Are Your Managers Ready for Generation Y Employees?

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Are Your Managers Ready for Generation Y Employees?

Generation Y or the “Internet Generation” will dramatically change every aspect of your business in the next five years!

Change will be constant, rapid and revolutionary. Do you want proof?

First, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is putting all of its 1,500 courses online. MIT believes that the “spread of knowledge and information can open new doors to the powerful benefits of education for humanity around the world.” This means that students, educators and self-learners can check these courses whenever and wherever they want.

Second, Bob Lutz, General Motors Vice Chairman, has a blog to communicate directly with his customers. It is an invaluable way to get important information to the market. It is also a vehicle for timely and accurate feedback. Other GM executives set up blogs to directly talk to and get information from their employees. By comparison, Microsoft has more than 1,500 blogs for customers and employees.

Third, YouTube is an Internet overnight success story. It allows people to upload and share videos over the internet. To date, they have 100 million videos on their site and receive another 65,000 per day. The company was founded in February 2005, and was never profitable. Nevertheless, Google understood the potential of its technology and bought the company nineteen months later for $1.65 billion.

While Gen X employees understand the Internet, multitasking, and instant communication, Generation Y members excel at using these three tools, and they want use them to transform business. They will challenge every aspect of the workplace.

What do the different generational employee managers look like?

Bover: The boss is not always right, but the boss is always the boss. I will put in long hours to get ahead. If necessary, I do so at the expense of my family.

Generation X: The boss isn’t always right, but I won’t be here long. I saw my parents’ jobs being downsized or outsourced so I don’t have the same loyalty to a company that they did. I am not married to the business; I value my life outside of work.

Generation Y: The boss is not always right, but are they open to new ways of doing business? Events like 9/11 and the Columbine High School shooting have taught us that life can be fleeting. The Internet has exposed us to new ways of approaching life and work. I want flexibility, to be valued for my ideas and my work and I want to volunteer.

They are called generation Y, as in “why” because they constantly question the status quo. They are almost as large as the Boomer generation and are more than 65% larger than the Generation X group. In the next twenty-five years, 80 million Boomers will retire. As the Boomers retire, the Gen X employees will become the Gen Y managers. However, due to their sheer size, Generation Y will be the overwhelming influence in the workplace for the next fifty years.

Generation Y fully embraces technology. Today’s twenty-year-old college graduate was only five years old when the Internet was developed in 1992. They have always had the world literally at their fingertips. They grew up with instant messaging, texting, cell phones, iPods, PDAs, MySpace, YouTube, multitasking, and blogging. They think, and act, in terms of direct communication. While Gen X employees understood and used these vehicles, Generation Y is completely immersed in them.

Baby Boomers changed the culture about civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights. Their world was shaped by the Cold War. The members of Generation Y were born after the Civil Rights Act was passed (1964), the gay rights movement began (1969), the first woman sat on the United States Supreme Court (1975), and the Berlin Wall came down (1990). The struggles that many of us remember are accepted facts in their world. Generation Y individuals embrace diversity as an accepted norm and until recently knew nothing about war. Her world has always included diversity.

Each of us has memories of some recent tragic events: the Oklahoma bombings, the Columbine High School shootings, the World Trade Center bombings, and three wars—Iraq, Afghanistan, and the War on Terror. If you were a thirteen to fifteen year old, how would these events shape your thoughts about the future? In a practical way, these Generation Y’s remain optimistic.

Generation Y members are group-oriented, self-confident, goal-oriented and citizen-minded. They have a more worldly view than Generation X’ers. These new employees have been restrained by their parents. As children, they received trophies for simply participating in a team. Parents told that they were special and able to do anything. Their non-school activities were planned (eg karate, soccer, etc.), and their parents weren’t afraid to call a teacher, coach, or Boy Scout leader if they didn’t think their child was being treated fairly.

Generation Y children have been raised with instant communication, unrealistic feedback and quick decision making as the norm. They believe they have the world in the palm of their hand. And, with their knowledge of today’s technology, they do.

So what can managers do to prepare for Generation Y employees? Generation Y employees want to be heard and valued by their company when they start working with your company. They place a high value on family and flexibility and will volunteer their time to causes they find important. They are fearless and not intimidated by titles or business organization cards.

They love variety and are not afraid of change. If they think they have a good suggestion, they will take ownership of the idea. And they won’t be afraid to take the idea up the corporate ladder to be heard.

Successful companies must find ways to harness the talents of the new employee, integrate them into the company and turn ideas into a competitive advantage. Progressive companies understand that learning is a two-way street. Generation Y employees will revolutionize internal and external communications. Companies have a lot to teach the Gen Ys, but they also have a lot to learn from them. That will be difficult in rigid, highly structured companies.

Jack Welsh, former CEO of General Electric, stated that “…ebusiness knowledge is usually inversely proportional to age and rank.” Hiring, challenging and retaining good employees have always been the hallmark of successful companies.

Successful companies today must develop a culture of learning, sharing and embracing change. They will use two-way mentoring, blogging, new training platforms, and new ways to hire and promote people.

Training Generation Y employees will change. Boring, all-day seminars will become less frequent. Generation Y employees will text their friends during those seminars. They need the information in the seminar, but companies will have the training available on different platforms and in smaller “bite-sized” parts. These training modules will be downloadable to an employee’s Blackberry, iPod or computer. The employee will watch the sessions at home, or on a plane or listen to them while driving to an appointment.

This is an exciting and dynamic time for business! Change will be constant, rapid and revolutionary.

Generation Y employees will change how we look at hiring, turnover, mentoring, performance reviews, employee orientation, retention issues, and how we communicate with our employees and customers. Are your managers ready for this new employee?

Questions for discussion:

  1. A new employee takes about six months to “learn the ropes,” and they will likely leave the company within four years. How will your managers take full advantage of the creative energy of the Generation Y employee?
  1. What systems within your company need to be tested to take advantage of these upcoming changes?
  1. How can you dramatically change the way you communicate with your customers and your employees?

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