It will take more than instant gratification to retain the generation of instant gratification

Ladies and Gentlemen, this week I’d like to start with a bit of a game. Please try to think back over the last month of your lives and try to remember the longest you’ve had to wait for something after ordering/asking for/buying it.

Have you got one?

I’ll tell you mine. I ordered some books recently (guess where from?!) and decided that I’d go for the ‘used’ option. I waited for these books for 4 working days. It just so happened that I ordered them on a Sunday. They turned up on Thursday, at my desk at about 4pm. Honestly? I’d forgotten I’d ordered them and it was a nice surprise actually!

Those four days were the longest I’ve waited for anything in more than a month, what about you? Perhaps you’ve ordered a new mattress? Or some fitted wardrobes? Or a new car? It wouldn’t surprise me if for some bigger ticket items like that you end up waiting for more than a week to receive them. But equally, you wouldn’t be surprised if you had all of those things pretty much straight away.

The generation that is entering the workforce, right now, are people who have grown up in a world where if you want something and can afford it, you can have it straight away. These are people who grew up with unlimited calls, texts and data, free next day delivery, online gaming and unlimited (kind of free) content.

Does it surprise you that the average length of tenure for a first jobber in the UK is 14 months? The more I think about, and the context in which they grew up, this feels like quite a long time. In London the average length of tenure is 12 months, in the rest of the UK it’s 18.

I’m lucky enough to get to work with this generation of people every day. I spend more time talking to and interacting with the “instant gratification generation” (IGG) than any others and I’m not sure they are as complicated as people make out.

My opinion is that, actually the main difference between the IGG and the rest of us is expectations. The people I work with want a lot from their careers but they should, shouldn’t they? Reading that sentence back, I’m not sure they even want ‘a lot’, well I guess that just depends on where you’re coming from with it.

The more you read on this subject the longer the list of things you need to change becomes. The classic (and I think quite lazy) comment that you hear all the time is “they think that they should be CEO in 2 years”. That’s just nonsense. What the IGG want is the middle ‘G’. They want gratification.

You know what it takes to give them gratification in their careers? It takes ‘you’ investing time and energy in their careers. It’s the ‘old fashioned’ stuff. Mentoring, weekly catch ups, monthly objectives and rewards/incentives (a beer, leaving earlier on a Friday), relevant regular training, a simple appraisal system, clear progression paths and a good, fun working atmosphere.

Is that actually lots to ask for? Is it? I’m not so sure that it is.

I put it to you this way. Is it possible that this new generation entering the workforce have exposed the generation that became overwhelmed by ‘all the change’ and dropped some of the fundamentals of building a great business?

There’s that old saying (that I absolutely don’t know well enough to quote) about how a great leader looks in the mirror instead of out of the window. Well, maybe, maybe it’s not the next generation that needs to change their approach to work, maybe it’s the one that is managing them.

Until next week.