Millennials & the New Economy: Is Michael Bloomberg Right?

“If you have a Millennial come in here with four jobs in six years, I have no idea why anyone gives them a fifth job."

I’ve got some questions for you, Michael Bloomberg.

If the essence of innovation is to create something that you could never have imagined, how can you be so certain that the current change in employment behaviour in young people is not a generational consequence of ongoing innovation?

In today’s fascinating Hello Tomorrow keynote discussion between yourself and Emmanuel Macron (Former French Minister of Economy), I was surprised to hear your generalised dismissal of the employment history of many ‘Millennials’ - especially to an audience widely composed of people who could plausibly be described by the stereotypes you are promoting.

Michael Bloomberg and Emmanuel Macron talking Innovation and the New Economy at this year's Hello Tomorrow conference in Paris.

Michael Bloomberg and Emmanuel Macron talking Innovation and the New Economy at this year's Hello Tomorrow conference in Paris.

We are the first wave of young people who have been educated to believe in the primacy of innovation (perhaps, admittedly, at the expense of everything else), and that it is up to us to promote new ideas and take risks in the pursuit of change.

Perhaps our approach is not perfect, and perhaps our risk-taking will result in failure. However, I believe that the employment trend of which you were so dismissive is, in fact, an example of an unexpected consequence of educating new generations to think differently, in the context of an employment environment which is thinking in the same way.

As Emmanuel discussed, modern innovators have a responsibility to support necessary social and political changes alongside technological development. By training Millennials to expect more in such a rapidly changing business society as ours, and to do something about it if the results do not meet their expectations, we’re seeing a perfect storm of social consequences playing out in employment.

When you define employment as a social contract between employer and employee, why should all of the responsibility to maintain a productive working relationship lie with the employee?

I absolutely agree with you that employees should feel a degree of moral responsibility to stay with a company through difficult times in order to support and steady the ship to the full extent of their abilities. But if an employer is not offering an acceptable level of learning and development, a wide range of experience and facilitating the process of gaining the skills and capabilities for future success, why should we not be holding employers accountable by requesting more, and then if they refuse or are unable to change their product, moving away?

I think that to an extent, the high employment turnover in young people today is a statement that Millennials are not satisfied with the terms of the social contract you describe. Yes, we are perhaps overzealous in our current approach. Many of us may not be successful as a result of changing jobs too regularly, as you suggest. But can you really believe that future generations also educated to drive change will really accept a crossover back to just accepting a social contract with terms that are not aligned to our values? Future innovators will see us fail, and will only attempt to innovate in a different way. 

If attracting and caring for your team is a key role of any executive, should your current team members and future employees not be subject to the same thought process as your customers - should you not be hearing them out too, and then building what they will need down the road? Changing employment behaviours are a significant enough issue for them to come up in a keynote discussion about the future of economy, so why should they be dismissed as young people just not knowing any better?

We work hard, we pay attention. We do everything we can to be there when the opportunities present themselves which, as you say, is 90% of the battle. We want to come in with the idea of long-term learning that you describe, and find an organisation which is so aligned with our values that we would commit years of our lives to it.  So many people changing jobs regularly perhaps illustrates that there is something missing here in developing mutually satisfying relationships between employers and employees.

If you don’t agree with the mechanism by which a whole generation is trying to innovate, is this not the point at which we need your experience, guidance and leadership the most, instead of blanket criticism in public forums?

Respectfully,

Rachel Cruickshank

 

Rachel Cruickshank is a 27 year old Scientific Project & Events Manager and Entrepreneur. Founder of Barcelona Fun Science, Rachel believes in creating innovative pathways to connect non-scientific adults with scientific content and current research, and building confidence in society to ask questions, challenge scientific ideas and explore grown-up curiosity.

rach.cruickshank@gmail.com
@rl_cruickshank