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. Want proof?
First, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is putting all of their 1,500 courses on the Internet. MIT believes that the “dissemination of knowledge and information can open new doors to the powerful benefits of education for humanity around the world.” That means students, educators and self-learners will be able to audit these courses when and where 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 out to the market. It is also a vehicle for timely and accurate feedback. Other GM executives are setting up blogs to talk directly to and get information from their employees. By comparison, Microsoft has over 1,500 customer and employee blogs.
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. Yet, Google understood the potential of their technology and purchased the company nineteen months later for $1.65 billion.
While Gen X employees understand Internet, multitasking and instant communications, Generation Y members excels at use of these three tools, and they will use them to transform business. They will challenge every aspect of the workplace.
How do the different generational employees look managers?
Boomers: 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 will do so at the expense of my family.
Generation X: The boss is not always right, but I’m not going to be here very long. I watched my parent’s jobs be downsized or outsourced so I don’t have the same loyalty to a company they did. I’m not married to the company; I value my life outside of work.
Generation Y: The boss is not always right, but are they open to new ways to do business? Events like 9/11 and the Columbine High School shooting have taught us that life can be fleeting. The Internet as exposed us to new ways of approaching life and work. I want to flexibility, to be valued for my ideas and my work and I want time off to volunteer.
They are called Generation Y, as in “why,” because they are constantly questioning the status quo. They are almost as large as the Boomer generation and are over 65% larger than the Generation X group. In the next twenty-five years 80 million Boomers will be retiring. As the Boomers retire, the Gen X employees will become the Gen Y’s managers. However, because of 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 literally had the world at their finger tips. They grew up with instant messaging, text messaging, cell phones, iPods, PDAs, MySpace, YouTube, multitasking and blogging. They think, and act, in terms of instant communications. While Gen X employees understood and used these vehicles, Generation Y is totally immersed in them.
Baby Boomers changed the culture on civil rights, woman’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 started (1969), the first woman sat on the U.S. Supreme Court (1975), and the Berlin Wall came down (1990). The struggles 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. Their world has always included diversity.
Each of us has memories of some recent tragic events: the Oklahoma bombing, the Columbine High school shootings, the World Trade Center bombing, 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, confident, goal-oriented and civic-minded. They have a more worldly view than Generation X’ers. These new employees have been coddled by their parents. As children they received trophies for simply participating on a team. Parents told them were special and capable of doing anything. Their non-school activities were scheduled (e.g., karate, soccer, etc.), and their parents were not afraid to call a teacher, coach or Boy Scout leader if they did not think their child was being treated fairly.
Generation Y kids have been raised with instant communication, unrealistic feedback and rapid 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 your managers do to get ready for Generation Y employees? Generation Y employees want to be heard and valued by their company when they start with your company. They place a high value on family and flexibility and will volunteer their time to causes they feel are important. They are fearless and not intimidated by titles or corporate organizational charts.
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 will not be afraid to take the idea up the corporate ladder to be heard.
Successful companies must find ways to harness the new employee’s talents, 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 Y’s, but they have a lot to learn from them also. 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 employ two-way mentoring, blogging, new training platforms, and new ways of hiring and promoting people.
Training Generation Y employees will change. Boring, all-day seminars will become less frequent. Generation Y employees will text message their friends during those seminars. They need the information in the seminar, but companies will have the training available in different platforms and in smaller “bite-sized” portions. These training modules will be downloadable to an employees’ Blackberry, iPod or computer. The employee will view the sessions at home, or on a plane or listen to them in the car 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:
- A new employee takes approximately six months to “learn the ropes,” and they will probably leave the company within four years. How will your managers take full advantage of the Generation Y employee’s creative energies?
- What systems within your company need to be reviewed to take advantage of these upcoming changes?
- How can you dramatically change the way you communicate with your customers and your employees?