Collaboration With The Next Generation

I’ve heard them referred to as Generation Y, Gen Y, The Plug-and-Play Generation, and The Gotta-Feel-Good Generation in recent months. What they’re all referring to is the new generation of young people – today’s twentysomethings. Each generation “deals” with the generation that follows. Their disparate points of view, their disparate methods of accomplishing tasks, and so forth; this generation is no exception.

However, why is everyone now talking about this new generation? They’ve been making steady progress for years. After all, they are in their twenties now! Because they’ve begun to exert influence on the workforce, and because we couldn’t predict their group characteristics until we observed them in action. They are altering the landscape in some ways for the better, and in others for the worse, as we older folks would say.

Regardless of our nostalgia for the “good old days,” this generation is plunging headfirst into the workforce and will eventually have an impact on you and your business. There is little point in opposing it. No generation has ever altered the subsequent generation; at least not once that generation reached its twenties. These are the children we raised, and we did raise them in this manner, so let us work with them. To work with them effectively, we must first understand them.

What motivates (or demotivates) this generation, and what effect does this have on businesses seeking to hire them?

The issue is that they are not referred to as The Plug-and-Play Generation for nothing. This generation grew up playing video games and watching television while their parents worked and worked to provide a better life for their families. This resulted in an entire generation of children who are now entering the workforce and who require immediate gratification in whatever they do. Whether at work or at play, satisfaction must be instantaneous.

What this means for business owners looking to hire qualified employees is that they must be diligent in assigning tasks that they enjoy (or rather, in asking the employee if they would be willing to do the tasks). You must test this generation to the extent to which they desire to be tested.

The issue is that this generation does not wait for anything or anyone. If they dislike the game, they seek out a new one and new players – now, not tomorrow or next week. That is all. Consider removing the PS2 game from the player and replacing it with one they believe they will enjoy more.

This returns to normal speed. They are accustomed to travelling at the speed of the internet, not the horseless carriage’s. You’re going to have to provide this generation with what they want or risk losing them. Individual check-ins to ascertain their interest and excitement are critical to keeping this generation happy and productive.

The issue is that Generation Y demands that they feel good about their work. They will not do it if they do not feel good about it. Again, it’s that straightforward, and no amount of money will persuade them otherwise. Remember: they saw their parents work tirelessly to earn a few extra dollars, and what did that get them? Parents who were wealthy were absent. This generation values quality over quantity.

Solution: Occasionally, work is unsatisfying. However, you can combat this by demonstrating your appreciation for the work being performed. Often, the simple pleasure of assisting another person and witnessing that person’s gratitude is sufficient to provide the worker with the gratification they require.

The issue is the generation of ADD. Yes, this is how ADD gained popularity. The Gen Y’s will not remain oblivious for long. They want their information quickly and succinctly.

Avoid wasting time on lengthy memos and information. Simply shoot it straight and quickly!

The issue: According to a recent study, the average tenure in a job for Generation Y is 18 months. What became of life, or even of a few years? Regrettably, those days are a distant memory. As older workers retire and the workforce shrinks, we are left with the generation we raised, and we must rely on them to fill open positions within our businesses. Remember that this generation witnessed their parents remain in jobs for the rest of their lives only to be spit out by the very corporations and unions that claimed to protect them – just as they were about to collect that pension. Generation Y is not going to stand by and watch that happen to them.

There is no way to change this generation’s stick ability. As a result, as a business owner, you have two choices: 1) Make work enjoyable; or 2) Plan ahead for each employee’s eventual departure. If you choose option 1, you must determine what makes each and every one of your employees happy. They must be treated as unique individuals with their own set of requirements and instructions. Prepare to meet those requirements or continue to number two: The most critical thing a business owner can do is to have written instructions for each task performed within their organisation. Keep all of those instructions in a secure location and retain them in order to pass them on to the worker’s successor. One of the most common complaints we hear from clients in staffing is the need to retrain the next person. I apologise; that is the way things are nowadays. We train and retrain, and we must be prepared.

The issue is a lack of office etiquette. Consider this recent Yahoo! News article on modern office etiquette (and its absence): http://finance.yahoo.com/expert/article/careerist/40342. Regrettably, as the article implies, the new generation may be unaware that they are breaking the rules! Their worldview is markedly different from that of previous generations.

As my husband and business partner puts it, “But wrong remains wrong and right remains right.” However, with the advent of the internet and the emergence of a new generation, is this the new “right”? Perhaps, perhaps not. Isn’t it true that when the majority of families are dysfunctional, dysfunction becomes the new “normal”? Unfortunately, I believe that the new generation has us beat in terms of sheer numbers. To this writer’s mind, the only thing we can do is learn to cope.

As Penelope Trunk suggests in another article http://finance.yahoo.com/expert/article/careerist/38889 on Gen Y, “They will not play the face-time game.” That means they will not remain in the office solely to make you happy. They understand that work can be accomplished from home (or from the beach) just as well as in an office setting.

Allow them to work from home! Why would you not!? Working from home provides the ultimate in flexibility (which this generation demands) and helps retain this generation of workers.

As a virtual staffing agency, we face the same challenges you do on a daily basis. We are not immune to Generation Y’s caveats. We address the generational issues that are unique to this generation by increasing our back end staff, which regularly checks in with and coaches our virtual assistants. Additionally, we take great care to match clients with virtual assistants and promptly offer to change assignments if the virtual assistant does not “feel right” with the assignment.

Yes, this (generational issues) results in a higher turnover of virtual assistants, but it is comparable to what occurs in the bricks and mortar world. In many ways, we protect our clients from the effects of turnover by rapidly recruiting new employees, interviewing and screening for the necessary skills and attitude. However, even as a virtual staffing agency, we cannot change a generation or their attitudes, and thus cannot halt the turnover. However, we can assist our clients in navigating the turnover.

Even with a high turnover generation, businesses can reap the benefits of virtual assistance and virtual staffing. The cost savings over hourly in-office staff remain; office politics remain absent; the speed with which additional help can be brought in remains; the benefits of not having someone sit in your office remain; the start-up capital required (desks, computers, phone lines) for hiring help remains unaffected; and ultimate flexibility remains unaffected.

In many ways, hiring virtually is an excellent way for businesses to address the issues associated with this generation. This generation desires adaptability. Working virtually enables the greatest degree of flexibility, which contributes to the generation’s happiness. Virtual staffing is a perfect fit for this generation and one of the most effective ways to put them to work for you.

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