Baby boomers are keeping a low profile, preparing to retire peacefully. Gen-X is keeping a high profile, preparing to retire early, become consultants and buy their house in the hills.
Next in line is Gen-Y. A generation that believes that they have slogged for their qualifications, worked hard for their promotions and amply deserve the money they’re being paid. For them, achievements came largely from personal initiative, intelligence and drive. Mostly, without the help of Google, Social Networking or Smartphones.
So managing the next-generation work force that has permeated their teams, can range from a head-shake to a total headache! Everything these millennials do is inexplicable! Their phones are permanently stuck to their ears by some voice-activated glue. Their inane comments defy the laws of English Grammar – thankfully, Wren and Martin are dead. Their three-letter acronyms which mean…anything! LoL! I’m crossing the line…
Gen-Y is a self-aware lot – they’ve all been through Myers-Briggs – and are clear about their role in the company. But there’s a niggling feeling that today’s youngsters are not giving them their due share of respect! One that comes, possibly, from a sense of entitlement. After all, they’ve earned it. And who’s going to pass on all that knowledge, experience and wisdom to the next generation?
The new generation, however, is blissfully unaware of Gen-Y’s underlying generosity. So they incessantly push back, ever unwilling to accept a singular perspective. After all, Google can deliver much more knowledge – a million results, in under 1 second! Youtube can throw up a bunch of videos about how other people, anywhere in the world, have done things before. Personal trials and tribulations, challenges, solutions and so on. It’s all there – in HD. That eliminates the experience piece. Wisdom comes from applying knowledge again an again in different scenarios. So by watching others on Youtube, one has acquired a flavour of wisdom too – theoretically.
Therein lies the problem… A generation of leaders that feels a sense of entitlement, versus a workforce that just can’t see why!
Like a thick piece of processed cheese, Gen-Y leaders find themselves sandwiched. On top is an aging population in the what-I-think-you-should-do mode. Below is one that will only do – if it looks good in a ‘selfie’. One population beyond caring, and another that’s moving too fast to care!
Rather than feeling jammed and getting cheesed off, Gen-Y leaders can influence their flock in six ways:
- Make yourself relevant: Don’t bother with the ‘teach and preach’ method – chances are, they know it already. Facilitate instead. Pointing people in the correct direction, questioning their questions, can help younglings think through situations and make their own decisions. The relevance of a leader, therefore, gets elevated to that of a mentor. If a tell-show-do is required, they’ll ask!
- Make jobs relevant: The next-gen workforce is constantly asking – what am I doing here? The answer to this question will determine employee engagement. Leaders need to be able to reiterate, demonstrate or position the significance of work done.
- Respect the new learning: Despite criticizing the next-gen’s overuse of technology, Gen-Y could happily seek their help to sort out a stubborn laptop before tech support reaches! Or their ability to open doors – thanks to Social Media connections. These next-gen abilities need respect!
- Disruptive is good: Gen-next loves disruption – and change! Something earlier generations often resisted. Encouraging debate seeds change, bringing in unexpected freshness and profits. Leaders need to create a climate where disagreement isn’t personal. Where the outmoded old gets replaced by the new better. Rewarding people for new thoughts. Yes, there would be mistakes as well. But thanks to Google, we already know which mistakes are new and which have been made before!
- It’s not ‘attitude’: It is most often self-confidence that the youngsters have acquired through extensive personal research and curiosity with a wide body of knowledge. They have the ability to find more, if required. This is sometimes so impressive that companies offer obnoxious salaries, and roles to them right on campus! It pays to harness this curiosity, this knowledge and accept the perceived arrogance that comes with it.
- Let them go: Mobility is an inherent trait of the new generation. Internalize it. If they have to go, let them. Even top performers. No point mollycoddling them or they’ll believe themselves indispensable. Instead of flogging the Employee Engagement leader, flog the employee. Treating attrition as a cost of doing business, frees up bandwidth to utilize this fresh, but short-term, talent. A good returnee policy would be a catch-net for later!
Gen-next is that fresh new wave of talent that promises to turn traditional business processes on their head. Harnessed instead of criticized, it’s a positive x-factor for Gen-Y! Not the other slice of the sandwich.