With over 75 million members, Generation Y (a.k.a. the Millennials) is making its mark quickly and definitively. If you’re eager to understand the teens and twenty something in your workplace, here are five insights into their mindset and motivations. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but a few observations from my interactions with the dynamic Gen Ys who’ve crossed my path.
- They don’t see themselves as “Millennials” or “Gen Y” or any other group label. In a recent visit to a college I asked the students if they would prefer to be called “Gen Y” or “Millennials.”The response: blank stares. They see themselves as totally unique individuals, defined by their nicknames, iPod playlists, cell phone numbers and customized laptops. Ironic as it is, what defines this group is the deep desire for expressing their individuality.
- They want to make a real difference in the world. In the 2006 UCLA American Freshman Survey, 67 percent of Millennial teens said it is essential or very important to help others who are in difficulty-the highest response in 26 years! Every student I meet is heavily involved in one cause or many, ranging from education to the environment to human trafficking to AIDS. If your organization is trying to attract young people, think about what opportunities you can offer for volunteering and good works.
- They are ready to work. My generation (Gen X) was called “slackers.” Generation Y sits at the opposite end of the spectrum. Freshmen come to my career workshops and participate in internships every summer until graduation. Professional networks like LinkedIn are full of students looking to network. Yes, some Gen Ys can be accused of being overeager or acting “entitled” to jobs and promotions, but with a little guidance, their ambition can be channeled into serious results for your organization. (Hint: Gen Ys make great salespeople!)
- They “get” globalization. When you’ve been surfing the Internet since you were seven as most Millennials have, it’s not hard to grasp globalization. Most students I meet are eagerly learning a second, third or fourth language, and they’re planning to use their fluency to work or volunteer abroad someday. Colleges are encouraging this trend-Goucher College in Maryland now requires study abroad experience to earn a degree, and Princeton University recently launched a study abroad program for students who want to go overseas the year before entering college.
- They like their parents. When I was a freshman in college I shared a single phone with three other girls. If I called home once a week that was a lot.
Today, Millennial college students use their cell phones to email, text and call their parents multiple times a day. This means that parents are involved in most of their decisions, and this involvement-some call it “helicoperting”-doesn’t stop at graduation.
Many twenty somethings tell me that their parents are heavily involved with career decisions large and small. (The bad news: Parents can occasionally overstep their bounds. More than a few corporate recruiters report receiving calls from parents. Some parents have even called their children’s bosses! Needless to say, parents should be an invisible part of a Millennial’s career.)
The workplace is definitely changing, though the fact remains that it needs a multifaceted workforce of which millennials are an integral part; to bring out different skillsets & approaches to the table. It also requires a different method of engaging & retaining your employees which ensures that a diverse workforce is constantly engaged and fulfilled.
The Millennial workforce is here to stay. It is in fact up to the organization now to create the right environment that fosters high productivity & realizes that no matter where and how people work, they have the need for fulfillment and to be challenged.