Young Millennial Seafarers?? Are we really talking about that bunch of lazy, entitled, purposeless youngsters who just want free food, bean bags and a lot of money?
Do we need to talk about them?
Yes, we are!! and Yes, we do!!
Who are these Millennials?
The term millennials refer to the group of people born between 1981 and 1996. In this and my subsequent blogs, we shall broadly talk about the young millennial generation, in their twenties or early thirties, who account for a significant chunk of seafarers across the world. They are often characterized by all the adjectives I used in the first paragraph!
Here’s the kicker. Millennials are all around you now! In 2021, like it or not, they are running companies, handling key positions and taking decisions. What’s more, they are growing; followed by the Gen-Y kids – another group of equally “lazy, entitled and all of the above” generations who will take over from them soon enough.
So if that is the case, it is useless to whine about their incompetencies! The ‘all of them are useless’ blanket approach will not work for very long. Let us delve a little deeper into their minds and find out what’s in there!
As a master mariner, I have always been fascinated by how the young mind works. In my twenty-plus years of experience working with the millennial generation from all over the world, I have discovered some fantastic idiosyncrasies, some great possibilities in them which, if correctly tapped, would work wonders! Life in the workplace, especially at sea, will become much simpler and stress-free if we can unleash their true potential.
That knowledge also led us to create something useful and engaging for the young millennial seafarers. Unfortunately, however, most procedures and systems we have in this industry are not designed to unleash those possibilities.
How to decode the Millennial Mariner
You may have wondered at least one of these things at some point:
These young millennial seafarers do not seem to be interested in anything!
We have excellent procedures; how do we get them to follow?
We are spending so much on training; how do we develop an interest in them?
How do we stop unfortunate incidents like suicide and alcohol abuse?
In our quest to create a system of Maritime Training that truly engages them, we tried to answer these questions and many others. This and my subsequent blogs will be based on extensive studies from all over the world on various aspects which govern the young mind, coupled with my personal experience and interpretation while dealing with them. Whichever generation you belong to, as we go along, I know you will be able to relate to the concepts discussed here in many ways.
But my primary purpose is not to tell you how to teach the young millennials their jobs! In fact, please check your efforts in teaching them! Not every method you use is working!
My purpose is to create an awareness of how they think.
If we truly understand the young generation, our approaches towards their upliftment will change. The tools we use will change, and they will be better, competent and happier professionals just as a consequence! Here, we will try and get behind their minds, see how they think, what drives them, what motivates them, what their principles are and how to work towards achieving the best for them and your organization.
If you are working with a millennial, it is not time to teach; it is time to learn.
Problem or opportunity?
I was a freshly promoted Chief officer on an oil tanker.
I found that there were some awesome people I was working with! And then there were those who sucked. Worse yet, the ‘awesome’ category started realizing that they were awesome! And then? They became over smart, so they sucked harder!
Take the example of this one cadet I had. He was very good at his job; better than many of my deckhands at the time. I could trust him with serious hands-on jobs, and he would do it better than many others! We all encouraged him, hoping to keep him motivated. I was happy; for a few days anyway.
He started slowly feeling indispensable. He was behaving rudely with his coworkers, even those senior to him. One day he spoke back to me, undermining my authority.
This story does not have a sad ending. But we will put a pin in it for now. Think.
What would you do with a person like that?
Would you tolerate his behaviour because he is so valuable to you? If you do, is he going to respect you for that and grow in his job?
I did not react at the time. Sometime later, I called him and told him not to come for work until I tell him to. He would get paid, as usual, he just did not have to work.
For two days he enjoyed the freedom.
He then started losing respect with everyone, respect which he had gained for being good in his job! Even his less intelligent colleagues began making fun of him. His importance was being overridden. He was losing ground in the only place he thought he was good at, the only job he knew! It created a strange drive in him. He came back, begging me to allow his work on deck. That’s when I explained to him that no one is indispensable. If he did not know how to be humble and foolish at times, his learning curve stops there.
After that, he was a changed man. Still efficient, but serious, curious and humble; never again over-smart!
To be honest, this might not have worked on everyone. But it did, this time. I know this incident taught him something, but it taught me, a young manager at the time, a few valuable lessons as well!
One, people working for you or with you are often young, hot-headed, just like you and I were at one point in time. If you show them you are the bigger person here, even when you are angry, if you can challenge the anger inside you at the time, and channelize it to create something useful, you earn the genuine respect of your team. And two, it showed me the Millennial generation and what drives them!
For a number of years, we have designed maritime training methods and systems suited to the minds of this generation. For that, we have done extensive research and what I have to say will not be conveyed over one blog post.
However, ask yourself a simple question.
You must have worked with hundreds of young millennial seafarers. How many of them do you know personally? Would you agree that in a number of ways, their mindset is different from the generation before them? Do you honestly believe that we can design maritime training methods and systems at sea without understanding the mindset of the biggest workforce in today’s maritime world: these young millennials seafarers?
Leave your comments below. It will be exciting to engage with you.