There’s an old proverb that tells us to hire people smarter than we are, which scares weak leaders and people who lack confidence. Howard Hughes once said, “I’d rather have 1 percent of the efforts of 100 men than 100 percent of any one man.”
The reason for this is simple. Through diversity and different life experiences, people have the ability to bring richness to a business that just can’t be acquired any other way. And right now, I believe the business community has one of those rare opportunities to have a dramatic influence on where business has to eventually go to find success in the world of tomorrow.
What I’m talking about is the group of people born in the ’80s and ’90s and commonly referred to as Generation Y.
Gen-Yers were born into a world already infused with technology. After all, the first Apple computer was introduced in 1976 and the first IBM PC came out in 1981. Being connected electronically is their natural state.
Their comfort and familiarity with technology has created a number of cultural clash points with the rest of the working population.
• Gen-Y workers want feedback NOW! “If a computer can give me instant feedback, why can’t my boss, manager or supervisor?”
• “Computers are fun, why can’t work be fun, too?”
• “If I finish the work you want done the way you want it done and deliver it when you want it delivered, why do you care where, when or how I do it? I like working at Starbucks at 3 a.m. with a fat-free decaf soy latte.”
This kind of attitude makes most baby boomers (like me) crazy. I want to see my employees doing their work in the office and I resent the fact that they can get their work done at home or on the beach or in the mountains with some 4G device.
Which leads me to my next point of disconnect. Gen-Yers demand a healthy work environment.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of interviewing a Gen-Y job applicant and being asked about your family-friendly, eco-sensitive virtual work options, you just haven’t entered the 21st century yet.
Generation Y demands work-life balance. If you question their reasoning, they’ll come back at you with, “How can I do my best work if I’m not happy?” And it doesn’t stop there.
The next step in this evolutionary work force change is flexibility, which is code for no supervision. They want to be judged on their work, not their methods, which means they want to be able to work wherever and whenever they want.
Most managers and employers still see this attitude as arrogance or as having a sense of entitlement. But take a step back and ask yourself, what difference does it really make when or where the work gets done as long as it gets done right and on time? That’s an obstacle you’re simply going to have to get over.
Corporate social responsibility:
Members of Generation Y believe in having their cake and giving it away, too. Instead of making their money the old fashioned way and giving it to charity, Gen-Y asks, “Why wait when I can give some of it away now?”
The typical Gen-Y employee believes philanthropy is a moral responsibility. And if your company doesn’t have a corporate social responsibility program, the applicant probably won’t even consider your job offer … really.
Before you get all hot and bothered about these young kids just starting to enter the work force and changing the way work is defined, remember that the two largest demographic groups in the U.S. today are the baby boomers, born between 1943 and 1961, with about 72 million of us left, and Generation Y, occasionally called “echo boomers.” Best estimates put the total population of Generation Y at 76 million.
If that alone doesn’t make you sit up and take notice, you’re missing something very important. You may be able to avoid them as employees, but just like the baby boomers, Generation Y is going to dictate consumerism and business practices for decades to come.
They just have that kind of power, and they’re also living longer than we are. They’re not going away. But don’t worry, because this news is not all that bad.
Often referred to as Gen-Lazy, most Gen-Y employees are brilliant and hardworking — so long as you can find the proper carrot to motivate them. And if you can leave all the traditional trappings of a bureaucratic corporate America behind, you just might find yourself on the cusp of a new market opportunity. All you have to do is take a look at your customer of tomorrow.
Bottom line, Gen-Y workers can be among the most hardworking, ethical and dedicated people you are likely to meet, know or work with. But it’s got to be work on their terms, because money simply doesn’t drive them. Technology, taking care of the planet, the people on it, and having balance is what makes them tick.
So don’t be afraid to take a chance. Bring in some young blood and try something new and different. You never know, you might like it.