Multi-Generation is a term you can hear in all different aspects of life. How these generations interact, work, and live can provide you with important information. Are you ready? The Millennial or Gen Y population will soon be the largest portion of the workforce in Alberta. The biggest question management is asking, “How does our office plan to incorporate Millennials into the workforce?” There are three generations in the workforce right now, with a small population of “mature” workers. Each generation has different expectations, work habits, and technology demands.
So let’s start with some facts about each generation.
Mature (Traditional) workers were born in 1933 – 1945 and are loyal workers, who like stability. This is a result of the hard economic times they were faced with growing up.
Baby Boomers are the largest group, both in numbers and birth years included. They were born in 1946 – 1964 and have an optimistic attitude combined with a strong sense of family. The Baby Boomers were focused on their personal growth and achievement, struggled with computers, and tend to resist change.
Generation X (Gen X) were born between 1962 and 1979. They grew up with working mom’s (the first generation to deal with that) and have a strong independent attitude. They are entrepreneurial at heart and want ongoing feedback from their managers.
Millennials (Gen Y) would be people born in 1980 or later and are just starting to enter the workforce. Sometimes referred to as “Echo Boomers”, Gen Y employees have constant access to communications, media, and digital technology. Some employers refer to this generation as the “lazy generation”, but they have had increasingly difficult economic times to deal with and are usually under-employed. There are about 80 million people in this generation and one statistic predicted that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be from this age group. They are highly educated and work best in team environments.
So how do we best integrate Gen Y to our companies and our companies to them? This is one question that continues to shadow the doors of many managers.
Gen Y employees are changing both the expectation in the workforce and the way we work. They are not afraid of change. In fact, they have seen more technological change in their lifetime than many others. They were born during the first stages of computer technology development and have been using them since they were toddlers. How does this conflict with corporate resistance to change? Most companies are years behind the current technology and are afraid to move forward as it will impact the Boomers and some Gen X staff. For example, most of the companies we work with are still using Microsoft 2007, which is now 7 years old. The Gen Y employees are up to date and proficient in Microsoft 2013. They can adapt quickly and are helping to move companies forward and embrace the technology.
To work effectively with the Gen Y staff you need to understand them and what they are looking for. They want their mobile technology, an open and collaborative work place that mimics their educational experience, flexible job opportunities, advancement, and the ability to go to the top with their ideas. This is a generation that likes to know that they are heard and understood, that they are valuable to the company, and have opportunities to learn. They want quick and accurate feedback now. They like their freedom and given the opportunity will prove that they can do the job.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome with the Gen Y employees would be working in the “instant gratification” world. They are used to texting whenever they want, spending time on social media, and feeling that communication is best done electronically. As a manager or supervisor it can be like climbing a mountain to get them to see the business advantages of one on one communication, whether it be on the phone or in person. Dealing with the “texting” language is also very difficult. Some Gen Y employees have a hard time using proper language for business purposes and revert to their texting shortcuts.
Given when this generation was raised, how they learned in school and what they have seen happen with their parent’s careers, it is no surprise that they want and expect more. What we can learn from them can be invaluable to our businesses. It is time! Learn to live with the quick changing world and allow these employees to help guide you!