Recently, a creative agency wooed and recruited a new Creative Director. However, when the CD started they found him inflexible in his approach, antisocial and militant in his music choices, to name but a few woes. After three months, he spoke with the HR Director. His opening words were “I’m clearly doing the best work here, when am I going to get promoted?” He lasted eight months. Sound familiar?
The challenges Generation Y bring to the workforce are well documented; lack of loyalty, confidence on steroids, disrespect for hierarchy and so on. The data reflects this pain; with 63% of business decision makers and 68% of recruiters admitting they find it difficult to manage Gen Y1. However, the provocation that Gen Y provides is important. They are challenging us to rethink how we work. We need to listen. Not only because in the next 10 years 75% of the global work force will be Gen Y, but also for many the way we are working is challenging. For example, in the advertising industry a recent study (NABS 2013) found that, 84% of respondents said demands at work have increased over the last month, while 65% admitted to points in their careers when they were so stressed they were unable to cope. We have to find a better way to work together. Generation Y is inviting us to do this. When we understand their needs, it will create an inspiring workplace for all of us, regardless of age.
There are 5 key work needs, which Generation Y has:
1) They are Skill Seekers. Gen Y is ambitious, but the harsh reality is that there has never been a tougher time to enter the workplace; lower salaries and no pension promise for a glorious retirement. To realise their ambition they need to acquire skills. The trouble is that often, they don’t know exactly what those skills are, and companies need to help them do this.
2) They want Productive Experiences, first identified by Lynda Gratton, a Professor at London Business School. For Gen Y, ‘experiences’ are critical, in part because they know they will not have the wealth of previous generations. A successful life is one full of productive experiences; time in advertising, perhaps a stint in New York, then all change to become a micro entrepreneur, interspersed with periods of travelling and volunteering. The linear career is dead. Money and status mean less to them than previous generations; instead they need flexibility and options.
3) To be Short Term Sensations. The ambition and need for productive experiences means they want to be sensational quickly. Rather than putting hurdles in their way we need to consider how we can make them sensational in the short term. If we can help them do this, there is a greater chance that they will stay longer.
4) To be Society Contributors. Whilst they may be known as the “selfie generation”, they want to contribute positively towards society. They expect the companies they work for to do so too. They are redefining what a successful company is and the kind of companies they want to work for; a recent poll shows that 50% of Gen Y want to work for a business with ethical practices. The culture of the company is important to them; they want to be part of something, which fits with their values.
5) To be Collaborative Connectors. As digital natives they operate in a hierarchy free world. However, they can step on toes in their haste to get the job done with a disregard for hierarchy. They need to grasp that this is not collaboration, and will not be a helpful long-term career strategy. Equally, the future of work is through increasing collaboration to drive truly innovative solutions. Gen Y is hard wired to do this. Businesses need to remove the barriers to facilitate and benefit from their strength.
Generation Y are the future of work. We need to understand their needs and what it means for how we attract, develop and retain people at work. If we can satisfy their needs Gen Y have the potential to be one of the hardest working and collaborative workforces ever.