Gen Yers in the workplace: lots of work but worth it.

By Michael Mark, creative director/ceo @NYCA

Advertising is a young person’s biz they say. Our agency and our industry are teaming with Generation Yers – all born post 1980.  Warning, mass generalization about a generation: these 70 million working people are super smarties!

They have more general knowledge than any generation has ever had at their age.  But – and all you young NYCAers mind your manners with your elders now – these guys require lots of feedback and it better be in instant-web time – oh, and they like it positive. 

 Yes of course it’s my generation’s fault. Being helicopter parents, (my wife and I refer to our home as the heliport) we videoed our kids’ every drool string like they were pearls. It made them feel entitled. And then we overscheduled them:  the play date at 9, the tutor at 10, followed by soccer game at 11, lunch brought to them at 1, etc. and, guess what – they like it that way and don’t intend to have that behavior stop. With all those passions they have developed, they must now see work as one of them.  So just as they facebook at 10 a.m. in the office – they should be writing ideas at 10 p.m. wherever they are. They should be.

And so these talented staffers are an intense amount of work for their managers. They seem to miss self discipline that the latch-key kids before them had to learn on their own. It’s because they have gotten so much stimulation – constant interactivity is needed at high dosages. That means their manager’s energy has to be channeled so they can tap into it at all times – human wifi.

But I have found they’re worth the attention. An added helping of ‘you can do it!’ with very clear guidelines focuses them through all the distractions that their up-bringing and media present.  This bunch tends to be very open to making their goals. 

Here are some approaches, some even we have taken:

1. Time is tough to give – tough, give them your time. They need interaction and feedback so if you hire them you must work with them. Hallway reviews, ambushes really, are common, so be prepared for unscheduled ‘How’m I doing boss? What do I need to do to be promoted?’ And if it’s their year anniversary – they will be on your calendar 8 sharp. Also, here’s a benefit for their managers: interaction is a two way street – if you listen to them and stay open you will learn a great deal. In fact you can be more up to speed in your business in technology, communication methods just to name two. Hey you can extend your career – and with the economy you’ll need to! So pay them back with your attention.

2. The language of criticism is important. If you want them to do something beside roll their eyes and stuff their ears with their i-buds avoid comparisons to your past, “In my day we didn’t have lunch, we worked through the night and that includes Saturday.”  Be to the point and be as quantitative as you can be – they get this.  “I expect that work to be complete by 9 – not 9:30 and closing time is when the job is done. If that takes until 8pm, that’s what it takes. And by the job done it means you have completed these 12 tasks.”

3. ‘Making a difference’ is among the most popular phrase I hear from these people – a cause beyond profitability and growing the business will catch their attention and fire their desire to work because they are doing something besides work for the man. They are deeply connected to the world. Work is to support life, odd as it sounds, they don’t live to work.  At NYCA we have an outlet to “make a difference” inside the place that reaches outside to the community.  This cause grew from our NYCAers. 

4. Money matters. 49% of Gen Yers say retirement benefits are a very important factor in their job choices. A USA Today study showed that 70% of the Gen Y respondents contribute to their 401(k) plan.  They are living through a financial melt-down and they are wise to the ways of Wall Street. A job makes money and money invested well makes money. They get that. They demand that. When we started I was told we couldn’t afford the program we selected we did anyway and it has been attractive in hiring.

5. Your business is everyone’s business. These guys share financial information that Boomers consider private such as their salary. They share their feelings about the company freely. And when they share they share with hundreds and even thousands of friends through their networks. Your company ‘private laundry’ information is blowing out there in the wind of mass conversation. The good part of that is when they are saying good stuff the word travels fast and far. Their peers could soon be your next talented staffer.Clock_Nina 002

6. They want their lives in their work lives. That’s why our workplace is pet friendly. Though it’s difficult and sometimes expectations have to be reiterated – the more we embrace their lives, the more they will bring their work into them. We have found it a breath of freshness – aside from the pet odors.

Above all it’s the connection; it’s on us, old analogers, to put in the time. Different as we are, our mutual success depends on sharing common ground and pushing each other so all can grow.  It’s certainly keeping us young.

I just hope they remember to take care of me when I’m drooling.

Two pieces came out in Adage.com just this morning that deal with this generation.

http://adage.com/talentworks/article?article_id=137692

http://adage.com/cmostrategy/article?article_id=137701

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