Article 3: Demystifying Generation Y

Think your work colleagues are from another planet? It could be due to the generation gap. ‘Bridging the Generational Gap’ is a five part series which looks at how the different generations behave in the workplace, with particular emphasis on Generation X and Generation Y.

Article 2 in this series took a closer look at Generation X – the group that makes up most of today’s middle management. This article studies the youngest group of talent in the workplace: Generation Y – the generation that also clashes most with Generation X.

Members of Generation Y were born between 1977 and 1995 – they make up today’s graduates and other entry level employees. They are an optimistic, independent, tolerant and technology-loving group. Laptops, cell phones or wi-fi are a natural part of their lives. But show them an old-fashioned rotary dial phone or other product of previous generations and you are likely to get a bemused look!

Gen Y is highly child-centered. Many people see them as lazy but this is because since birth their lives have been scheduled by their parents and caregivers. Their every move has been orchestrated. Thanks to this upbringing they now feel entitled and may delay finishing college and entering the workforce.

Gen Yers want meaningful work and are resigned to constantly changing jobs. They want to be compensated for their talent and output. But money or position is less important than adding to life skills and education. They will leave a well-paid position to take up a new skill or enjoy a better work/life balance. Gen Yers want to create change in the world and they will take on several positions at once to achieve this.

Social media is core to recruitment. To attract Gen Yers you need to engage with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and online search engines. Make sure your posts are straight-forward and honest. This generation doesn’t wait around – they will readily go to the competition or launch a venture on their own. Make up your mind, and communicate your decision quickly.

Consider your lines of communication. Gen Yers are highly tech savy and they are most likely to communicate via email, IM or text. They see phone calls as an invasion of privacy and some candidates may lack face to face communication skills. Make sure emails have a detailed subject line, as this may be the only bit they read.

Remember to reward. After hiring, keep your orientation to the organization short, interactive and fun. Gen Yers crave constant feedback and rewards. Instant gratification is their hallmark. After all, this is the generation that received trophies simply for participating. The empowerment and inclusion they received growing up makes them natural team players. But if they believe they can accomplish the task quicker and more efficiently alone they will do so.

Some accuse Generation Y as lacking work ethic, but as ever, it’s all about knowing what makes them ‘tick’. With proper feedback, recognition and flexibility this brave new group of talent can be a great asset to any organization.

Article 4 in this series will offer more insights on interviewing, hiring and training Generation Y.