GEN-YS NEED SPECIAL HANDLING WHEN FIRST ENTERING THE WORKFORCE – PART 1

If your company is hiring Gen-Ys (aka Millennials) fresh out of college, you will be eager to get them folded into your operation and feeling part of the team. But you will need to handle this cohort of youngsters differently than any other generations entering the Western workforce.

At first glance, you might ask “So what is different? After all, Gen-Ys are doing the same thing other generations have done before them: Leaving college friends and lovers, settling into new job and meeting new people.” And that is true and the typical corporate socialization techniques designed to ease the transition of new employees from college to work – – – social mixers, assignment of mentors, integrated product teams, etc. – – – will also be useful for incorporating Gen-Ys into your organization. But it will not be enough because there are other, much more complex dynamics at work in the recently-employed Gen Y community. We know this because we teach courses in Project Management and we have had some eye-popping, private conversations with Gen Y attendees about their job environment, their stress levels, their egos, expectations and fears.

Gen-Ys have an additional layer of issues affecting their mindsets and, hence, their job performance. More than any previous generation, Gen-Ys:
– Have grown up with iPods and near-constant music. This is the first 100% iPod â„¢ generation and music has been a near-constant companion for them while driving, walking, jogging and even while studying or working.
– Are accustomed to very frequent social contact with friends via texting, IM and Skype. Boomers snicker at the typical Gen-Y texting with friends every few minutes and are amazed when they first see Gen-Ys on their phones while watching movies and sporting events. Tweeting their remote friends about the movie or ballgame, and even Tweeting with friends right there in the crowd with them, is commonplace for Gen Ys.
– Believe in a “flat” equalitarian culture, where levels of organization do not exist. As a freshman in college a Gen Y could email (or call or visit) the President of the university, on almost any subject, and the President would discuss the subject, and thank the student for being straightforward and for bringing the problem to light. “Chain of Command” is usually an alien concept to any Gen Ys who are at their first jobs and who lack military experience.
– Have developed comparatively fragile egos and rely on frequent feedback on how they are doing in each class and with their friendships.

So the next time a Gen Y, new to your workplace, behaves strangely or does something you as a Gen-X or Baby Boomer might consider odd put yourself in their shoes:
– The comfortable, predictable college world they have known for 4+ years is completely gone. Professors with whom they could negotiate grades and arrange for “extra credit” work when needed have been replaced by a boss who is part of an entirely different culture, and embedded in a more rigid hierarchy of departments/divisions run by anonymous bureaucrats.
– The social fabric that held their lives together is missing. The face-to-face contact with college friends and professors is gone; only a poor electronic substitute is now available to them remotely through texts, Facebook, Twitter and cell phone calls.
– A music-rich college world has been replaced at work by endless meetings, discussions and conference calls. Colleagues and bosses constantly pop by the cubicle for chats, causing the iPod â„¢ ear buds to be constantly popping in and out as well.
– They are functioning in this new world very much “in the blind”, without the comfort of frequent homework assignment and class quizzes to confirm their understanding of a subject and their comparative standing among peers. Now there is no paper graded “B” to show the Gen-Y where they can improve performance. In a new job, just when they desperately seek feedback, they get little or none from their bosses until a scheduled performance review occurs (once or twice a year, quarterly if they are lucky).

There are some simple things we can do to fix this disconnect between realities of the workplace and the expectations of our Gen Y colleagues. In the next post we’ll learn what bosses, and Gen-y workers themselves, can do to ease the college-to-work transition. And we’ll recommend a new frame of mind for Gen-X and Boomers to help fold-in the Gen-Ys who, if the rest of us are ever going to retire, must take their place in the workforce. Until then, what are YOUR thoughts?

PS: The author of this post teaches a short technical training course, Technical CONOPS & Concepts, which will be presented in Laurel, MD  on April 3-5, 2012.  Register now!


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