Dealing with millennials

Captain Pradeep Chawla, managing director of QHSE and training at Anglo-Eastern Ship Management, discusses the characteristics and preferences of the millennials and how an organisation should adapt in order to motivate and retain this latest generation to join the workforce.


If you had to google this, you are certainly not a millennial.

“Boomer” obviously refers to the baby boomers or persons born between 1946 – 1964. The range is not fixed by any law but is generally accepted in the holy book of our times, Wikipedia.

“Ok-Boomer” is the dismissive jab by the younger generation at the older generation, who, in their wisdom, are out of touch with their generation.

Millennials (Gen Y) are generally considered to be born between 1981 – 1996. The ones born after that are called “Gen Z.”

This feuding of generation is not anything new. “Kids these days” is a timeless evergreen sentence.

As far back as 750BC, Homer in Iliad wrote, “And so with men, as one generation comes to life, another dies.”

The characteristics and behaviors of each generation are shaped by events in their formative years.

The Boomers were growing up after World War II, and witnessed revolutions/wars all over the world.

India had just won its independence in 1947 and China had its revolution in 1949. The Koreans fought a war until 1953, and the Vietnam war between 1950-1975, defined the thoughts of many youngsters at that time. The civil rights movement started in the 1960s. Gender and Race diversity were recognized as major issues.

This led to the “Boomer” being frugal, hardworking, stoic, and focused on creating wealth. They settled into a life of education, employment, and retirement. They valued obedience, punctuality, toughness, and innovation.

Millennials grew up in an era of stability and benefited from the technology created by the Boomers. The Internet created a knowledge era.

Google was launched in 1998, LinkedIn started in 2002, Facebook in 2004, YouTube in 2005, and Twitter in 2006. iPhone was launched in 2007, WhatsApp in 2009, Wechat in 2011, and Instagram in 2012.

The Millennials grew up playing with technology; Knowledge and entertaintment were in their phones and laptops at all times.

Facebook created the dopamine-releasing “Likes”. SMS and WhatsApp created a generation that considers making an unscheduled phone call as rude, while it did allow the millennials to collaborate in getting help for the homework.

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs proved that you did not need to wear ties in order to become rich. Facebook and Google offices further inspired the “casual is cool” concept.

The millennial got their iPhone at age 13 — not as a prize for doing well in school. Mom wanted to stay in touch.

That is the way millennials are, and they now form a significant portion of the workforce.

We keep improving our ships, carefully listening to our passengers and customers.

Similarly, it is time to listen to the millennials and redesign our jobs if we want to motivate and retain the millennials. They form nearly 50 % of the workforce, especially at sea, in most companies.

Here are some of my thoughts:


Internet is a “ birthright” for the millennials. Not just basic connectivity at 2 Mbps. They would like to get genuine broadband / 5G services. Hopefully, SpaceX, Amazon, and One web will also think of the seafarers when they finish launching their satellites.

Flexible Hours

Millennials do not like waking up too early. Jobs will need to take into consideration flexible hours or allow teams to have autonomy to decide their schedules.

Casual atmosphere

Millennials like their workplace to be a “fun” place. They prefer open “Collaboration areas” instead of meeting rooms. Working on the roof garden and having walls painted in different colors, with beanbags and slumber couches, appeal to them.


Out of the 2 billion millennials, 87 million are on LinkedIn and use other platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. So visiting Luneta park in Manila or the Seaman’s Club in Rotterdam may not be effective anymore. Companies need to re-think how to attract and recruit young talent.


Millennials like new experiences. They do not believe that they will work for the same company for forty years. They may need to be rotated in different jobs / areas of responsibility, to retain them within the company.

Titles and Promotions

40% believe that they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance (Time magazine, May 2013). HR departments will have to be innovative with titles and definition of career paths. Millenials are used to instant gratification and getting validation/feedback instantly(Likes). An annual appraisal will not work too well and perhaps only a 360 degree feedback will satisfy them and prevent them from saying “That’s not fair”.


Millennials are environmentally responsible. GenZ is genuinely worried about our planet and the lack of action by the Boomers. Companies must share their concerns and genuinely take actions to support environmentally responsible behaviours. Companies will need to go beyond minimum regulatory compliance.

Education and Training

Millennials prefer learning through audio visual rather than books as they are brought up watching ‘You Tube’ kind of platforms. Teachers will need to adopt new ways to teaching like Virtual Reality, Gaming etc. If the information is not available in a digital format and is not captivating, it will be difficult to transfer the knowledge to them.

Management Styles

Millennials do not like to “obey.” They do not like being told, “Do it because I am telling you to “. They like to be explained “Why”. Managers will need to adapt a more participative management style of governance. Leaders will need to be “ Visible” and “ Connected”.

Millennials like to be “involved” and “included” and even have an acronym for their behavior.

FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out.

Gender Diversity

Millennials generally believe in gender diversity. You would ask for “OK Boomer” if you believe that there are only 2 genders. ‘Teen talk’ website lists at least 8 genders.

Race Equality

1960’s were defined by Martin Luther King and civil marches. Millennials are becoming “world citizens”, as globalization expands. Large cities are a melting pot of civilizations.

Beware if your company does not give equal opportunities.

Meaningful work

Millennials want to have an impact on the world. Their work needs to be satisfying and all their ‘Why’ questions have to be answered. Work must be explained and they should be convinced that the work they are doing is important to the company and society. You will find them eagerly volunteering for corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability projects.

Value their ideas

Millennnials want to feel that their worth in the company is being valued. Make it a habit to ask for their ideas, thoughts and opinions and use them to the extent possible.


Millennials find technology exciting. Companies will need to keep pace with technological innovation and invest in them to prevent employees from going to “cooler” competition.

Data and Analytics

Millennials are obsessed with numbers and analytics. They track everything from their ‘steps’, ‘Likes’ to ‘Sleep quality’. They read whatever is ‘Trending’ and want to eat in restaurants that are ‘Happening’.

They believe that numbers are ‘hard facts’. The marketing experts in the world are of course using that and charge extra for making the information appear on page 1 of Google.

Why not use data for attracting, retaining talent and in improving safety?

Shared parenthood

If you think bringing up kids, and PTA meetings are only for mothers, then, “OK-Boomer”! Millennials believe in being equal partners in their relationships. HR policies will need to be mindful of this change in society.

Human behavioir is changing rapidly and companies that do not adopt will not attract the best talent.

If all the above seems daunting, wait until the Gen Z takes over!



Splash is Asia Shipping Media’s flagship title offering timely, informed and global news from the maritime industry 24/7.


  1. Our brand new world is like a company: The first generation build it up against all resistances, the second govern it and the third generation tears everything down again until everything is at the point where it all started…

  2. Ok boomer

    A boomer telling what millennials are and what they want.

    Shows how out of touch boomers have become.

  3. “40% believe that they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance (Time magazine, May 2013). HR departments will have to be innovative with titles and definition of career paths. Millennials are used to instant gratification and getting validation/feedback instantly(Likes). An annual appraisal will not work too well and perhaps only a 360 degree feedback will satisfy them and prevent them from saying “That’s not fair”. ” – Where is the dislike button ? Seriously , this is why so many of us don’t want millennials in our teams, unless they have had some real world/real life experience first.

  4. So these x y generation guys want to question everything, do their own thing, spend time on their computers, believe in 8 genders, take no responsibility, live in an electronic virtual world, think money fr less work etc etc. They need to know that at sea EXPERIENCE is everything & u tubes etc etc will teach them nothing. Work at sea is a tough job – u got to use yr hands and brains. That is why the marine industry is in a mess. It has lost its soul !!!!
    Remember when the going gets tough , the tough get going !!!!

  5. Here ya go. A confession. I started reading this and thought to myself, “what’s this BS?”

    But then, I learned quite a lot. Much of what you say has rung true to me in my own experiences working with a ‘younger generation’ of people as I mentor them along in the industry.

    Great write up! I’m going to save this on my desk top as a reminder. Thanks for sharing and thanks to @Slpash24/7 for the share!

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