Millennials, are they addicted to recognition?

15, May

A very interesting report developed by Mayte Rius for La Vanguardia focuses on the need for recognition of this ...

A very interesting report developed by Mayte Rius for La Vanguardia focuses on the need for recognition of this generation

The arrival of millennials at the labor and the consumption world has generated countless studies on their features, habits or priorities. The need to be the center of attention both at home and at work seems to be a general feature of those born after 1980 and prior 2000.

Millennials account for 26% of the world’s population. Over half of the active population are millennials, and the percentage will grow to 75% in eight years. This situation provides them with a great capacity to influence, which becomes even more important due to the fact that they are the first generation of digital natives. Their permanent connection and elevated levels of sociability turns them into trend setters.

Even though it is hard to establish patterns that fit everyone in such a large group of people, certain analysts and consultants state that they resemble each other more strongly than the members of previous generations. The reasons include globalization and the homogeneity of the information and values they have received through technology.

Ruis quotes the professor of people management at the IESE, Guido Stein, who claims that the stronger homogeneity is clearer among those he calls “junior millennials” (born between 1990 and 2000). These millennials are now completing their education or entering the labor market. And he points out that the need to be recognized by others is one of their most representative features. “They are almost public recognition addicts, which they do not only expect from their superiors, but also, and most importantly from their peers”. He states that this interest to be the center of attention can be observed in their daily life as well as in their working life.

According to Stein, this pursue of public recognition is linked to an education (particularly within the family) that fostered a lack of maturity. In addition, no previous generation has been as connected as this one. The way they relate among themselves and through social networks have an impact on the delay of the development processes. Therefore, a large percentage of millennials have an excellent level of academic education, languages and technology training, but they have deficiencies in terms of personality and interpersonal skills.

Pablo Mondragón, social anthropologist and founder of Antropologia 2.0, believes that the constant need of recognition is not a psychological feature of young people today. It is actually linked to the communication channels, with the technological advances. “We all have the need of being recognized and we all enjoy a pat on the shoulders, I believe it is something innate every human has; what has change is that those pats used to be produced and found at home, in a smaller environment, and now, that we are connected, we may receive broader public recognition; technical advances provide us with the tools to have feedback, so we are expecting reactions for every single thing we do”, says Mondragón.

Idoia de Paz, head of the Human Capital consulting department at Deloitte – a company that develops an annual report on millennials-, thinks that the eagerness for recognition has become more visible because young people ask for it in real time, because they are used to constant feedback and immediate communication, and for them it makes no sense to wait for the annual performance review to learn about the reactions of their work. “I think that being a millennial is an attitude, not a generation. I am not a millennial in terms of age, but I also expect that kind of recognition and a faster and more flexible organization. Technology does encourage this expectations”, she says.

Mondragón believes that millennials show cognitive differences because we live in a world where immediacy rules, where everything becomes faster and where digital identity matters.

Stein’s research – based on a survey applied on 22 thousand executives, hundreds of university and IESE’s MBA students- points out that junior millennials deliver a very well-cared-for appearance because they want other people to like them, and to do that they basically use photos and videos. This concern on their image and to be appreciated catches up with them, according to Stein: “it causes them anxiety and a lack of self-confidence, as they are aware that they are constantly being examined and judged by others”.

“They are impatient because they have been raised in immediacy and they are used to continuous and immediate inputs. However, this habit of continuous immediacy has make them comfortable in multitasking (…) as well as in learning things very quickly”, sums up Stein. A negative aspect is that, in several cases, they lack the capacity to develop deep analyses.

Several reports point out that the traditional concept of authority is quite distant for millennials. “They have grown up at homes where parents did not practice the same authority with which they were raised, and during their childhood and adolescence they have not been submitted to strict authority at school”, explains the IESE professor. There is certain consensus in the fact that millennials do not look forward to having bosses that become a model or that exert authority. They prefer people who they can respect due to their professional prestige, their knowledge and the coherence of their actions.

When analyzing more poorly educated millennials, we find a diversity of situations that go from disenchantment to outrage towards the society they live in.

The label millennial is fashionable because we live in an era of infoxication and mental shortcuts are very powerful taxonomical heuristics. But, it is just a demographic category or a marketing label, and it is certainly not enough to refer to an entire generation, which includes people from different ethnicities, gender, classes…” claims the social anthropologist Pablo Mondragón.

Idoia de Paz also believes that being a millennial is an attitude and not a generation, and that such attitude generates a challenge for companies as it demands a way of communicating, managing and setting goals that is quite different from the conventional way. “Millennials are people who function in terms of clicking, who what to develop constantly, who want to live unique experiences, who care a lot about the content of their work and who want to contribute to develop a better world.”

Is the real question whether 100% of the future generation shall be millennial from an attitudinal point of view?