Claire-Schooley by Claire Schooley

TJ Keitt, Heidi Lo and I presented a Forrester Teleconference about the Millennial or GenY on September 2, 2009. The multi-generational chat was by far the most active I’ve seen during a Teleconference with over 100 entries in an hour. TJ and I presented for a half hour and then opened the phone lines for voice questions. Heidi handled the tweets. Having two co-presenters helped us to participate in the chat. Because the pace of chat was so fast with so many conversations, participants were reacting to comments of others rather than just responding to a presenter comment or question. It was dynamic and truly community generated.

The premise of the teleconference was that the youngest generation in the workforce (Gen Y or Millennials) is neither revolutionizing the workforce (yet) nor acting as entitled employees. Some of the highlights of the participant interaction follow:

  • “It’s hard to get a job because as a new grad we can’t meet the ‘years of experience’ requirement.” Recommendation: Apply anyway. Be tenacious and prove that you can do the job.  One Baby Boomer participant is about to start a company that mentors new employees at corporate customers to address this “experience” requirement. Another GenYer suggested using your social network to reach the hiring manager. Another said that that GenXers in an organization can be excellent mentors for the GenYers.
  • Participants all liked mentoring and believed that it helped to break down walls and correct misconceptions among the generations. GenYers say they enjoyed and learned a lot from mentoring relationships with Baby Boomers who are retiring. It’s also a way to pass on tacit knowledge to the next generation.
  • Social networks are generally frowned on in business—according to the participants. GenYers felt executives are very uncomfortable and still uncertain about how these networks can be effective in the work environment. One participant had pushed for LinkedIn a few years ago and got resistance but once the recession hit, LinkedIn became popular, accepted, and used by all generations. LinkedIn members perceived this network as a real help to them in their job search . . . now it had meaning and a purpose that everyone could understand.
  • Participants felt loyalty has changed across all age groups. Employees today believe they must watch out for themselves and their future. Job mobility is expected from the Gen Xers and Yers. A Baby Boomer said the elimination of many corporate pension programs fueled mobility while Gen Xers and Yers don’t even expect or think about such programs—it’s outside their personal experience.
  • Entrepreneurship is common among Gen X and Y. Many participants said they have friends who operate side businesses; have left the corporate world to start their own businesses; or are freelancing. Social technology allows peer-to-peer interaction and work from any location. This is changing approaches to business and the way people work. i.e. The disappearance or demise of newspapers is a threat to traditional journalism, but bloggers are becoming the new journalists.
  • As technology changes, Gen Xers and Yers say that they are comfortable.They also believe their generations adapt well,and that they are often the drivers for changes. They use technology for convenience and to increase productivity.
  • Collegial environments and learning opportunities provide job satisfaction to GenYers. Young participants said they learn—even from the menial tasks in a company—but also expect more challenging learning leading to advancement.
  • Learning, career paths, and advancement opportunities are important retention features. The younger participants specifically mentioned these three areas as important to keep them working for a company.

Advice from younger generations for Baby Boomer managers and executives:

  • Gen Yers are your future leaders. You need us. Make your organization attractive to us but expect that we will bring change.
  • Understand the Gen Y culture. Don’t try to mold us into “old school” employees.
  • Expect that Gen Yers will challenge some of your business practices – we’ve been taught to question and think for ourselves. Don’t try to stifle our questions; listen to us; if our suggestions won’t work, help us to understand why not.

Share your experiences and thoughts on Gen Yers (Millennials) and add to this discussion.