Headmaster Douglas Robb reignited a perennial debate last week about millennials in a blog entitled Develop grit, and a more grateful attitude to work.
Radio 4’s Today programme picked up the story. Robb told listeners he recently interviewed a young teacher for a job at his prestigious Norfolk boarding school. The interview was going well – the candidate was bright and articulate. At the end of the interview, in customary fashion, Robb asked the applicant if he had any questions. “I was expecting him to ask how he could get stuck in a
nd get the most from the opportunity. Instead, the candidate asked: ‘Why should I come to work for you?’ My response was, ‘You won’t be!’ ”
Robb’s believes some youngsters approach job interviews in the same way they might buy a luxury holiday. They are unrealistic about their own abilities. They overestimate their worth and underestimate the sheer hard work, commitment, passion and determination it takes to climb a career ladder one rung at a time.
I have some sympathy for Robb. There have been many occasions when a young employee has openly challenged the way I run the company. They are not inhibited by my seniority or chastened by their lack of experience. They have an opinion to impart, which they believe is valid and worthy of consideration.
Admittedly, I sometimes bite my tongue. It would be all too easy to shut down these exchanges – How dare you have the audacity to question three decades of hard won experience! But that wouldn’t benefit anyone.
As the decades pass, I need reminding not to slip into complacency or a feeling of omnipotence. We all need reminding that society moves forward thanks to the fearless, the overly idealistic and yes, even the naively confident.
AB’s founder, Anthony Buckley (yes, that’s where we get our name) left his job in print publishing to set up the UK’s first agency dedicated to employee communications. The year was 1964. This was 26 years before William Kahn
coined the term ‘employee engagement’. It was long before internal communications became recognised as a discrete profession and business function. When your company is founded on a bold, audacious idea, you cannot help but encourage more of them.
There are testing times facing future generations. The world needs a movement of youngsters unafraid to question and demand better.