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Understanding GenY


Born to Baby Boomers who delayed parenthood or had second families after divorce, Gen Yers are dubbed the “Echo Boom” Generation because they replicated the earlier bulge in the birthrate. This large group now comprises 26 percent of the American population. Their generational signposts reflect their experiences as treasured children who grew up amidst unprecedented technological abundance and change.

* Helicopter parents. Driven by a desire to give their children every advantage, the parents of Gen Yers catered to them–to a point where the children sometimes failed to learn responsibility or accountability.

* Columbine High School. Together with other tragedies like the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 1999 Columbine massacre taught Gen Yers that their parents could not protect them from every danger.

* Technical expertise. Regular computer use is a life law for Gen Yers, who bring value to the workplace through their comfort with and ability to teach applications of technology.

* Online social networking. Nearly 70 percent of Gen Yers use social networking tools every day. They can readily develop new ways to connect with clients and customers if given the opportunity to do so.

* Economic turmoil. Having watched their parents’ nest eggs deteriorate in the economic downturn of the early 2000s, Gen Yers seek financial security. This makes them much less likely to job-hop than Gen Xers.

* Seeking groups. Gen Yers grew up engaging in structured group activities. They want to feel a sense of belonging and camaraderie on the job.

* Integrating life and work. Having grown up with busy, varied, and interesting schedules, Gen Yers quickly lose patience with fixed, cubicle-bound jobs. They work best when they are free to come and go as they please.

* Social responsibility. Two-thirds of Gen Yers want to work for an organization that acts ethically. Their loyalty is enhanced by evidence of social responsibility toward the planet.

* Volunteerism. Meaningful, employer-sponsored community involvement opportunities are extremely attractive options to Gen Yers.

Managing Gen Yers skillfully is critical to today’s organizations, because they will represent the majority of tomorrow’s leaders. Acknowledging that this generation is sometimes in danger of “self-destructing,” the Johnsons strongly recommend helping them integrate into the work setting, providing solid experiences early in their careers, and offering frequent coaching and feedback. Ten other effective tactics include:

1. Create opportunities to bond. A family atmosphere and a sense of community will strongly appeal to Gen Yers.

2. Tell it like it is. Despite being coddled and catered to, these young people want to know the truth, and respect those who give it to them.

3. Avoid the “Good Old Days.” Gen Yers have no interest in reminiscences. They are eagerly capable to live in the present.

4. Create Gen Y friendly rules. Gen Yers become frustrated with stupid rules even more quickly than Gen Xers.

5. Be open to virtual work environments. Gen Yers have an expectation that their organization’s technology will be up to date, and that their managers are open to creative applications.

6. Offer flextime. The ability to plan their own schedules and the freedom to work when they choose are major motivators for this group.

7. Interact often. Gen Yers look for mentors and coaches on the job who will be there for them like their parents were to a similar degree. They wish for support and guidance.

8. Stir up a little fun. When Gen Yers enjoy their jobs, overall attendance at work will increase, and tardiness will decrease.

9. Tell them why. Gen Yers believe they deserve explanations for everything and that their opinions matter.

10. Offer close coaching and guidance. What might seem like micromanaging to older employers will be welcomed as guidance by Gen Yers. At some point, this guidance will lead to their readiness to work more independently.

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