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Basic Survival Skills for Managing Gen Y

Ira Wolfe asked:

(c) 2008 Success Performance Solutions

Worldwide Generation Y is huge, nearly 2 billion strong. In the U.S. Gen Y, also called Millennials, outnumber the Baby Boomers, the previously largest generation. The Boomers made and moved markets. The Millennials will be the doing the same thing but more quickly and dramatically. Millennials will rewrite the rules for communities, markets, and workplaces.

Millennials were born between 1980 – 2000, so we’re just starting to see the oldest Millennials entering the workforce. They grew up during the greatest period of wealth creation in modern history. They have also witnessed irrational exuberance ending in the dot-com crash, terrorism, war and climate change.

Unfortunately the oldest Millennials could also be called Generation Debt. No group has ever started adult life so deeply in the hole due to mounting college costs, dwindling financial aid, and credit-card debt.

Millennials are mostly the by-product of the late-marrying and married again baby boomers. They grew up with “Baby on Board” signs and a culture that lovingly catered to their needs. Their parents have been called “helicopter parents” and “snowplow parents” for hovering over every move their child made and trying to pave the way to a clear future. As a result, they are characterized as being optimistic, tech-savvy, multi-cultural and collaborative.

Authorities on the digital revolution, these tech-savvy kids spend more text messages everyday than there are people on the planet. They grew up tethered to multiple electronic devices while juggling text messages, surfing the Net and listening to iPods – all while doing their homework. They mix learning, communicating and playing.

Worldwide this generation is huge, nearly 2 billion strong. In the U.S. the Millennials outnumber the Baby Boomers, the previously largest generation. The Boomers made and moved markets. The Millennials will be the doing the same thing but more quickly and dramatically. Millennials will rewrite the rules for communities, markets, and workplaces.

These youngsters have grown up online, bathed in bits and bytes. Unlike their parents who grew up watching 24 hours of television per week, Millennials grew up interacting with their media.

By age 21 years of age, it is estimated that the average Millennial child will have:

Spent 10,000 hours playing video games Sent 200,000 emails Spent 20,000 hours watching TV Spent 10,000 hours on their cell phone Spent under 5,000 hours reading

Young people are gathering en masse on line to collaborate. Millennials, unlike their Gen-X predecessors who incessantly played one-dimensional games, create the games they play – virtually and interactively with people they’ve never met. Hanging out with their friends down the street has been replaced by online gaming and social networking. It’s like they closed the bedroom door but instead of one best friend inside they now invite thousands of friends in. Lacking in many traditional social circles – school, work and family – these online networks provide virtual instant feedback and affection.

Whether you agree with them or not, Millennials will be knocking on your doors for jobs for years to come. Millennials are the future. Yes, their attitudes and values are different -not necessarily bad, just different. But when hired and managed effectively, Millennials will be some of the brightest, generous, and most collaborative employees you’ll ever hire.

What are some Basic Survival Skills for Managing the Millennials?

Millennials love to work for managers who teach new things. They work hard for managers who coach them and are positive – just like their soccer Moms and stay-at-home Dads. Their expectations are that managers are like their Moms and Dads – hovering over them and plowing the way. Learning must be dynamic and interactive with ongoing feedback.

Bruce Tulgan, author of several books on managing the different generations, offers these suggestions:

1. Treat Millennials like value adders from day one, not as interns or “know-nothing kids.” They can’t stand condescending practice managers and doctors who are not approachable when they need their questions answered. They want to feel like a colleague or associate, not a subordinate. Treating them respectfully, as you ask for respect in return, is key to a great relationship. (Here’s a strong suggestion: if you feel this advice is a bunch of hooey – then don’t hire anyone under 35!)

2. Be flexible. Customize schedules and work assignments. Since some Millennials are still in school or working two jobs or balancing family and work, they appreciate a manager’s attempt to balance work requirements with their other commitments.

3. Provide constructive feedback consistently and often. Don’t wait for performance evaluations to tell Millennials what they’re doing right or wrong. Tell them what they’re doing well today; tell them how to improve today. That’s what the best coaches do: They observe and give immediate feedback.

4. Tie rewards and incentives to one thing only: performance. And make sure to deliver praise, recognition, and rewards in close proximity to the contribution.

5. Facilitate helping Millennials meet their high expectations of themselves. They want to make meaningful contributions immediately. This is an admirable goal, and it may take some investment of your time to teach them how to get there.

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