Top 5 Ways to Gain Gen Y Value in Baby Boomer Organizations
Members of Gen Y (aka Millennials, the Net Generation) are already working at your company and may have brought with them hidden opportunities for organizational value. The popular press (for example, Fortune and WSJ) and academic outlets (for example, Twenge & Campbell in Psychological Science, pdf) describe how Gen Y is different in attitude (e.g., more positive self views, greater expectations for feedback) and capabilities (they've grown up digital). Rather than an obstacle, these differences can provide value in firms where managers use these differences to trigger organizational updates or harness the Gen Y energy and connections. Below I highlight five ways to gain Gen Y value in a Baby Boomer organization. 1. Update organizational practices and technology resources to enable seamless collaboration -- strive for a platform approach rather than one focused on piecemeal applications. Collaboration is good for all of us, and expected by Gen Y. Use their expectations as an opportunity to provide stronger support for all your employees and their work. 2. Use information security as a strategic force -- open up what you can and practice strong security where you must. Gen Y is also known as the Facebook Generation. Constant updates, tracking of friends, collaborating on documents via wikis are all part of communication and collaboration. Organizations that build walls around data and interaction are not getting all the value they can from their workforce. Even the U.S. government is getting in the swing of this with their providing public access to government collected data. Data.gov went live May 21, 2009. Critical to this approach is mentoring employees who don't have the depth of experience to understand the value of intellectual property and the legal implications of corporate communication. 3. Provide feedback directly from tasks. Especially for people with high self esteem, feedback that comes directly from the work (versus from a supervisor) provides greater job satisfaction. Much of modern work is tracked or trackable. Use this capability to provide the feedback that Gen Y employees seem to crave, and that motivation scholars have said is part of solid job design. (At the same time, think about the cycles of feedback -- in some environments too frequent feedback can detract from better long term strategies.) 4. Emphasize the best practices of employee development to both managers and individual contributors. Goal setting-based performance management that is tied to projects rather than artificial calendar dates provides the roadmap to career success than many Gen Y employees have come to expect from their relatively structured college educations. The discipline of goal-setting also pushes managers to think carefully about how best to use their human resources. The popular belief is that Gen Y expects more responsibility earlier than most organizations are set up to provide. Use their energy to consider whether more work can be done by fewer, more focused employees. 5. Focus on networks -- theirs and yours. Socially networked Gen Y employees bring with them an army of support. Use it. This is an "always on" resource that can benefit your firm (but requires that you have instilled a clear understanding of the security issues noted above). If your networked employees leave the company, keep them in your network. Consulting companies like Ernst & Young have had alumni programs for a long time. Facebook is full of corporate alumni groups set up by the alums themselves. The members of those groups intuitively understand what research (pdf) has shown: networking is good for both your career and current job satisfaction. From the organization's perspective, these extended networks provide, at a minimum, recruiting assistance and possibilities of partnering with organizations where you already have someone who knows your company. That's my top 5. I have a few more but suspect you have examples better than my #6. I hope you will share these in the comments below.