In praise of the Gen Y employee

30 07 2011

I should start by declaring that I am not a Gen Y. I am Gen X. So no conflict of interest to declare here!

Recently there has been a lot of traffic regarding the Gen Y employee. They move around a lot, they don’t have the same loyalty that Gen X and particularly Baby Boomers have. How do you motivate them? How do you keep them? How do you manage them? How do you deal with their concept of work-life balance?

In every challenge, there is opportunity. This posting is in praise of the Gen Y employee. Providing you get the right one. (See Harvard Business Review Blog: 3 tips For Hiring New Graduates for hints in this area.)

1. They are IT literate. Not only can they ALL type, they are also a generation brought up understanding the logic behind software programs. Hence they are not only familiar with the range of Microsoft programs, they also pick up other IT programs quickly.

2. They can be outspoken if something is wrong. Unlike those of us who have been in the office for a long time, Gen Y-ers are often not acculturated to the office, and they are confident that their opinions are of value. So if you have a process that makes no sense to them, you will hear about it. And maybe you needed to hear it.

3. Their work-life balance can mean a positive and happy person in the workplace. Which is great for team morale, providing they are also doing their work.

4. They have a low boredom threshold. Must be growing up in the technological age with computer games providing constant stimulation. The low boredom threshold can work in you favour providing it is channelled correctly. This requires both the right attitude from the Gen Y-er, and from the supervisor. If they are coming to you telling you they have finished their work and they are bored – find something new for them to do that will stretch them – a developmental or quality improvement program that no-one else has time to do. They are often keen to try something new, and this may be a great way to keep them interested, encourage them to stay and see what ascertain their potential.

5. They move around a lot. While some see this as a negative, it can also be a positive, providing they are not moving every couple of months. Picking up ideas and processes from other workplaces and other industries is a great way of gaining different perspectives which can be applied to your workplace.

6. They are often less interested in financial compensation compared to other forms of reward which facilitate their lifestyle. Which is possibly a lesson that we should all learn. And in these days of tightening budgets, learning about other ways to reward employees may be of benefit to the organisation at large.

Gen Y is a label for a stereotype and therefore does not apply to every Gen Y-er – any more than the terms Gen X and Baby Boomer apply to every Gen X and Baby Boomer. However Gen Y is the future so we, the other generations, need to know how to work with them for the betterment of us all.



18 07 2011

When I started on Social Media, I was very careful about personal information. I didn’t add my hometown to my Facebook page or to TripAdvisor. I carefully avoided anything geographically identifying, or particularly, identifying of my children. When I left the house or went on holidays I carefully refrained from posting comments or photos until I returned home – in case I was advertising that my house was empty.

I worried about identity theft and carefully googled myself to see what information was out there. (Sidebar – I was somewhat alarmed to find an obituary for myself – then realised it was an 82 year old woman in the US with the same triple barrelled name.)

I marvelled at the difference between my Gen X friends – all as paranoid as me – and my Gen Y friends who put it all out there. My Gen X friends, like me, know everyone on their Facebook Friends list, even if some of them were school friends from 25 years ago. Some of my Gen Y friends have over 2000 friends. How is that even possible?

And then came the “check-in” app. Or as I like to call it, Stalker-App. In case I ever need to know where someone is – they check in. They check in when they are in bed (and then their address is clearly visible on the map, helpfully GPS positioned by Facebook). They check in when they are out – and where. Sometimes they also check in their friends. And yes, it has become a competition to see who can check in from the most exotic places and who has the best social life.

Where privacy is concerned, this seems to have become the great leveller. And the thin edge of the wedge. Suddenly everyone is checking in somewhere. (Perhaps we should be enjoying ourselves wherever we are instead of busily tapping it into our iphone or ipad.) And once you’ve started posting personal information and the world doesn’t end (or at least no-one has stolen your identity or targeted you in some other way), why stop? You get so much more feedback.

Suddenly, my entire career path is up on LinkedIn. Is this a good idea? Who knows?! I was told the other day at a social media conference that people get jobs through LinkedIn. No-one I know, I have to say. I know many people who were checked out by recruiters, looking up information on LinkedIn and Facebook. But I don’t know anyone who actually got head-hunted as a result of their LinkedIn profile. I wonder if this is an across-the-board trend, or is it just for people working in social media?

If I google myself now I can find all sorts of personal information about myself, most of it posted by me. Much of it is from chatting to people I feel like I know. But it is all out there forever.

In an age where we mistrust others, lock ourselves away behind bolted doors and gates, lecture our children on stranger danger – is social media the reaction to the isolation we feel?

How do you feel about the amount of personal information about yourself available on the net? Have you had a job offer from LinkedIn? Tell me about it!