Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Generation Y: A Tethered Generation

Photo Credit: llona1
They are often referred to as Generation Y, Millennials, Echo Boomers or GenNext. However we may label them (by the way, they hate labels), individuals born approximately between 1978 and 1998 are changing how we view the workforce.

As one who was born in the middle of Generation X, I have some understanding of Millennials, but there is much I just don't get. I grew up playing video games and remember the excitement of playing basic games like Pong and then Pitfall on Atari. Many belonging to Gen Y have never seen an original Nintendo game and are used to dropping fifty bucks for a single game and spending hundreds of dollars for a system.

I got my first cell phone at the age of 27. Nowadays, it is not at all uncommon for elementary aged kids to have their own phone. And I may have grown up watching MTV, but at least they used to play music videos back then! I do consider myself fairly Internet and computer savvy, but I didn't own my first computer until I was out of college and got my first e-mail account as a fourth year college student. My kids already knew how to play video games, dial a cell phone and use a computer -- all before starting school.

Since I serve, work alongside of and lead mostly those of Generation Y, I am in a continual learning process about their values, work styles and world views. The Tethered Generation, a great article in the May 2007 of HR Magazine, addresses the realities that young people face today and highlight some of the strengths and drawbacks of how they interact with one another and the world. You can read the whole article here, but I've highlighted the Good News and the Bad News of "The Tethered Generation":

Good News... 
Millennials have a lot of skills and enthusiasm to offer companies. Experts say they are:
  • Techno-savvy. “They’re enormous consumers of information and can locate details about anything within seconds,” says Jeanne Achille, CEO of The Devon Group and mother of two millennials. “We employ millennials to help with research because they can find in-depth data through sources we older employees don’t even know exist.” (The flip side is training millennials to adequately vet the research they find on the Internet.)
  • Adept at global and diversity issues. “Millennials’ world is far more expansive than previous generations’ because, through online social networks, they can reach well beyond the confines of geography and establish relationships with others. They’re ideally positioned to support our global workplaces, and HR people should tap their skills accordingly,” says Achille.
  • Team-oriented. With Millennials, “decisions are made in a team environment,” says futurist Jim Taylor. “They measure themselves by their peers. They will form communal tribes and communicate astonishing amounts.”
  • Multitaskers. “For today’s young people, multitasking is as natural as eating,” says Robert Epstein, visiting scholar at the University of California in San Diego, and West Coast editor of Psychology Today.
Bad News...

According to experts, the millennial generation as a whole lacks the following traits:
  • Discretion. “If you give up your privacy on MySpace about everything from your musical preferences to your sexual hang-ups, it is harder to” understand others’ concern for privacy invasions, says Sherry Turkle, a licensed clinical psychologist and MIT professor. “They get the idea one’s privacy is dispensable.”  Clearly, this lack of confidentiality can have dramatic repercussions in the workplace. “There will be no secrets,” futurist Jim Taylor warns. “A conversation that would normally be judged as a private discussion between a boss and subordinate” will become public.
  • Independence. “Because parents over-scheduled their lives, they don’t know what to do next. They will need more direction” in the workplace, says Jean M. Twenge, associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before (Free Press, 2006).  Claire Raines, author of Generations at Work (AMACOM, 2000), says millennials may look to managers to “take on that ‘mom role’ in some ways. We have to show that we really care about the person, know what their goals are and help them with their career paths,” she says.
  • Realistic expectations. Barbara Dwyer, CEO of The Job Journey, a soft-skills training firm, notes this generation believes they can change the world on the first day of work. “The problem is that they don’t have the track record to support these statements. When they’re told their entire lives how wonderful they are, and then they’re challenged in the business environment, they are crushed,” she says.
  • Patience. “They’re used to instant gratification. They tend to be impatient and want things yesterday. From an HR perspective, the advantage is that, in their impatience, they may become more efficient, but the disadvantage is that they may not have the patience to work through a complex problem,” says Twenge.
  • Work ethic. When asked how the work ethic of today’s young professionals compared to that of previous generations, 49 percent of executives polled by Korn/Ferry indicated that it was worse.  “One problem HR professionals are already facing is many young people entering the workforce have unrealistic expectations about what it means to work,” says Robert Epstein, West Coast editor of Psychology Today. “Many are unwilling to work hard or make personal sacrifices to get ahead.”
  • Soft skills and the basics. “Students’ grammar may suffer from an over-reliance on computer programs that correct language errors, which will perpetuate poor written communication skills. E-mail and instant messaging reduces the opportunity for face-to-face interpersonal interaction. The lack of strong interpersonal skills impacts other soft skills, such as conflict resolution,” says Stephen P. Seaward, director of career development for Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, Conn.
I find these finding amazingly accurate. For those of my age and older that lead and supervise those who are Millennials, we are most likely nodding our heads in agreement when reading these comments. I'm curious... Have you found these things to be true? And what of those of you who are members of Generation Y. Do you feel like the characterization of your generation is fair? I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good article. I do find it to be true for the most part. In our technology age, and knowing that I have been social networking since I was 13 this does put things in perspective. I also know that the way you were raised can help reduce the effects of our instant gratification age but I agree.