Unemployment rates: Millennials won’t be making requests during job interviews anytime soon. Should we celebrate?

 In Future of work, Inspirational speaker, Motivational Speaker, Purpose

Unemployment rates:

Millennials won’t be making requests during job interviews anytime soon. Should we celebrate?

Sébastien Sasseville, Motivational speaker

They called him the General. Robert Wood Johnson was one of the most innovative, forward-thinking, eccentric business leaders of his time. He lived a fascinating life, and he made Johnson & Johnson one of the biggest, most respected companies in the world.

Before discussing twenty-year-olds requesting half days off (with pay) to work on their dreams, and I say that very affectionately, let’s look at one of Johnson’s core beliefs and why it was so innovative.

“… Johnson came up with the bold concept that business had certain responsibilities toward society and that the more a company lived up to those responsibilities the better sales and profits would be.”

Through today’s lens, that is far from inventive. But Johnson came up with it in the mid-1930s, when virtually all of American industry was struggling for survival. At the time, erecting beautiful factories, planting flowers around them, and providing employee benefits and competitive wages were nothing short of revolutionary. Actually, many contemporaneous rich industrialists thought it was downright madness.

By making those investments during the century’s worst economic crisis, Johnson attracted and kept the best talent and was able to create hundreds of innovative, life-altering products. That led to a company currently valued at nearly $400B.

Back to millennials sipping vegan lattes. By the way, you can’t milk an almond, so it’s not almond milk, it’s an almond beverage.

What creates employee engagement today is no different from what created employee engagement a hundred years ago. What creates engagement has nothing to do with the current economy. What creates engagement is the human factor—feeling useful, doing important work, being aligned with company values, having a deep positive impact on the world and authentic leadership. That’s the way it was and always will be.

The difference is that today, we have fancy studies on employee engagement that have underscored and scientifically confirmed what was also true but invisible a hundred years ago. Moreover, until March 2020 we had an economic context that created the lowest unemployment rates in decades, putting millennials—God bless them!—in the power seat. When I was in my twenties, we found a job. Until March 2020, millennials chose a job.

In just three months, everything changed. So, here are my wishes for engaged organizations, teams and individuals during and after this crisis.

Resist the temptation of getting rid of your CCO (Culture Chief Officer). What’s next is inevitable: rising inflation, markets that will be more competitive than ever and environments where you must innovate to survive. More than ever, we will need strong cultures. Culture is the thoughtful and coordinated deployment of mindsets, behaviours and actions aligned with the goals of the organization. Culture, like a plant, needs to be nurtured. Culture creates engagement, and engagement leads to performance.

Create workplaces specifically designed to enable teamwork and its benefits. We are currently experiencing the benefits and inevitable challenges of working from home. I believe that gathering in an office is necessary—but maybe not five days a week.

Some days, you may not want to waste time in traffic and will find more productivity alone in your home office. Others, you will need social interaction, the team effect and group brainstorms. Because they will increasingly be used specifically for these purposes, our workplaces should be designed accordingly. Creating efficient, appealing places to work was one of the main philosophical pillars of the General.

Continue investing in people. Many of you were forced to reinvent your business in days. This will happen again; for better or worse, that’s the way it goes. When it does, we will need people with large toolboxes and new, relevant skills to solve new, bigger challenges. Understand that in today’s economy, expertise, like products, also have an expiration date.

Double down on social responsibility. Millennials challenge us. They are extremely talented—much smarter than we were. They have an intrinsic desire to be impactful and are superb at making things more efficient. Yes, I am declaring my love for them. Let’s give them all the room they need to bloom and create the world they want to live in. In support of that, here are some more wise words from Robert Wood Johnson:

“We build not only structures in which men and women of the future will work, but also the patterns of society in which they will work.”

“We are building not only frameworks of stone and steel, but frameworks of ideas and ideals.”

A crisis helps us see who we really are. Every company has their mission and values proudly displayed in their lobby. Coherence—a powerful word—between what is written on the wall and what truly is lived and consistently embodied in the company is precisely what helps us through crisis.

Let’s also realize that the government stimuli’s packages are money we are borrowing to our kids. In parallel to that, the pace of innovation is now accelerated more than ever in history. Automation, AI and robots will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs. So, the savings and profits generated by new technologies might just be how millennials get reimbursed. So, if it is not too late to add a point in bold, invest in technology.

All the best,

Sébastien Sasseville
Author, Endurance athlete, Change & Leadership Speaker
While you are here, watch my new virtual demo!

The quotations in this article are from G. FOSTER, Robert Wood Johnson, the Gentleman Rebel, First Edition, Lillian Press, 1999.


Sébastien Sasseville empowers leaders to lead with purpose and inspires organizations to embrace change. An endurance athlete, his extraordinary accomplishments — which include summiting Mount Everest, completing the mythical Sahara race, and running across Canada — are made even more impressive by the fact that he lives with Type 1 Diabetes. 

Having held diverse sales roles in several Fortune 500 companies, Sébastien marries his extensive business experience with his inspirational achievements to deliver dynamic messaging on change managementleadership, and resilience.


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