Why Employers Need to Empathize with ‘Entitled’ Millennials

July 12, 2016, 11:25 PM UTC
BUILDING AN AGILE ORGANIZATION FOR THE DIGITAL AGE Want to acquire the skills needed for success in the digital economy? You’ll need to rethink every role and approach in your organization. Should marketers think like software development teams who build, measure, and learn? (Yes.) Should data scientists think like marketers who understand how to tell a great story? (Yes to that, too.) This workshop-style session will explore frameworks for developing new mind-sets for the digital age. Jake Schwartz, CEO, General Assembly Moderator: Michal Lev-Ram, Fortune
PHOTOGRAPH BY Stuart Isett/Fortune Brainstorm TECH

Entitled. Demanding. Impatient. Arrogant. Lazy. Snapchat.

These are just a few of the words used by audience members during a panel about business management at Fortune’s Brainstorm Technology conference on Tuesday to describe their most recent serious conversations with millennial employees at their companies.

Jake Schwartz, the CEO of the business education company General Assembly, polled audience members about their interactions as a way to teach companies how to better empathize with younger employees who may have different values and desires than older ones. He cited an Accenture study that said a business could lose $20,000 when a millennial leaves a company, so it pays to keep those younger employees satisfied with their jobs.

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Additionally, Schwartz said that salary is not the main reason millennials choose to leave companies. Instead, they will often take other jobs for reasons like career advancement, flexible working arrangements, and better training and skill development.

Paul Canetti, the founder and CEO of media technology company MAZ, said employers must think of their employees as customers who they need to constantly keep happy. Canetti, who once worked at Apple (AAPL), said Apple would go out of its way to keep customers happy in order to limit complaints that could damage its image.

If Apple were to replace a customer’s broken iPhone even though the customer didn’t have a warranty, for example, Canetti and his team believed that the customer would be happy and would boast about Apple to friends and family.

In the same way, companies must put themselves in the shoes of their millennial employees so that employees brag about them instead of carp about them.

If a younger employee complains about something at work, don’t say “Shut up, I’m paying you,” Canetti said. Instead an employer needs to put on one’s “empathy hat” and learn what is bothering that employee.


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Although it may be easy for an employer to say to an upset millennial, “You’re an entitled little brat, go to your desk,” Canetti said an employer should be more empathetic and say something less abrasive like, “I understand how you could think this is annoying to you.” These more cordial interactions can lead to happier employees and will lead to better way to solve problems that both employers and millennials can agree upon.

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