Do millennials have it harder than their managers ever did?

Written by
David Fraser

06 Feb 2017

06 Feb 2017 • by David Fraser

I’ve been told by several people over the last few days that millennials are entitled, lazy, disloyal, self-obsessed and need to know better. 

But when you consider how the world has evolved in recent years and how this has affected the workplace, it is incredibly tough starting your career these days. Millennials have it much harder than I ever did and, if you were born before 1981 (the often-quoted millennial cut-off point), much harder than you ever did too. There are many reasons why this is the case but here are five: 


5 career challenges for millennials

1. The world – and the future – is scary. Brexit, US elections, recessions, global terrorism, political uncertainty…we live in a more unstable world that we have done for arguably 70 years and it must be unsettling to start a career against that backdrop. 

2. Millennials have eye-watering levels of debt, the likes of which haven’t been seen before. If they have a degree, they are entering the workforce owing a crazy amount of money around £44,000 at the last estimate. And they’ll be in their 50s before it’s paid off. That’s a ridiculous amount of pressure to be under from day one in your career.

3. They are earning less than the generation before them. The last ten years, and the great economic uncertainty that came with it, mean that they are the first generation since the Great Depression to earn less than their parents.

4. We are always on. Remember before the proliferation of broadband, laptops and smartphones? You left work on a Friday night and, unless you got a phonecall over the weekend, you didn’t do any work again until Monday morning. Now we’re always on and by extension that means the window of time to switch off is getting narrower and narrower.

5. Millennials have different skills to their managers. In an ever-changing and digital world, millennials often know more about certain things than their bosses do. Particularly in the creative and digital industries, you can have the situation where managers and clients need to be taught a technique or a skill by the team junior. How confusing and awkward (and frustrating) must that be?

How can employers help?

So given all this, it seems employers have a choice: They can either look at the challenges staff are facing and say “well, that’s their problem” – or they can help.

This year, at Ready10 we decided to offer our staff the chance to say “Goodbye Skint January” and allow them to receive 50% of this month’s salary early. It’s gone down really well and has also ignited further discussion around the so-called millennial generation – the category most of our employees fall under. 

Being mindful of what this generation wants is so important. Studies indicate that more flexible working practices are high on the agenda, along with a less structured career ladder, flexible management and a deeper sense of purpose around what they should be trying to achieve. In practical terms, we have introduced a number of benefits: we pay for every staff member to gain a qualification, offer flexible holiday allowances as well as smaller benefits like helping with phone insurance and free cinema tickets. We also try to give everyone a meaningful role in shaping our company and our staff promise is simple: when you leave us, whenever that is, you’ll be better than when you arrived. Time will tell if it works, but so far the signs are good.

So next time you are tempted to beat up on a millennial, maybe think again and remember how easy your generation had it by comparison. Millennials want to succeed no less than you did and are just as talented – all they need is a little help.