Jessica Hubbard, Deputy Editor; 24 March 16
There has been endless hype around the so-called Millennial generation in recent years, with brands and marketers scrambling to understand young people (and devise special ways of eliciting their loyalty, and cash). But according to Richard Mulholland, the outspoken founder of presentation company Missing Link, this type of generalising is pointless (at best)…
“The world is getting all excited about Generation Theory (Gen X, Baby Boomers, etc) and we’re constantly trying to find out what the next generation is…to create some sort of composite of what that looks like,” says Mulholland. “And I think it’s all bullshit. It made sense with Baby Boomers, being born at the end of a war, and even Gen X made sense (they were born to Baby Boomers).”
In his view, creating these groupings no longer makes sense, because ‘there is no more fixed generation.’
“We shouldn’t be trying to put people in a box,” he adds.
With regards to the ‘Millennials’ tag, he warns against treating young people in the workplace differently.
“We think they’re that different, but they’re only different because we’re treating them as such,” says Mulholland. “They’re still people, going through the same things that people have always gone through…and it’s not for us to pander to them, it’s for us to lead.”
He adds: “So if you’re feeling that the youth are self-entitled, then change that. Then don’t accept that behaviour. We don’t have to change fundamentally [in the workplace]…
Mulholland also addresses the idea that the youth chop and change a lot in their careers. He points out that people have always done this, but with young people today, they’re simply just taking on certain responsibilities later in life. So, for example, they’re having children in their thirties instead of in their twenties (and therefore having more freedom to experiment for longer).
“The cautionary tale is that they will start settling down and having meaningful responsibility at the very point that society no longer has meaning for them,” he says. “The average age for retrenchment in SA is 40, so we need to be afraid…if the average person gets retrenched at 40 today (or in ten years from now), they’ll have kids in nappies – and that’s a different ball game.”
Don’t let the market do you a disservice…
For young people entering or establishing themselves in today’s workplace, Mulholland says the key is to look to be ‘pushed by the market’.
“Humans don’t naturally push themselves, so you need an employer who respects you enough to push you,” he explains. “You need to make sure that the market doesn’t do you a disservice by not pushing you hard enough…you’ve got to get pushed to the very limits of your potential – then exceed those limits and do your own stuff. You will progress by being pushed…not by being pandered to.”