There has been an awful lot of debate lately about Generation Y as if they are an alien species, recently landed from another planet or a group of homogenous clones out to disrupt and destroy the old order and lay waste organisations and institutions.
Who are these so-called Generation Ys?
They are the group of people under 30 years old who have grown up in a very different environment to previous generations. Because of this, they generally come to the workplace with different skills, are motivated by different things, think differently about learning and development and approach work relationships differently. They have also been described as
Millenials: Year 2000 reference
Gen Why? Because they question everything
Internet Generation: Few, if any, remember life before web sites or mobiles
Gen Next: Future focused
MyPod Generation: Besides the digital music reference, they expect mass customization
Baby Boomlets: Most are the offspring of the Baby Boomer generation
Echo Boomers: Same as above, with additional reference to wide impact of Generation Ys on society
Boomerang Generation: Many are returning home after University, still trying to find their way
Generation Now: The impatient generation
Generation Waking Up: Raising the bar on global sustainability and change
They are often written about negatively, being described as disenfranchised, antisocial, technophiles, the ‘selfie’ generation with few people skills and poor work ethic.
“The graduates are very skilled in technology, but lacking in tact and diplomacy”. UK Manager
But is this true and is it fair?
To answer this let’s look at some of the ‘characteristics’ or ‘myths’ written about Generation Y and how true they probably are.
Myth No. 1: Generation Y is lazy
Although they place a high value on family, friends and work life balance, they also possess a good work ethic and state that being ‘hard working’ is a quality they value. They understand the direct connection between hard work and success.
But Generation Y want their work be meaningful and interesting, which may lead some managers to assume that they want only easy, fun and exciting work. Really what they want is to know why they are doing certain work and how it contributes to an overall goal. They may also question if things can be done better and faster and are not hampered by the mentality of “it has always been done this way”.
Myth No. 2: Generation Y needs instant gratification
They are used to things happening quickly. They have grown up in an super-connected world: Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, You Tube, Blogger, Pinterest, Skype, Flickr, mobile phones, SMS and more. They use e-mail, not “snail mail”. They have information instantly at their fingertips via the Internet and this technology means they are used to getting information quickly and easily. So, the traditional ways of giving feedback in the workplace, say, at 30 day, 90 day and one year appraisal isn’t valid any longer. They need more immediate feedback than this and annual pay rises or bonuses, based upon simply surviving for another year versus making significant contributions, don’t work. They want to be recognized for their contributions, not just time served.
Myth 3: Generation Y is disloyal
They have a reputation for leaving jobs after one or two years.
According to a monsterTRAK® survey, 74 percent of graduates felt that having a “relevant work experience” was the most important part of a job. So, if the work is relevant, they won’t leave their jobs. Generation Y makes workforce leaders face the fact that loyalty is not given; it has to be earned and, although willing to be loyal and work hard, they expect to learn new skills, be part of something worthwhile and be appreciated.
Myth 4: Generation Y is selfish
It does seem that some Generation Y have been convinced by their parents, schools and friends that they are the centre of the universe. But most are not as selfish as they are portrayed. In fact, they generally place a high priority on family and friends. They support and believe in social causes and want their employers to, as well. In a 2006 Solutions 21 survey, 79 percent of full-time Generation Y employees who were interviewed said that they wanted to work for a company that cared about how it affected or contributed to society.
They are also ‘walking the walk’ by volunteering at record rates. Contrary to popular belief, Generation Y’s goal is not to simply earn money but to contribute at work, in the community and in the world at large.
Work / life balance has become more important to all ages and, perhaps very wisely, Generation Ys don’t want to end up as the burnt-out senior managers they see today.
Myth 5: Generation Y is spoiled
In some ways, middle and upper class members of Generation Y were pampered. They had Baby Boomer parents who indulged them and catered to their every want and need, spent more time with them and were more hands-on with them than any prior generation. However, the majority of Generation Ys are not spoiled. They simply have different priorities and view the world in a different way. They grew up knowing they were valued and have high self-esteem.
They tend to put more emphasis on the non-work areas of their lives, such as family and leisure. However, these group members work just as many hours, and in some cases more, than Baby Boomers did at the same age. They are also viewed as spoilt because they are willing to live at home or take money from their parents, which they view as simply accepting help from their families, a logical use of available resources and a way to save money. To them, this isn’t pampered, but prudent and practical.
The problem with these myths
There is a danger of Generation Y being unfairly stereotyped and these opinions being seen as true in your orgnaisation or in the hearts and minds of your employees. The ironic thing is that the very individuals who may resent and criticise Generation Y at work are the very people who brought them up!
Due to the mass retirement of Baby Boomers and the anticipated talent shortage, companies need Generation Ys more than ever before. Organisations need to shed prejudices and negative feelings about them, as they are the workers of the present and, increasingly, the future. So, it is crucial that management sets the tone unequivocally and welcomes Generation Y with open arms.
Organisations need to set a clear policy from the top down, or they can forget about attracting and keeping this new generation of employees.
But putting aside unfounded prejudices with respect to Generation Y does not mean leaving behind good judgment, common sense or standards. Generation Ys in the workplace who lack skills, integrity or meet other requirements should not be mollycoddled. Like any other generation, Generation Y has its flaws. Look beyond the stereotypes to see the talent and potential within Generation Y, but still hold them to the standards set for all employees.
As one Malaysian Manager says:
“Have an open mind about other views and perspectives. At the end of the day it is just about the difference between people. It is not generation. It’s just people”.
We would all do well to remember that. If you would like to explore how you can help your Managers and Graduates work in closer harmony and reap the benefits of better productivity, retention and engagement then contact me and we can chat.