I just finished reading a critical blog about millennials. The article, written by a top business magazine, asserts that millennials are getting fired en masse by top companies because we’re too immature and entitled to be successful in business.
I’m writing this from a seat at my favorite coffeehouse in the world, Picasso’s. Nestled in the historic district of St. Charles, MO, this little gem of a coffeehouse was built from the ground up 10 years ago by entrepreneur and passionate coffee lover, Chris. Chris is either a millennial or close to it age-wise. He arrives at 3 AM to start prepping for a 5:30 AM opening. He leaves at 3-5 PM in the afternoon. I have never heard him complain, ever.
Chris is intensely passionate about coffee, constantly testing, learning, tweaking the menu, and interacting with customers. He easily works 60+ hours a week, but you could never tell it. He always exudes an intense, understated drive whenever I see him. Chris loves his work, and he feels like he’s making a difference with every steaming cup the push across the counter to a customer.
Some companies have made a crucial mistake when trying to court millennial workers. They assume that we’ll be happy to do meaningless or unimportant work as long as we’re getting paid decently. And for a long time, companies paid enough and offered enough perks that people would take the deal. With the advent of globalism, always-on cellphones, and the complete lack of job security/advancement opportunities at many companies, my generation has decided that they’d rather take their chances on their own.
What companies haven’t realized yet is millennials want to create art. We want to bring something special to someone’s day. Create amazing stuff, making a difference. Art, whether it’s building furniture, solving food distribution problems, connecting the globe or actually creating fine art, gets us excited and motivated. It motivates us to be willing to put insane amounts of time, creativity, and energy into our work.
Companies that foster environments where creating art is possible will have no trouble retaining and getting the most out millennials (think Pixar, Apple, Whole Foods, etc). Those that don’t will call us lazy, idealistic and immature. Ironically, many of these CEOs had the same criticisms leveled at them when they were growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, when they themselves were busy trying to change the world.
I look up from my computer, and Chris is pouring hot water over freshly ground coffee grinds. His customer, a middle aged man with greying hair, says “Wow. That looks amazing.” As Chris twists a spoon through the wispy foam, he smiles. “Thanks. This is my art.”