We R Coming 2 Work
Millennials are diverse, progressive, and Internet fiends. What’s this mean at work?
The latest Pew report on Millennials reveals many key characteristics of this cohort, which the researchers say is reaching the midst of its coming-of-age. Among other factors, members of Generation Y are ethnically diverse, politically progressive, not particularly religious, and are more trusting of institutions than their predecessors.
Not surprisingly, but nevertheless important, is Gen Y’s dependence on Internet connections, particularly social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter. As the oldest Millennials approach age 30, and the youngest enter adolescence, what will this mean for the workplace?
“I think that workplace dynamics will shift in significant ways,” says Katie Del Guercio, director of business development and marketing at KODA, an online community that introduces professionals to the world's employers. “GenY will voice changing expectations of their employers and potential employers, resulting in a profound shift in communication dynamics between the parties.”
“Millennials are inheriting a slew of global challenges, and they are collectively rallying behind beliefs and global causes in large numbers,” Del Guercio explains.
“As these beliefs become intertwined with lifestyle, GenY will increasingly seek alignment between their passions and their professions,” she maintains. “Plus, Millenials are becoming accustomed to wide open communication channels online, and brands are beginning to become more ‘human’ and authentic as they move towards social media as a means to reach consumers.”
“Over the next few years, social media will become a key way for brands to reach Millenials as potential employees as well,” Del Guerico contends. “Top talent will demand that companies care about building a transparent culture. They will seek companies with work environments that are aligned with their own personalities and lifestyles.”
Speaker and trainer Kate Nasser, who specializes in helping people improve their people skills, says the Pew results stating that Gen Y is so deeply connected to online social networking tools is not surprising.
“They have literally grown up with it the way I grew up with TV,” she says. “Whereas my grandparents wondered how the human got inside the box—no joke!”
Sean O’Neil, principal of sales and management training at recruitment company One to One Leadership agrees that social networking sites are vital for this cohort. “For most young people, social networking sites like Facebook, You Tube and MySpace have become fun way to interact with friends,” he says. “But these sites, along with the more ‘grown up’—and yes, less fun—LinkedIn, help astute young adults build a vast network that they can leverage throughout their lives.”
“These powerful people connectors allow young adults to get introductions, or broker introductions, to just about anyone, in any industry, at any level, anywhere in the world,” he maintains. “The more powerful the network, the greater the leverage.”
However, Generation Y’s comfort with technology may present limitations in face-to-communication, Nasser warns.
“As I work with corporations on improving people-skills, teamwork, and customer care, what I hear is that Gen Y moves online communication forward but struggles a great deal with face-to-face and even phone communication,” Nasser says. “Comfort in these areas is lower than with any other generation and not surprisingly.”
These challenges are apparent even in commonplace workplace situations, she notes. ”Some companies are facing serious resistance from Gen Y on using the phone to call customers,” she explains. “One Gen Y, after many warnings to call rather than email a customer, finally confessed that she was afraid to talk on the phone. Others are not afraid, they just don't feel comfortable.”Millennials can learn phone and any other interpersonal skills, but that they just have not had the daily practice, Nasser adds, especially with coaching or training.
Notably, the fact that Millennials are more accepting of racial and ethnic differences may work well to help them focus on improving interpersonal skills, she adds. “As we teach Gen Y the face-to-face and phone based interpersonal skills we have mastered, they will build interracial bonds in business and society that can transform our world,” Nasser says.
Heightened international consciousness will present even more business advantages to Generation Y, O’Neil adds . “The world really is shrinking. As young people start to expand their networks, they should be looking beyond the US and Western Europe,” he advises.
“Certain emerging markets will be leaders, and connectedness within can help someone seize an opportunity when it appears,” O’Neil maintains. “Think of the opportunities that presented themselves after the falling of the Iron Curtain for those who had ties there! Few people can accurately predict which areas will emerge, but if you’re dialed into a number of places, you can be prepared to respond to a number of scenarios as they play out.”
“Gen Y is the first generation to realize we live in a flat world and our decisions affect other countries,” speaker, consultant and Gen Y expert Eric Papp adds.
Foresight practitioner Josh Calder of Geofutures says that Millennials have a unique perspective that will enrich the workplace.
”Millennials will bring innovations in crowdsourced and networked problem-solving that simply would not occur to most older people,” he contends. “Millennials will challenge organizations' old view of themselves as bounded entities precisely controlling messages and information flows.”
Their spirit will add to workplace morale, Papp notes. “Generation Y is bringing passion, enthusiasm, and purpose back to the workplace. They are taking jobs they like to do,” he states. “They will make the workforce better with their ability to deal with change and constantly learning new technology.”
“The best thing an employer can do is capture the creativity and enthusiasm of Gen Y, not be afraid of it,” Papp advises.
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