Every 17 year old entering the workforce has been around the Internet for their entire life! Generation Y is the generation who has grown up around advanced networking technologies such as mobile phones and the Internet–also know as the iPod generation, the Echo Boomers, Generation “Why”, or the Millennials. I’ve been working on a research project for my employers to show how our clients can more effectively communicate with their Gen Y staff. Here’s the first part of what I’ve found:
Gen Y in pop culture
The Mac vs PC commercials are one great example of Generation Y in popular culture. These commercials are a parodic representation of the generation gap between Generation X/Baby Boomers and Generation Y (loosely defined as the generation that has grown up around computers and the Internet).PC is an uptight, older, suit wearing, glasses, balding, shaved geek; whereas, Mac is a laid back, casually dressed, soul-patched ‘cool guy’. These commercials are hilarious and effectively use the X/Y gap to sell Macs. I argue that these commercials align Mac users of all ages with Generation Y in an attempt to ‘geekify’ PCs as well as make investing in a Mac something cool and sexy—a really successful campaign and BRILLIANT marketing.
Gen Y in the workforce
Professional and popular bloggers, proud members of Gen Y, frequently post about the issue of Generation Y in the workforce. But career and human resources specialists are also keen to discuss this demographic. For example, Dr Randall Hansen, director of Quint Careers, outlines what he sees as the “perceptions and realities” of Gen Y in the workforce:
|They are spoiled.||Baby Boomer parents coddled this generation by constantly telling them how special they were and that anything they sought was possible. They were rewarded for every little thing, receiving trophies and prizes simply for participating.|
|They have a poor work ethic.||Actually, texting, instant messaging, social networking, and Web surfing have all made Generation Y workers more competent, efficient, and productive. They have a strong work ethic — not just in a 9-5 sort of way. Generation Y wants work to be fun and flexible and follows a mantra of working smarter, not harder.|
|They don’t respect authority.||This group has been raised to think critically, they’re very independent and not afraid to ask questions and challenge the status-quo. It’s not that these folks have little respect for authority; on the contrary, they admire their employers and want the same in return.|
|They’re self-centered and individualistic.||Gen Y have been taught the value of individuality and independent thinking. They see themselves as unique and, unlike previous generations, these workers do not plan to let their jobs define who they are.|
|They’re not committed to the company.||This generation has been raised in an age of unprecedented access to knowledge and communication. Gen Y workers believe their work should have meaning. More than ever, these workers are seeking greater fulfillment and are only willing to work hard at jobs that provide it.|
|They lack social skills.||Generation Y are some of the most social of any generational cohort; it’s just that they communicate and socialize much differently from the rest of us.|
In a recent post to the police blog Officer.com, Sgt. Susan Grant, a member of the Saskatoon police department, outlines some of her observations of Gen Y police officers:
[Generation Y] are three times the size of Generation X . . . [and] were brought up with the influence of TV, internet, cell phones and video games and learned to have instant satisfaction for any and all outputs through these instruments. They have the inability to concentrate for a long time at one task and are constantly doing many things at one time; talking on cell phone while on the internet and listening to their iPOD.
I’ll add that the onset of technology has drastically changed the way that young people define themselves. Along with techno-globalization comes the ability to publish egos worldwide. User generated content sites like Youtube allow some young people to become instantly famous—one Georgetown University student was recently hired to be a fulltime video blogger in Washington DC, 9 months after he started doing fake political interviews with the heads of politicians cut out and taped to the backs of pencils. There is a certain amount of hubris that comes with this–a tone of “why should I listen to YOU when I have 8000 friends on Facebook who will validate my decisions?”
So, what does this all mean for employers? That will be my next post.