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The Gen.Y Factor

07 March 2011

Echo-boomers, the Google Generation, Generation WHY, Generation Next, the DARE Generation, even the Cynical Generation...

Call them what you will, but if they were born between 1978-94, have a piercing or a tattoo and can listen to an iPod and a mobile phone at the same time while juggling three friends on an email conference call, chances are you're dealing with one of them - a Gen.Y-er.

Talkin' bout my generation

Gen Yers, like their Baby Boomer and Generation X forebears, are a product of their times.

As the generation that will shape society over the coming decades, they represent the most educated generation in history; make great consumers; are fiercely independent; have strong opinions and like and want to be heard. They are also renowned for getting bored very easily.

The how and Y

Giving an invaluable insight into the demographic in her book The World According to Y: Inside the New Adult Generation, Australian author and social commentator Rebecca Huntley describes Gen Y as the first generation to fully experience divorce, downsizing and user-pays education from birth.

The 'Boomer'-shaped world in which Gen Yers were born and raised, she said, has provided them with a relatively comfortable and happy childhood.

The downside is that the Boomers' inexorable hold on culture, affluence and especially the working environment has made their children's evolution to maturity less certain than it was for their parents.

The inner workings of Y

There are many good reasons for employers to be curious about what Gen.Yers want from a job.

According to James Adonis, an Australian consultant on employee engagement, Gen.Yers, unlike their Baby Boomer and Gen.X predecessors, 'work to live' as opposed to 'live to work'.

Business owners that help Gen Yers achieve work/life balance will have a head start.

Adonis, himself a product of the 'MyPod' generation (an amalgamation of MySpace and iPod), dispels the myth that Gen.Yers are motivated purely by money and moving up the hierarchy.

\"In reality, Gen.Yers just want to be paid fairly for the work they do, and they want to keep learning and developing their skills,\" he says.

Work in the here and now

\"Gen.Yers are the 'immediate generation', and they want everything right now — training on demand, recognition at the time that it's deserved and up-to-date technology.

It's important to note that Gen.Yers dislike authority, so a dictatorial management approach doesn't work with them. They respond best to managers that act more like mentors.

\"The key with Gen.Yers,\" Adonis continues, \"is to take the time to build great relationships with them and understand their needs and goals. Make an effort to meet those and you'll have their loyalty.\"

Refresh your recruiting

Mandy Scotney, general manager of travel and hospitality management specialist TMS Asia-Pacific (TMS), has worked closely with Adonis on a number of Gen.Y-related projects for the Australian and New Zealand travel industry.

\"There are not enough Gen.Yers entering the workforce to replace the retiring Baby Boomers,\" she says. \"As a result, in 2008, it's expected that more people will exit the Australian workforce than enter it.

\"This means that business owners can expect staff turnover to increase and their recruitment efforts toughen unless they're able to attract, motivate, engage and retain their employees. This is pertinent to Gen.Y.

Keep up the learning curve

\"With the Gen Y candidate pool, career planning is not just about vertical growth,\" continues Scotney.

\"It's more about developing a range of marketable skills that the employee can take with them. Gen.Yers need constant learning and challenges.

\"It's been said that as soon as you notice that a Gen.Yer is at the 90 per cent level of learning in their role, it's time to offer them new challenges.

\"If you wait until they are 100 per cent competent, they will soon get bored and leave, and this decision can sometimes be made in a day,\" says Scotney. \"How many organisations can cope with that level of change?\"




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