Generation iY Part 1: Who are they? And is it really OUR job to save them from their future?


(a Matt Bors Comic Strip)

We often hear the negative stereotypes that go along with Millennials.  They are attached to their phones, not loyal, entitled, selfish, and the list goes on.  However, if we are constantly making a point to address only the things we see as negatives in the workplace, how are we working to help them succeed?  

So I will paint you a quick picture of this generation (and for the record, I fall within this generation but I don’t identify with very many of the traits).  Generation iY is considered the digital generation born between 1984-2002.  94% report feeling overwhelmed, 44% report facing depression so bad they are unable to function, and 10% have considered suicide.  Many of them are over-connected and use social media and video games as a coping mechanism which leads to poor development of face to face skills.  They have lack of critical thinking skills, high levels of obesity, a high percentage of nearsightedness, lack of communication skills, they become impatient, decrease in empathy, demanding, self-centered, short tempered – and alongside all of this have a poor work ethic.  Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?  

Maybe it would help to take a look some of the things that have shifted in our culture since this generation was born. (shared from the book Generation iY by Tim Elmore)

  • Affluence and Social Experimentation/ you be you movement
  • Parenting styles preventing preparation for adulting
  • Media and technology provide unrealistic vision of what the world is like
  • Formal education prepares students to be long term students instead of going into the workforce
  • Postmodern thoughts foster cynicism
  • Culture values convenience over commitment (the I want it NOW mentality)

Although it seems like the negative is being highlighted, there have been some early stats with this generation.  Teen pregnancy has decreased significantly, drug abuse in this generation is less regular than with their parent’s generation, violent crime (despite what the news might make you think) is at the lowest point in over 20 years, and education and civic involvement are at an all time high.  More than 50% of high schoolers do some sort of volunteer work, college students are involved in activism, many generation iY are entrepreneurial before entering college, they work harmoniously and thrive with diversity.  They have a skill set many of the previous generations didn’t have when they entered the workforce.  So how can we get through to them?

Elmore lays out  7 steps to getting through to this current generation.

  1. Want to belong before they believe
    1. They join, get to know groups and feel apart of something, and THEN they embrace it.  They work to figure out relationships vs the logical side of being a part of something.  If we can learn to truly embrace them, they can learn to embrace the idea.
  2. Experience before explanation
    1. We need to show them how to do things, let them try to do it on their own, and then explain or provide feedback.  They thrive on the actions and the interactions.
  3. Cause before a course
    1. To get them to agree to a course of action, they need to understand the cause.  They need a reason to listen – and “because you need to” is not a good enough reason.
  4. Guide on the side, before sage on stage
    1. Create a combination of being authentic in your role, and serving as a mentor.
  5. Play before Pay
    1. Desire quick results, and need to feel connected quickly in order to engage
  6. Use but not be used
    1. They want to take initiative and stay in charge so give them a chance to.  They also strive to create new things but move toward the same goal.  It might be simply a communication style difference, but make sure you are on the same page.
  7. Transformation not Touch
    1. They want to be apart of experience that transforms the organization or themselves in the process.  They thrive on the process and not necessarily on the final product.

This generation is looking for a workplace that places appropriate demands on them, and one that is setting appropriate standards.  Start thinking about how you can be more accepting, supportive, and patient in the areas of your supervision that allow that.

It’s simple really: Think about not only what you are saying as you interact with this generation, but how you are saying it.

Stay tuned for Generation iY Part 2: Looking at parenting styles, and the lies we tell ourselves about Millennials.

Now enjoy this clip from CBS’s The Great Indoors


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