to work in environments that prioritise society and individual wellbeing. For example, by ensuring that CSR departments are no longer bolt-ons, but are rather well integrated within the culture of an organisation. Workplaces need to embrace the mindset of a triple bottom line: people, planet and profit, where economic success is only a third of a company’s aims with the other two thirds being the wellbeing of its stakeholders and the impact on society as a whole.

Secondly, consider collaboration and creativity. Young professionals often prefer to work in smaller, more flexible teams with shared goals and ambitions instead of competing against their peers. This is seen in part through the rise of co-working spaces in London, starting in 2012. Mainly aimed at micro-businesses and freelancers, this new trend has spread across larger organisations as well, from Innocent Drinks to Camden Council, where people no longer use fixed seating arrangements, but rather decide where to sit every day. Neil Usher, workplace director at Sky states that co-working spaces “excel in collaboration with a warm, residential and engaging aesthetic.”

Additionally, growing up in an age of constant connectivity through Facebook messaging and Whatsapp groups, millennials are natural collaborators, used to instantaneous feedback loops. New productivity tools such as Slack or Google Docs were created to stimulate quicker response times within teams. Have you noticed how younger team members embrace new technologies quicker to get the job done faster and better? For employers, this collaborative, energetic and solution-focused attitude provides great advantages.

The building blocks are there.

Then, one might ask, how come I still struggle with my young team?

At CoachBright, we believe that organisations often misunderstand the needs of their young workforce.  A common feature among graduate programmes seems to be a relentless focus on learning the processes of the organisation and the knowledge required to thrive in that industry (e.g. tax exams, commercial law or information softwares). There seems to be less training in influencing others and being and behaving in a team. At CoachBright, we know you can only bring your best self to work if you understand yourself. Only through self reflection and feedback can you truly see what your strengths and areas for development are. Gaining this awareness can be just as tricky. It requires patience, training and a framework. We believe that coaching, an approach that helps learners explore and come up with the answers by themselves through exploration and challenge, is key.

That is why we have partnered with the Academy of Executive Coaching (AoEC) to launch the first of its kind Young Professionals Coaching Skills Certificate. It is aimed at people aged between 18-30 and is delivered by faculty who are themselves millennials. The course focuses on training young professionals in the coaching skills of listening, reflecting and questioning, so that they can better understand themselves in the world of work and take major steps to become their best selves in their profession.

In conclusion, we know that there is an ambitious group of future leaders out there who want to become the best they can be in their professional and personal lives. With their driven, collaborative and creative personalities, all they need is a spark from us to help them take off.

Article by Robin Chu, CEO of CoachBright, AoEC partner.


AoEC offers coaching, triple-accredited coach training, and consulting to individuals and organisations worldwide looking to embrace positive change through empowering people.  For more information please visit the Young Professionals Coaching Skills Certificate webpage.