Do young employees have differently-wired brains?

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Do your young employees have differently-wired brains?

Do your young employees want different things from work and life when compared to your more mature employees?

Is the frustration over the attitude of younger staff felt by many of my business owners clients something new?  Or were our bosses in the 70s/80s/90s bitching about “schools not producing the right quality of employees” with their unsuitable clothing/Walkman jammed in their ear/silly dot-com ideas (delete as appropriate) when we were starting out?

My view is a solid consultancy view:  It Depends – or, if you want me get off the fence, Yes and No.

It seems likely that the sheer volume of data we are all now subject to will change the way humans divide their attention.  Watching one of 4 TV channels or reading a book is a different processing task from clicking between 400 channels whilst commenting on the shows on social media and dealing with work emails.  If someone has only ever known the latter world how are they going to approach writing a client proposal, or dissecting an analyst’s report or designing a new product.  Differently, is how.

The social contract has changed.  Forty years ago the deal was do an apprenticeship or a degree, work hard and be loyal and your employer (and the state) will see you right in your retirement.  That’s gone.  So how will young employees relate to you their employer and work itself?  Differently, is how.

And yet, and yet.  When your young and old team win the big deal.  When you praise someone, young or old, for a challenging job well done.  When people, young and old, feel they are working for an organisation with a big, worthwhile purpose – and that they are contributing to that – nothing is different.  We are the same animals, with the same needs, as we were in the 90s/80s/70s, 1890s…probably back to the caves, celebrating a successful mammoth hunt.

So in your business, don’t confuse surface change with fundamental change.  If you lead employees well, you can lead young employees well in exactly the same way.

You just need a message that is compelling enough to get them to put their phones down and listen.

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