There’s nothing more certain that can be said about humanity than that we most easily connect with those who share similar life experiences and interests. We all want to be connected to other people, though how, with whom, and how often is not so universal. For Gen Y this connectedness is part of work life as much as it is their personal lives.

Sure, it’s easier for us to relate to someone from our own generation many times and for good reason. People of our general age group seem to “get” us – which makes it easier for them to more intuitively know what we need and what we like at a starting point in building any kind of relationship.

This applies just as much in business as it does in our personal lives. Perhaps our supervisor is of an older generation than we are –potentially a mere side effect of their age having afforded them the additional years to gain experience that younger colleagues haven’t had the opportunity yet to enjoy.

Even in cases where we find ourselves working for a younger person, there are intrinsic issues to these cross-generational relationships. Rest assured you aren’t just having a natural reaction to authority or a particular management style any longer – our attitudes about work are just so different.

Even when you make a concerted effort to work toward a common goal there can be those off-track moments.

In today’s workplace, Boomers are in great numbers in management and executive positions and Generation X is middling its way through the ranks trying to make a name beyond that slated to him of ‘slacker’. But now that the Boomers have had a good, hard look at Gen Y’s workplace behaviors and expectations, that Gen Xer is starting to look pretty good to them!

At least the Gen X worker knows how to think for himself, doesn’t need a lot of hand-holding, and has some ambition to be successful.

Stop! Gen Y wants to be successful, too! It’s just that their idea of success does not tie in with a title and a corner office necessarily – it’s based more on the idea of enjoying what they are doing and feeling like they are making a contribution to some greater collaborative effort.

Don’t get me wrong now – they want the paycheck that goes with the upper rung on the corporate ladder and the primo office location! But they want to have that without what they see as the drudgery of an all-day… and sometimes into the evening… in-office job. They don’t view themselves in a hierarchy but rather as one among a group who come together to reach a common goal.

The problem is that these ideas and practices are not the nature of historical corporate culture. In recent decades, companies have streamlined operations through such difficult economical times that one man is often a group among himself – meaning he’s doing the job that three or more people once were employed to do.

“I collaborate with myself, wearing each of my varied hats alternately.”

Though the Baby Boomers enjoy ‘meetings’ (which one would think plays right into the team mindset that Generation Y embraces – you quickly see differences in each group’s perceptions about these settings. Gen Y doesn’t feel the need to be called into the office for face to face interaction – they’re IMing their friends, texting their coworkers, and posting comments back and forth on Facebook with their network all day long.

So when they aren’t sitting at their desks at 9:00 AM, they don’t understand why you think they aren’t working!

And what about training this younger generation?

Prior generations of workers have sat through endless in-person onboarding sessions and classroom training modules.

But Gen Y has – let’s face it, whether self-imposed or natural – a short attention span. When we try to subject them to our learning culture, they balk at the time involved and more than likely aren’t really hearing or absorbing the message.

Gen Y doesn’t subscribe to the belief that a full time job should require a set number of hours – they feel like if they can accomplish the goal in less time (even if that is finishing a training segment that might take some people 90 minutes in 30 minutes instead) then their job is done and they can call it a day!

They, much like all generations feel about their predecessors, think systems in the workplace are outdated. Sure, they respect the older generation in the sense that we have more experience than they do. However, that for them does not equate to trusting that what we consider “best practices” are truly that!

After all, their life experience is that the best information is dynamic and is available upon refreshing their browser screen. It’s the world they’ve grown up in…

So as we move forward we try to embrace new learning programs that not only indoctrinate workers in dealing with the generational differences with which we are now all facing… but also incorporate alternate mediums.

We provide videos, offer web conferences, utilize online self-paced modules – often the most valuable benefit being man-hours historically involved for instructor led courses. Writing and structuring training components that are technology-based and available for broader distribution still costs money, but those funds can now be allocated more to forward-thinking development and creation of that dynamic content for workers – both new and long-term!

The Gen Y employee is unlike loyal Boomers who work for us for decades or Gen X who will remain as long as there is something in it for them.

Gen likely Y won’t be here very long – they generally only stay at a job on average 2 years, and ultimately they want to own their own business. Their interests in work are diverse, with fewer than 10% settling in a single industry –the highest is Travel & Hospitality at 7.2% according to a study by Millenial Branding/Identified, Inc. in late 2011.

One huge draw to the multifamily industry as an employer for the Gen Y group will be the ability to live where they work.

Not only could they potentially walk out their door and minutes later walk into their office, but with the rise of retail offerings as part of the community structure it means we’re putting everything they need within easy reach. Generation Y has been perceived as placing great value on work-life balance, but Jason Dorsey, the Gen Y Guy, reports: “This couldn’t be further from the truth. What we want is integration.”

A huge contributing factor to winning over Gen Y as a customer and as an employee will be our ability and willingness to meet that primary need. They look to for a “lifestyle” in both their home and work environments that play to their desire for connectedness – not in the traditional sense but to the world and their massive social networks at a touch.

In my time, cell phones weren’t even permitted at the office let alone in schools. Signs were posted everywhere saying cell phones must be silenced or even turned off. Gen Y wants not only to know they can have their phone with them but that they are getting a solid transmission signal inside the office so they aren’t out of the loop with their friends and contacts!

They give out their cell numbers to customers, want permission to text with prospects, and ask business contacts to connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

To a Gen Xer like myself this is way too intense a personal interconnectivity – my personal life (and believe me I want time for that part of my life!) is separate from the workplace.

So how do we adapt to engage Gen Y long term in one workplace?  And what impact can we expect on our business and other generations working with them side by side?

 

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