Why Generation Y will start a revolution
How do you manage Generation Y, who demands continuous development opportunities and learning? Generation Y (born between 1985 and 2000), is characterized by a random Manager as being: stubborn, lazy, difficult to retain, sharp-tongued, always negotiating, confident of themselves, impatient, rude, always busy to get to the next party or the next job. Things that do not always fit with older generations’ view of working.
I will tell you why generation Y is so amazing and even indispensable for any company that finds itself new-fashioned. Employers who have generation Y in-house are sitting on a goldmine of innovation potential. Generation Y is the best thing that ever happened to any company, or they should be. They can start a revolution today, unleash all creative powers and rethink the future of your company. For I know that my generation can do that. We can multitask, process uncountable streams of information at the same time, we are tech savvy, self-confident, and we are true to ourselves. We care about the environment and about the future of our organization for we know that we are the generation that will need to save companies from their fatal destiny.
Every generation that enters a company is unique; and over time it will have a very distinct impact on the organization. It will help the organization evolve. Babyboomers (1940 – 1955), the ones that build up our countries after the Second World War were the healthiest, and wealthiest generation to that time, and amongst the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time. They were idealists. But they did not have a long-term agenda. In most organizations they are the ones still in power. As a generation they long for money, status and power. They believe striving for money equals more wealth. Not only for themselves, but also for others. Though this might have worked in the past decades it is no sustainable measure for development in the future any more. Generation X (1955 – 1970) entered the workforce in the 80s, when employment rates were low. Since then, they have always been looking to develop themselves to be optimally employable. They are modest and down to earth; they have a strong tendency to bridge differences in a constructive way, and are process and quality oriented professionals. The Pragmatic generation (1970 – 1985) grew up in the nineties and had a prosperous start of their career. They are driven knowledge workers and networkers focused on fast learning in work to create fast concrete results. They are open and informal, and seek pleasure in work. They are perfectionists that strive for the optimal result in all fields in which they occupy themselves. Sometimes this leads to stress and fatigue, burnout is an often seen phenomenon in this generation and radical career switches are frequently the outcome.
Generation Y is the most recent generation working in organizations. Marc Prensky, a prominent researcher on generation Y, found out in his studies that the brain of generation Y works differently; they are wired differently. They have developed a different brain structure, which processes and uses information in a way that is radically different from previous generations. It makes them better multitaskers. They also prefer thinking in images and associations rather than in plain text. Ever realized that Y’s always put in much more images in PowerPoint presentations than their superiors would do? There are other things that make this generation hard to grasp for other generations. They want different things from life. They want a flexible and favourable work-life balance. Their friends, sport-mates and family are truly important to them. They are ambitious, but work is just one of the things that makes their clock tick. They have different expectations from work. They want constant feedback. They want to develop themselves by being challenged. They learn by doing. They are self-confident. They want to customize; from their Adidas or Nike shoes to their job description. They find it hard to understand that not everything can be customized according to their liking. They want things to be on their terms, and why not? Technology is ready for mass-customization. Why not make everybody 100 % happy instead of only a few. They want to scrutinize; to know exactly how and why. They see straight through their boss when he or she is holding something back. They live for the truth and demand transparency. When they are being fooled or treated as a kid: they’ll strike back. They want to have fun at work. They want to like their jobs. Companies of whom the employees are likely to call each other friends perform much better. Hierarchy and power distances are passé. Generation Y want to tap their boss on the back and joke around with him when he does not understand the newest iPhone application he just downloaded. Corporate politics and ways of working might seem like a game to them in the beginning, but when their career-moves start depending on it, this kind of game is hardly appreciated any longer. They get frustrated and demand transparency. Otherwise they’ll start their own company, just like 70 % of American high school kids are thinking about these days. That’s just more fun. Generation Y is a generation of networkers and collaborators. They share knowledge, give rather than take and know that they cannot do it all by themselves.
Imagine a company with a workforce like that: all engaged and committed to tap into all resources available. Eager to learn, happy and fun to work with, honest about what they are doubting about and not afraid to suggest necessary changes. It’s a generation that is not afraid to make mistakes and wants to get tapped on the fingers in a friendly way. That’s how they learn. Furthermore, they are believers. Organizations can be their religion, their sense of community. Every new generation in an organization brings innovation, so that the company can start to respond more effectively to the challenges that large multinationals are facing. Especially in this environment in which our planet is in desperate need for a new and sustainable balance this is truly needed.
Generation Y are the ones that have the creativity and the energy to break rules, to create new systems and business models.
Many people sense the generational differences but are unable to identify the generational patterns existing in their company. This makes it impossible for them to support these natural evolutionary processes of cultural change. New generations seem to be one of the most important powers of social innovation. The optimal use of this function of generations is to integrate new behavior of the youngest generation directly into daily working life and into projects.