Gen-Y

The other day I gave a speech on "Gen-Y" during a Toastmaster meeting. 

Here is how it goes:


Gen-Y, very often also known as the Millennias, is defined as those born from around 1981 to 1991 – from the 22 years old new graduates right til to those who are in their early 30s. There are a lot of negative perception and feedback about this generation in the working world



But I disagree. My core point is this. Each generation is really not that different from the next. A generation is simply a reflection of the society they have grown up in. Most Gen-Y didn’t cycle nor walk to school. They didn’t grow up poor or deprived. They grew up in a world of celebrities, laptops, mobile phones, smartphones, Google, internet connectivity 24/7. They grew up in a time where Facebook, Twitter and Youtube boom. They needed information, they Google, and they got it. This is Gen-Y.
They are different in many ways, but when you look at it, they are really not that different. If we want to see the best in Gen-Y, we need to change our ways, expectations and the way we work with them, the way we connect with them.

Here are a few things you must know about Gen-Y.

1) Are they distracted and cannot focus or are they good at multitasking? At work, they listen to music, chat and surf, all at the same time. And when they are chatting, most of the time, it’s not just with one person but half a dozen different chat groups. They make more movements. They spin their pens while at their desk. They click the mouse and turn the pages faster. They flip back and forth from one window to another. And you really can’t blame for that. That’s how they survived through their university days, handling projects, assignments while chatting online with a few other groups, some on the discussion for the projects while some on their hiking trip the next day. This is how they grew up. This is how they worked. While they are eating, they surf, text, send pictures on Instagram, tweet, Facebook, listen to music and have conversation with the person in front of them or maybe squeeze in a game at the same time. That is the way they are. That means they can handle more tasks at a time, higher productivity! 

Be sure to engage them with multitasks and challenging tasks. Take advantage of their savviness by having them set up tools, work on complex spread sheets and make searches, gather data or come up with ideas. They will make mistakes along the way but if you don’t let them go through the mess, they would miss the learning opportunity and become bored.

The second thing you must know about Gen-Y is this: they dislike rigid hierarchy. If they have something in mind, they should be able to talk to people or email someone in the organization regardless of rank and position. Well, there are pros and cons to this but let’s look at it from a positive point of view here.

This will highlight the stifling work environment that we have got used to and give meaning to better collaboration between different levels in the organizations. Their opinion counts. We need to get used to their feedback and having our views questioned.

Thirdly, Gen-Y also dislike following tradition blindly. How many of you have heard your seniors telling you to do it that way just because they have been doing it all the time? I have and I question some of these working methodologies. Give them the room to question. Let them have the room to innovate and change things. Some tradition is important, no doubt about that, but bear this in mind, this is a generation that is most productive when work and life blends in.

They don’t just work at the office alone. They can work at anywhere. They go to Starbucks, Coffee Beans, and they can be working with their laptops. They can be on the LRT and searching for information through their iPad or smartphones. When they go for a party or a company event, they tweet about it because they care about their work. They treated it as part of their lives. How many of you went for the “Live Great Run” the other day? Well, there are many managers who posted the event on Facebook or tweeted it because it is part of their responsibilities. They wanted the Agency fieldforce to know about Great Eastern. They wanted to promote the company’s name. They are doing their job. But the Gen-Y? They blogged about it. They tweeted about it. They talked about it….not because it is a tradition or a responsibility to do so. But because the “Live Great Run” is part of their lives…it is as important as going for a movie with their friends. And this is where their strength is. They are not marketing their company but those conversations they created helped people to know about it. You sense that genuine interest in those and this is where the old tradition must go away. When Gen-Y demanded for work-life balance, most of the time, they are talking about blending in both work and life together.

Last but not least, the retention issue. Gen-Y is always perceived as 
demanding and ambitious. But you really can’t blame them for that. How could they not when they have been told by billionaires, actors and many successful personalities during their tertiary days “not to settle”, they can do anything they set their mind to and should dare to fail.

Instead of looking at them as lack of loyalty, inspire them with the right ambitions at work. They are a group prepared to work hard if you can show how the hard work fuels that ambition. Spend time to understand their personal values and aspiration.

In summary, I will go back to my core point, that each generation is really not that different from one another. Every generation complains about the next generation. The new generation is somehow less respectful, less hardworking but somehow in time they will become responsible adults with major responsibilities at work and as parents.

The hippies from the 70s became responsible adults and CEOs. The same will happen to Gen-Y.

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