What to do with Gen Y’ers?

18 Apr

Generation Y individuals are also known as Trophy Kids, a term that reflects the recent trend where no one loses and everyone’s a winner. This often leads to a perceived sense of entitlement, as well as difficulty accepting criticism and coming to terms with failure.

These days you hear a lot about the impact Gen Y’ers are having on the workplace, and the challenges the old farts (term of endearment, people) are having adapting to their mindset.

Gen Y’ers demand more responsibility, more feedback, more involvement in decision-making and more flexible work hours to satisfy their need for a better live/work balance.

From my experience at Copeland, I have discovered that Generation Y employees are also scrupulous, hard-working, responsible and eager for challenges. They will be the first to hold management accountable. (Meaning they get on my case pretty fast!)

This excellent article provides tons of insights. My favourite one: “They know you’re the boss. They don’t care.”

Some suggestions on how to motivate the Generation Y’ers to be the problem-solving, team-oriented, over-achieving monsters we love them to be.

> Engage them in bridging the generational gap with other staff.  Since they’re plugged in 24/7 and at ease in online spaces, ask them to assist in bringing everyone else up to their level.

> They want mentorship and see its value, so have some of your older staff mentor them. It helps both to understand the other better.

> They make effective mentors themselves, so ask your Gen Y’ers to represent your company with the local colleges and universities; encourage them to share what they know to the students coming behind them.

> Give frequent and immediate feedback and praise. They got it at home and school and it works for them.

Main thing is not to get worked up about the differences between them and you. Nothing will change the facts. Being a good role model for your own generation will earn their respect and loyalty.

But they’ll still get stuck into you if you mess up.

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10 Responses to “What to do with Gen Y’ers?”

  1. Mario Parise April 18, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    Great post! I’ve seen a lot of commentary about Gen Y (which I’m pretty sure I’m a part of) but most of it was arrogant and not very helpful. Your thoughts, on the other hand, shows balance: sure we have issues with entitlement and needs lots of attention, but some of us are also crazy hard workers who demand more of ourselves than you could ever rightfully ask for.

    I do think the entitlement thing is a problem though. I’m not saying I’m immune to it, but I think there’s a common perception that we deserve stuff just for gracing the work place with our existence. On the one hand, I think our generation feels that age should not be a factor in determining our compensation. (If we produce better than others, we should be compensated better, regardless of tenure or seniority or experience.) But on the other hand, we also seem to dramatically over-value our contributions.

    I’m probably guilty on all counts, but naturally only see it in others. (After all, something like 80% of us think we work harder than our colleagues.)

    Anywho, great post. I love the recommendation on fostering a culture of mentorship. I can’t speak for everyone, but it certainly rings true for me. I love to learn as well as to share what I’ve learned. You definitely hit the nail on the head with that one (at least from my self-entitled and needy Gen Y perspective).

  2. dougbrowncreative April 18, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    Hey Mario, thanks a lot for the insight. I’ve talked to so many employers who just throw their hands up in the air. Like any challenge, you just need some good tactics. We have some exemplary Gen Y’ers at Copeland and on the strength of them, I would say HIRE THEM! Your generation simply makes mine work harder. Which is good, no?

  3. Brett April 18, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    Great post. I think it’s a positive sign to see a non-gen Y’er realize the value we bring to the table. I personally believe gen y’ers are chameleon-esque; probably because we tend to take a “I don’t give a s&@$” mentality. Our feeling of entitlement aside, we move quick and process ideas quicker than any other generation. It’s a gift & a curse, but can be taken as egotistical.

    We’re a great bunch and again, great post.

  4. Raju April 19, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    It’s nice to hear this from an employer’s perspective. The dynamics between the two generations are different, but individual work ethics vary as well. I know some Gen Y’ers who probably wouldn’t work as hard as their Gen X co-workers. Whereas as some of us would work hard to minimize the generational gap. I think having a boss/manager who understands the generational gap is a bonus. I agree, mentor ship and feedback hold great value for Gen Y’ers!

  5. dougbrowncreative April 19, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    > Brett, most Gen Y’ers I have worked with are excellent multi-taskers and still have great focus. Guess that comes from watching TV while playing GTA on the computer and chatting on your cell…

    > Raju, I just find the difference interesting. I’m not certainly not threatened by younger people who challenge my thinking. The only negative I have come up against so far is a lack of respect for how many years it took me to get as confident as they already seem to be!

    Thanks both for your comments.

  6. Mike April 20, 2010 at 7:40 am #

    Hey Doug,

    Great post as usual. I really appreciate any articles that come up on Gen-Y and checking out different opinions. In my mind, yours is spot on. It is unfortunate that entitlement has creeped in between the cracks in while everybody was to busy being politically correct, but such is life I suppose. That being said, your suggestions are well played for utilizing our skills.

    I also believe as many of the other posts have noted, we are capable of many new and intricate tasks that can benefit any organization and in some cases even reinvent the wheel, per se. But I also think that that entitlement is also our worst undoing.

    While there are plenty of keen, hard working dedicated gen-Y’ers out there that just want to make a good career and help grow their organizations, if the boom in 2006 in Calgary with all the extravagant job titles and compensation packages for under achieving and under qualified Gen-Y’ers is any indication…there are plenty of lazy little $%!*’s as well.

    Keep up the great posts Doug, may your organization be blessed with the better side of Gen-Y

  7. dougbrowncreative April 20, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    It’s interesting Mike, that all the comments to this blog post came from Gen Y’ers, rather than those who profess to be challenged working with you guys. I hoped to hear from the Boomers, but even in the absence of any feedback from them here, it’s clear that workplace generational tensions can get quite high and that it’s as much up to the Gen Y’ers as the older gens to find solutions. Being aware of the dynamics seems to be the key.

    Thanks for your comment.

  8. Vanina April 20, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    Great post Doug !
    From my point of view … it’s all about speed of processing info , Gen Y just gets it SO much quicker . The multi tasking they have been doing since being toddlers might help !!! They have a bundle of energy that for me ( boomer I believe) is absolutely addictive hence having them in your team is a bonus. As a manager of several Gen Y you need to chanel that energy back in a postive way. Mentoring is great (Gen Y responds very well but so do other Gen 🙂 but what seems to get them really going is challenges , like when they have super complicated level to reach on some of these games. My experience has been only positive and more importantly they have made me work for my $ by constantly pushing me to be better . Love their energy. Thanks Doug for your post

  9. @lacouvee April 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    As a Boomer with GenY “kids” I believe we owe it to Canadian society to work together and provide mentorship to one another, for it is never a one-way street. I can be mentored by someone who is years my junior, and hopefully provide mentorship too.

    It’s dangerous, in my opinion, to assume that technological proficiency belongs to only one generation (the GenYs) for I know many who prefer to focus their energies elsewhere.

    And there are many boomers (and older) who use new technologies well, marrying them with existing competencies.

    Building effective teams has never been simple. I love the energy younger people bring to the table and hope they appreciate the “wisdom” acquired through experience. Hopefully we can focus on common, agreed-upon goals, to achieve success – in business, community and life.

  10. dougbrowncreative April 20, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    > Vanina, how great to have a comment from you on our blog. Also good to hear a boomer perspective. I like your attitude and you no doubt have a dynamic and progressive work environment. Good on ya.

    > Janis, I never suggested that technological proficiency “belongs” to Gen Y’ers. Not sure what gave you that impression. There can be no doubt that as a whole, Gen Y’ers are more naturally involved in new technology because they grew up with it: they didn’t have to learn it at the age of 45. There may well be many boomers fluent in the gadgets but try finding anyone under 25 who isn’t. Whether they choose to be immersed in them is another matter of course. Like you, I love the energy of the new gang, but recognize that a healthy blend of many generations makes for a more rounded business. I appreciate your comment.

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