There is a lot of talk in the business world, and I am sure in other worlds, about Gen Y and how companies are handling the entrance of this new generation into the doors of their companies. I find the topic of generations, their characteristics, and the historical events that formed them to be fascinating. What I feel has not been explored yet is how the corporate world will be transformed when Gen Y’s become our new leaders. Here is my take.
The World from a Gen Y’s Point of View
Gen Y-ers have received an interesting reputation for being impatient and having high expectations when it comes to promotions and getting greater responsibility without first “paying their dues.” As such, several companies are instilling fast-track management programs to accommodate this need. This, of course, is hard on the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations as these generations feel Gen Y should be required to pay their dues much like they had to. But Gen Y is not interested in the formal hierarchy. While Gen Y acknowledges that it exists, they do not see it as something that they need to follow to the T.
Gen Y-ers are quick to leave a company for better opportunities elsewhere and most Gen Y-ers change their majors three times in college before settling on the one. They do not know how to live without multi-tasking and prefer to communicate through social media outlets, email and text instead of by phone. At work, they would rather email a question and wait for a reply than give someone a buzz and get an immediate answer. Since Gen Y-ers are also known for needing immediate gratification as a result of being born in the internet age, this seems a bit backwards. But a Gen Y-er would much rather email a question and work on ten other items while they wait for a reply than take the time to call and engage in what could turn out to be a long phone call.
Gen Y-ers are about efficiency and would also rather ask someone a question than spend hours searching for the answer themselves. If they know someone already has the answers, what is the point in wasting time doing the same research?
Gen Y wants to work independently and autonomously and they expect to be able to work from anywhere at any time. If they want to work from home in the morning and come in after lunch, or work from the office before lunch and from a library or coffee shop in the afternoon that should be respected. To a Gen Y, so long as the work gets done, does it really matter that they worked from 10 pm to 4 pm one day? If they are producing results, does it really matter that they did not do the full 8 hours? Gen Y is not interested in being treated like a child needing constant supervision and they do not understand why the 8 hour convention still exists. Who decided everyone needed 8 hours a day to do their work?
Gen Y is not interested in office politics and as they enter the working world with their fellow Baby Boomer and Gen X colleagues, they will receive quite a shock. You see, Gen Y believes in merit, not politics. They expect that those who perform the best should be the ones who are rewarded, recognized and promoted. They also believe in the inclusion of others and are comfortable and enjoy working with people different from themselves to achieve a greater good. They want very much to do meaningful work and to make a difference and affect the world in big ways.
When Gen Y’s Lead the Corporate World
What does all this mean for how business will function in the future when Gen Y’s are the ones sitting in the power positions as C-Levels and VPs? What would that world look like? As a Gen Y-er myself, I would have to say that I agree with most of the characteristics I have been labeled with and this is how I see the corporate world when my and my generation’s time comes.
While I do not believe office politics will be non-existent in the Gen Y era, I do believe that it will have much less importance and will not be as prevalent for several reasons.
In general, Gen Y is just not interested in office politics. To them, it seems like an unnecessary game and they would rather ignore it completely than get involved. While they enjoy, and may even prefer, working independently, they also like collaborating and working together. Getting involved in politics makes what could have been great personal relationships messy.
Gen Y enjoys working hard so long as they can work on their own schedule and independently of location. In the future, I believe workplaces will be more open, geared towards collaboration and will be very mentally stimulating. Work will be a fun place to be for anyone who wants to work from the office. Key word: wants. Anyone who does not want to work from the office on a particular day will be free to work from wherever they desire. Telecommuting will be the norm. Since Gen Y prefers to use emailing and texting as their communication mediums, in person interaction will be greatly reduced which means office politics will reduce as a result.
While Gen Y enjoys working in teams, telecommuting along with Gen Y preferences for emailing and texting will result in more written communication than verbal communication. With more conversations, thoughts and ideas documented it will be harder for colleagues to steal credit from one another which again, reduces the prevalence of office politics.
Another effect of telecommuting is there will be fewer chances for image building. In today’s world, a lot of your success is dependent on the perception you give others of your work. Anyone who is in the corporate world today can probably attest to knowing someone who claims they do a lot of work and successfully gives the perception of doing so, but in reality their actual output is minimal at best. With communication being mostly written and face-to-face time being diminished due to telecommuting, employees will need to put more into achieving results than building their image. In line with Gen Y’s preferences, performance will be based more on actual merit.
In the future, there will need to be very rigid and measurable ways to determine who is performing well for all careers. In procurement, merit is measured by how much you save. In sales, it is by how much money you bring into the company. While both of these career tracks will need better measurement criteria, for areas like design or certain types of marketing, there will need to be even more concrete measuring criteria.
Much like when Gen Y was choosing their college majors, so will they choose their careers. There is so much to do and to learn. There is always something else that is the next best thing and that is exactly what the Gen Y wants to go after. While changing jobs every few years is already the norm, so will changing career tracks from something as different as culinary arts to management consulting or finance to marketing. And future Gen Y leaders will embrace such changes with open arms because they understand that you cannot grow doing the same thing at the same place forever.
Gen Y leaders will be efficient in their work and will be great coaches and mentors. They were given great coaching and advice from their parents and teachers growing up, so this will be something that is very important to them. There will also be much good done in the world as Gen Y believes in social responsibility and are more environmentally conscious.
Of course, all of this is assuming Gen Y’s decide to enter or stay in the working world in the first place. Instead, we may very well see a multitude of individual business created by Gen Y’s to feed their entrepreneurial appetites.