I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand what I’ve been calling the millennials, others have been calling Gen Y. I think we all understand that there’s a significant change in the way this generation is looking at work and life. Certainly the world as it gets smaller and easier to access through both travel and the internet has changed our priorities. The wealth that the U.S. and other industrialized nations have is extraordinary, allowing people not to focus as much on their financial situations. And the technologies of web 2.0 bring an interactive nature to how we perceive the world around us. What this brings us, is a complex change in how we treat new entrants to the workforce, and how we’ll shape our strategies for them over the next 10 years and beyond.
Business Week featured an interview with Digg.com CEO Jay Adelson who shared some great insights and ideas to what the millennials are looking for.
Today’s demographic trend is impossible to ignore and has big implications for workplaces across America. Seventy million Americans who belong to Generation Y (born between 1977 to 2002) are entering the workforce in massive waves. Add Generation Xers, who are now in their 30s and early 40s, and you have millions of employees whose visions for their jobs differ from their parents’ and most of their bosses’ old command-and-control management theories.
Adelson argues that younger workers are transforming the workplace from the “get rich quick” attitude of the ’90s to a culture of empowerment and contribution. At the end of the day, he says, these employees want to feel as though they are part of something essential and that they have contributed to its achievement.
And unlike their parents, who may have found fulfillment in a steady paycheck, the new generation of employee wants a relationship with someone they feel understands them and their goals. “Managing is no longer just about hitting certain metrics, it’s about understanding individuals and helping them grow,” says Adelson. 1
Every single one of us has 5 or more ways we can communicate with other people, versus just a couple of methods a generation ago. The ever increasing possibilities has made being connected and having open lines of real communication so much more important. At the same time, a smaller world has meant that people are no longer satisfied with being a small cog in a big engine. Employees want to see their contributions in a meaningful way. We owe this generation the opportunity to change the workplace and shape it to their future. We owe them the guidance that they crave.
In a time when HR is consumed by talent management and a fear of the retiring baby boomers, we may be too focused on our immediate succession plans and insufficiently concerned with developing new graduates into successful mid-career professional. The talent management approach for each is quite different. Have you thought about each separately?
- Gallo, Carmine. October 26, 2006. “Digg This: Talking to Gen Y.” Retrieved from BusinessWeek.com on January 8, 2007. [back]