Why millennials would rather start a business than work for you

Apr 11, 2016

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In a world where the barrier to entry to starting your own business or going freelance is lower than ever before, businesses are struggling to appeal to millennial talent.

After all, why be confined to a cubicle when you can be managing your own small global business from anywhere in the world with a laptop and an internet connection?

Ok, not everyone can be a nomadic entrepreneur but nine to five is quickly going out of fashion for young people today who want more life in their work than work in their life.

Having quit full-time employment two years ago to go self-employed, it’s been an eye opening experience getting a new perspective on work-life balance. I’ve been approached over Linkedin a few times by recruiters, and I always toy with the idea of what it would take for a job description to convince me to return to traditional employment so in this article I’m going to share what I believe not only Millennials want from 21st century employment but also everybody else

To Care About the Cause

It is impossible to perform at your best in something you hate. Statistics already show that 90% of people are disengaged at work and that’s because they dislike what they do but they’ve got bills to pay. Work should not be drudgery. Somebody out there actually loves dealing with customer complaints, somebody loves organising events and somebody loves doing the yearly accounts and if that is not you… Get out!

It’s a huge waste of time, and talent, to be working for the sake of working. Instead, aim to do everything in your power to find something you can truly get behind and give it everything you’ve got. If that means re-educating – do so, if that means moving back in with parents – do so. If I’m ever going to get back into ‘full-time’ work the company needs to clearly express what they stand for and for me to see the role as an extension or an expression of my own personal values. Companies today must find a way to get employees to passionately believe in their vision and quickly get rid of those who don’t.

A Boss Who Cares About the Cause Even More

We all need someone to look up to as a mentor or teacher – someone who is a few steps ahead of us in the direction we want to go. For most people their boss is a miserable git because he or she is over-worked, under-inspired and socially challenged.

For me, a boss is someone who isn’t a ‘boss’, they’re a friend. They’re a human being who is comfortable sharing his or her fears and failures and does not bury their emotions in the guise of being ‘professional’. I want to work for someone I admire and someone whose work goes beyond the role because to him or her it’s a necessity and we’re in it together.

Investment in Personal Development

If you’re not growing your employees, you’re letting them stagnate. This is why people constantly job-hop for stimulation and why loyalty is practically non-existent in today’s workplaces.

Our human nature desires progression but businesses tend to ignore this and let their employees get caught up in the day-to-day minutia of meetings about meetings about meetings.

Simply giving employees small self-development allowances, such as access to Kindle unlimited or subscriptions to video training platforms like Skillshare or Lynda and then letting them take their learning in whatever direction inspires them is an affordable way for employees to continue to develop themselves, and eventually bring new ideas and innovations back into the company.

Throw Away the Clock The clock is such an industrial and out-dated measurement of the performance of employees. I still don’t understand why anyone would want a tired employee in the office because they had to battle through the early morning rush just to be in for 9am. Human beings are diverse – some of us are morning people and some of us night owls, and our working life should reflect and respect these variables.

Instead of encouraging employees to find convincing ways to stay busy during their ‘working’ hoursit would make more sense to base performance on KPIs met, therefore ensuring that people aren’t just doing something but, in fact, focusing on the things that truly matter. I think Sweden is certainly moving in the right direction with their six hour work days, which helps employees to quit the BS and focus on the things that move the needle forward.

Location Independence

I understand that this may not apply to all roles but, honestly, as long as you have an internet connection or access to a telephone (which we all now have on our smart phones) then a lot of what we do in the office can happen from anywhere in the world.

The truth is that most people would be happier with the option to work from home more often. The stress of delays on public transport, preparing lunch, worrying about whether your suit is dry-cleaned are all huge time drainers for people who are already working ridiculously long hours. Letting people work from home when they feel like it is not only going to improve performance on the job but is also a huge statement that says I trust you and believe you can deliver wherever you are.

Employers need to remember that we’re all here to live and experience new things not simply to work every God given hour. Freeing up some time each week by letting someone work remotely could improve family relationships, friendships and even give them enough time to cook a decent meal rather than another microwave dinner. All of these things can have a huge impact on our energy levels and wellbeing, which leads me to my final point…

Prioritise Health & Well-Being

You only have to sit on the London Underground in the morning to see that most people are slowly dying from the inside, slurping on energy drinks and occupying their mind with Candy Crush to delay the reality of another day at the office.

Obesity, chronic fatigue, sleep deprivation and mental health issues are all on the rise and are all symptoms of our working culture that neglects human needs and motivations.

Companies thrive when their people are thriving. It’s impossible for employees to love what they do and perform at their best unless they love and respect themselves which means having the time to care about their health and wellbeing.

The competitive edge for companies of the future will be the vitality and emotional intelligence of their employees. If that means installing in-house gyms, conducting walking meetings or buying everyone a gratitude journal, then so be it!

Fortunately, working for yourself or starting your own business means you can eventually build all of these perks into your working life so until companies can incorporate these into their employment plans I think it will become more difficult for companies to attract millennial talent.

Yes, there are still some advantages to traditional employment such a predictable income and the ability to focus primarily on your strengths but money itself is no longer enough, our scarcity mentality is slowing melting in the abundance of opportunity available online and our growing consciousness that work and survival does not have to come at the expense of our life.

About the Author
Cem Yildiz is a freelance video producer and podcaster. His podcast Powerful Nonsense aims to future-proof millennials through entrepreneurship and sits in the top #100 of iTunes Career section UK.

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