Gen Y: Generation of Entitlement?

I regularly research different topics surrounding Gen Y. Being in HR definitely sparked this interest because this is the generation that will be dominating our workforce in a few short years. To be ahead of the talent acquisition game and to be effective in restructuring leadership efforts to impact this generation, I’ve been taking time to read the many insights about characteristics that make up this generation. Of course, there are always conflicting thoughts about which ones are good or bad but one statement truly stuck out to me: Gen Y comes off as “entitled” in the workplace.

Not to make an overall sweeping statement of this group, but generally speaking, this statement came off both true and false to me. Can Gen Yers come off as entitled in the workplace? Sometimes. Are they completely at fault for having that mentality? Not entirely. With that said, it may be time to refocus the expectations of Gen Y while simultaneously giving awareness to “outsiders” as to why this may occur.

Gen Y grew up in a time where recognition was given out frequently and sometimes without merit. They were given a gold star or a high five for showing up or just for simply participating. They were given the belief that they could be anything they wanted to when they grew up. Technology had made life easier and things occurred a lot quicker because of it. These simple things have shaped individuals of this generation while growing up, and eventually leaked into the workplace. So when Gen Y workers complain that they aren’t moving up fast enough or that their boss blocks them from opportunity, does that mean they’re entitled? Not quite. Some may be misguided due to the things they were exposed to while growing up.

Falling into the Gen Y category myself, I learned the hard way. I eventually figured out that although recognition is motivating and that I truly do believe I can be whatever I want to, there were a few steps that I forgot about in between. “Showing up” to your job is one thing but showing up AND making an impact is another. I used to believe that just because I did a job function satisfactorily for a year, it would be enough to be promoted. I soon learned that I was wrong. Any average person could go to work day in and day out and get their job done. But a person worthy of moving up had to go beyond that.

Satisfactory work shouldn’t have been an accomplishment for me. I should have continued to find ways to excel at work and let my superiors know. I shouldn’t have thought I deserved a promotion just because I had a year under my belt. I should have done my current job well and then I should have taken on stretch projects to show that I could handle my job and also handle the additional tasks for the job I was aiming for. Did this mean I would be putting in extra hours and I wouldn’t reap the benefits instantly? Definitely. But why would an employer invest in me if I don’t show them I’m worth investing in? More importantly, why would they invest in anyone who isn’t invested in the work that they do?

The belief that you could be anything you wanted when you grew up isn’t far out of reach for those who work hard. Unfortunately, some give up early in the process because of the amount of dedication it takes to get there. You can’t wake up one morning and think that this will fall in your lap. And luck has absolutely nothing to do with it. To get where you want to be is comprised of long days of work/study, persistence, research, and the ability to keep pushing through pitfalls and rejection. The sooner that this is realized, the sooner people can start working on it. Additionally, maybe this realization would help people reduce the anger they feel when they don’t achieve their dreams right away.

The greatest thing I learned in my years as a Gen Y worker is patience. I grew up in a time where instant gratification trumped everything. I used to abandon things that didn’t seem to work out quickly enough. Now that I have learned the art of patience, I see that the fruits of my labor actually turn out better than I would have initially thought. I often wonder what would have happened if I gave other things time back when my need for immediate results blinded me from the big picture. Would I have been further along in business? Would I have accomplished more? I’m not sure but I’m glad that I figured it out early enough to change my approach and make a difference.

I don’t believe that all of Gen Y is entitled in the workplace. I think that sometimes we’re a little ill-advised. This could have happened because we were told that we were bound for greatness but never were told the amount of work it would require nor where to start. The greatest thing I was given was a few mentors along the way that showed me the reality of the world of work. I hope more people take time to guide Gen Yers as they make their way into the workplace.

Disclaimer: This post was not intended to generalize any group of people.

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How Are You Preparing The Future Workforce?

Recently, I was talking to Megan Burkett about her blog post that dealt with preparing college students and recent grads to make informed decisions when picking a major and career path. As we discussed our experiences with this, we reflected on the things we know now that we wish we knew then. Although life is about the journey and making mistakes to determine what is actually meant for us, I think all of us can agree that when it comes to our futures, we’d like to be a little more prepared. We would like to make sure that the decisions we make today are the ones that will help us get to our ultimate goal, even if there is some missteps and stumbling along the way. So in this respect- what are Gen Y and our future generations asking for? Some real, individual guidance.

Our teachers and advisers try to help us when it comes to deciding our degrees but more often than not, they aren’t able to give us the most informed overview of what this degree can do for us. Sure, they can throw around some general job titles that we might be able to land with a degree like that and maybe some of the required classes will give us an idea of some of the things we will be dealing with once we get into the working world. But the issue is: it’s so general. Many of us are left with little information to help is figure out what the next steps are to prepare for graduation and the working world. Do we take an internship? If so, what type of internship will be useful? What should we expect? Is the experience we get through these internships, college jobs, and classes going to be relevant to what we’re aiming for after graduation? Do we even know what we want to aim for outside of college?

More often than not, we are unprepared for what we’re going to face in the real world. What we thought a job or role would entail is completely different than we had assumed. We learn that we didn’t have right credentials or we need more experience and schooling to land the RIGHT job. We don’t know where to look or how to get noticed. We don’t know anything about company culture, searching for a company that has values that are aligned with ours, or the importance of a company that offers us a future beyond the entry-level job.

Our advisers, professors, mentors, and parents try hard to give us an idea of what we should expect but often times it’s not detailed enough to work for our individual questions and needs. Colleges and companies are taking great strides to perform career fairs and bring awareness to students, but is it enough? I don’t believe so.

I would love it if more mentors and leaders took the time to really listen to early careerists or students and provide better feedback to help them be proactive in an effective way. Teach these individuals about internships, externships, and other programs that will help them build the skills prior to looking for full-time work. Teach them the importance of networking, effective job seeking, and how to research company culture. If you’re a company, help create transparency and take the time to help these job seekers easily understand why they should work for you, what to expect, and determine if it’s a fit for them. Employment branding is important but sometimes these fancy words and campaigns don’t make much sense to people who haven’t had experience or business-know-how to determine the message. Bridge the gap and help them transition.

Gen Y will be dominating the work force before we know it. And with that being said, it’s important that we prepare them in the best way possible to ensure that our workforce will be strong from the get-go. What efforts are you making to help prepare, educate, and offer experience to the generations to come?

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Connect with Megan on Linkedin

The Multi-Generational Workplace: Learning from Each Other

Last Wednesday’s #TChat touched upon the multi-generational workplace. The discussion talked about how the workforce is changing and now includes Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers all within one workforce. As expected, a good portion of companies can feel some strain caused by the differences of the generations. So what’s the best way to understand one another and open up chances to collaborate? Create opportunities to mentor one another, and that includes reverse mentoring.

Typically, Gen Y is mentored by the older generations because they have had more experience in the working world. Although this makes perfect sense, it is also very important to allow Gen Y to also mentor Gen X and Baby Boomers on the things they are “experts” at. Essentially, everyone has the ability to teach one another but you must create a workplace environment that encourages this type of mentoring.

  • Create weekly or monthly meetings where different generations can host a “Lunch and Learn” session.
  • Assign groups of people who represent different generations to collaborate on different projects.
  • Create learning events almost similar to speed dating: have set tables for different topics and have your employees move around and learn from one another.
  • Create incentive or recognition programs for those who go above and beyond to teach others things that will benefit the company.

Opening up these opportunities can help generations understand one another and truly respect what individual attributes and qualities they possess. These ideas can help open up the minds of those in the workplace to show that we honestly can learn from one another, despite if you are a seasoned professional or a recent grad just entering the working world. With this mentality, businesses can benefit and grow together.

Here’s a #Tchat Recap for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks, Sean Charles, for the schnazzy picture.

If you’re interested in learning more about #Tchat topics, be sure to join us on Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

Gamification Spotlight: GOLD™

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A few months back, I had a pretty interesting Skype call with Martina Mangelsdorf, the Founder of GAIA Insights. Martina and I had originally became acquainted through various discussion groups on Linkedin in which I soon learned that her company dealt with customizing leadership development to work with Generation Y talent. I found her concept extremely interesting, so we had multiple conversations about how it works. She soon saw that I was interested in gamification and gave me some great details about the gamification she created called GOLD™ (Game Oriented Leadership Development), which is targeted for Gen Y.

Here are some of the amazing details Martina told me in regard to GOLD™:

  • GOLD™ was created for the workplace that is targeted for Gen Y and is considered the future of learning.
  • It is a built on the principle of games, focusing on methodology of leadership development.
  • It caters to the values and attributes of Gen Y.
  • It aims for emotional engagement and transformational insights.

The benefits of GOLD™ are:

  • It engages Gen Y on their terms.
  • It offers unique experiences to develop leadership capabilities.
  • It addresses defined learning objectives in unconventional ways.
  • It fosters sustainable learning through emotional memory anchors.
  • It develops better leaders which will directly impact your business and bottom line.
  • It finds ways to engage employees, so lessons stay with them down the line.

What makes GOLD™ unique?

  • It has a defined learning objective.
  • It creates engaging interaction.
  • It promotes social collaboration.
  • It allows transformational insight.
  • Participants can receive instant gratification.
  • It is a memorable experience.
  • And, of course, it’s fun!

Martina shared her version of GOLD™ that gave me some fantastic insight on what the benefits and principles were. I was really impressed that a game could promote learning that can easily be absorbed by employees through memory anchors. Being a Gen Yer myself, I felt that this was an amazing way to engage employees to learn quicker. I think this could help benefit any company, hands down.

More information about GOLD™, GAIA Insights, and Martina:

GAIA Insights

About GAIA

Martina Mangelsdorf LinkedIn

Gamification Article by IEDP

What Gen Y Wants from an Employer

Today’s topic will be about Gen Y and the workplace. I felt that this subject was important to bring up mainly because Gen Y will dominate majority of the workforce by 2025. With that being said, employers need to focus in on the characteristics of Gen Y and develop a plan to attract and retain talent. I also particularly like this topic because I am a Gen Yer and majority of my peers are Gen Yers in the workforce. Needless to say, I am surrounded by discussions regarding this generation and what they want from an employer. Here are some facts, in no particular order:

Gen Y values company culture: I’m sure if you’ve read any of my previous blog postings you can see how much I stress the importance of company culture. I’ve been placed in all kinds of work environments over the last few years, so I’ve had the pleasure of seeing good, bad, or non-existent cultures. My work ethic was affected by these environments. If I loved a company and was proud to work there, it would be evident. My performance would definitely show it and I would not hesitate to broadcast everywhere that my employer was better than your employer (:-P).

I didn’t really realize the importance of company culture until I worked at CreateSpace (an Amazon.com company). They seemed to really know how to celebrate individualism, embrace diversity, and encourage people to be openly innovative. The managers I had were great in the sense that they knew that everyone was different and, therefore, had to be managed differently in order to get the best results. I distinctly remember my Team Lead asking me, “How do you like to receive feedback?” I think my mouth hung open as I processed the fact that my supervisor actually cared enough to find the best way to manage me effectively. The leaders there also celebrated people for a job well done and knew how to make the workers feel like their contributions mattered.

Also, as I mentioned yesterday, Benefitfocus seems to hone in on the fact that culture is valued by this generation. They were passionate enough about it that they actually published a book on the subject. I’ll be receiving that soon, so there look out for future posts regarding it!

Gen Y strives to grow professionally and wants feedback: This generation relies heavy on feedback and mentoring. It’s not because they’re needy and require praise all of the time, but simply because they want to know what they do well and what they can improve on. They want to work hard, grow, and move forward in the working world. They’ll value an employer that gives them suggestions and opportunities to do so. Some of the better employers recognize this and make an effort to give regular feedback, discuss career paths, and present opportunities for employees to gain experience. For example, Apple and Google have classes so employees can continually learn and increase their knowledge. It was nice to see an employer invest so much in their employees’ educations.

Also, feedback is important for reasons other than helping employees grow. I distinctly remember a friend telling me that her company is big on the “no news is good news” philosophy. I was actually appalled by that. How could a company only give negative feedback? Needless to say, the employees of that company were extremely uneasy because they never knew if they were doing things right. Anxiety caused productivity to waver, employees to be less invested/committed in the company, and turn-over. Those who left the company told me that they’d rather be with a company that didn’t keep them in the dark than stick with a company that may unexpectedly fire them for mysterious reasons.

Feedback can help an employee see a future with the company. If no one shows them that a future is there, they’ll move on to greener pastures.

Gen Y wants workplace options: We are a technically savvy bunch which means we hope our employer can find other workplace options for us than just the typical 9-to-5-sit-at-a-desk-workplace. Although having a routine is nice, it can sometimes kill creativity, innovation, and feel like a cage. Technology and portable devices make it easy for employees to be mobile and stay connected. We hope that employers realize this so it allows more freedom: flexible work schedules; work-from-home; flexible workspaces around the workplace; and results-only-work-environments are some options that come to mind.

Although some employers are reluctant to do this for fear that employees will take advantage of these alternative work options, I think they will be pleasantly surprised to find out that Gen Y wants more responsibility. They want to be accountable for their work/contributions to the company. Additionally, they want recognition for their work. So instead of making your company feel like “Big Brother is watching”, consider other ways to measure productivity besides a punch clock. Perhaps adopt a work option that focuses more on end results.

Gen Y wants an employer that has integrity and makes a social impact: We just want you to be like our favorite superheroes. You know; the ones that do things for the greater good. Nothing is more of a turn-off than seeing a company go all “Machiavellian” and only do things that help their personal gain. If your company does good for others, your employees will feel good about working for you. I mean, who wouldn’t be proud to work for a company that somehow makes the world a better place?

Your company will seem trustworthy, which is a big thing that attracts talent. For example, candidates decided to take job offers with Salesforce.com because the company was involved in donating to a foundation and encouraged employees to volunteer and participate in community service. Who would have thought that you can attract candidates because of your social impact strategy?

It’s time to start training your leadership to change some of their practices. There are companies out there that will help you re-structure and develop your leadership efforts to help cater to the changes in the workforce. I’ve actually had the pleasure of networking with Martina Mangelsdorf via LinkedIn over the last few months. Over a course of a few e-mails and Skype conversations, I was able to learn that her company did just that. I was delighted to see that there are people out there that really understood what Gen Y needs out of an employer. So, employers, it is in your best interest to get prepared because Gen Y is coming for you!

Links to read (I apologize that my hyperlinking function isn’t working!):

Martina Mangelsdorf LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/martina-mangelsdorf/1/611/740

Leadership training for Gen Y: http://www.gaia-insights.com/

What Gen Y Wants- Time: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1640395,00.html?goback=%2Egmp_4358820

Harnessing the Power of the Loyalty Generation: http://socialmediatoday.com/davidjohnson4/563490/gen-y-harnessing-power-loyalty-generation?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Social+Media+Today+%28all+posts%29&goback=%2Egmp_4358820%2Egde_4358820_member_127717648

Benefitfocus: Winning with Culture book: http://www.benefitfocus.com/culture/

Google Classes: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-11-amazing-classes-that-google-employees-can-take-2012-3?op=1

Apple University: http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/10/06/apple_university_revealed_as_plan_to_teach_executives_to_think_like_steve_jobs.html

Companies mentioned:
http://www.createspace.com
http://www.amazon.com
http://www.apple.com
http://www.benefitfocus.com
http://www.google.com
http://www.salesforce.com

The Importance of Hiring Employees That Ask “Why?”

It seems to me that too many companies are reluctant to hire candidates that have a strong sense of curiosity, especially in terms of why company policies and procedures are the way they are. The reason why companies choose to pass on these candidates is because they feel that they will be too hard to manage. Additionally, most people are defensive when it comes to change. However, sometimes this change is necessary.

In the past, employees only got information from education and what their employers taught them. They rarely questioned if there was a better way because they didn’t have access to information to make them wonder. But now, things are different. Candidates in this job market have the advantage of technology at their fingertips. They can research information on subjects, explore different ways to do things, and network with people around the globe to get different perspectives. With this knowledge, people tend to start questioning an employer’s current practices and offer suggestions for better ways to handle business.

I believe that this is the age of “why” and some people have dubbed the new Gen Y as Gen “why” because of this. The issue is that many employers seem to shy away from this rather than welcome it. They may fear that the worker that asks “why” will cause issue in the workplace and cause chaos because they will influence other workers to start question “the way things are.” Although that is a valid concern, I think that more employers need to embrace that and find a way to channel it in way that can benefit the company.

To gain a competitive advantage, you need to be one step ahead of your competitors. You need to know how the market is shifting, what the consumers are demanding, and how to create a product or service that can be addicting to the public. How can a company be one step ahead and look forward to new opportunities if their whole workforce dutifully follows all policies, procedures, and practices that they were taught? To move ahead you need to have the people that challenge what is. You need to encourage innovation, allow employees to express their ideas and suggestions, and find a way to control the idea enough to make it work for your industry.

Too much regulated structure in education and the workplace will kill creativity, and ultimately your competitive edge. Do not deny the person that questions things. These will potentially be the people that find a way to have three steps ahead of the competition rather than one. Be open to it, encourage it, and listen to those who have the courage to speak up. I often wonder how many companies have kicked themselves for denying a candidate or employee that seemed to go against the grain, only to have that person go on and create their own empire. I think of people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates that got denied jobs and went on to outshine the companies that turned them away.

Companies need to stop telling people that things can’t be done because they’ve never been done before. Stop closing your minds to new ideas. Why not be the company that wows the world once they show them what is possible? Why not go down in history as the company that took that chance? Why?

Find the candidate or employee that asks you why- they will be the one that changes the business world.

Here are some other articles you can read on the subject. Enjoy:

http://www.inc.com/harvey-mackay/the-power-of-why.html

http://www.reliableplant.com/Read/18393/power-of-asking-%27why%27-how-it-makes-employees-think-grow

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/03/change_your_employees_minds_ch.html