Within most companies three generations can be discerned: the recruits, the potential leaders (in their 30’s and 40’s), and a group of senior managers. Typically, the work cycle has been to train each generation to ensure they are moving up the career ladder, bringing their own insights into the overall functioning of the company. However, today’s generation of recruits (and even of potential leaders) is being viewed differently by the current crop of senior managers. Instead of looking at them fondly as being full of potential, they are being viewed with anything from apprehension to utter confusion. In short, managers are fundamentally misunderstanding the members of Generation-Y (Gen Y), the millennials, or Generation Facebook within their teams - and how they will impact business both now and in the future.
Recent studies have unearthed several facts about Gen Y. They are more likely to be technologically inclined and literate; they are more mobile compared to previous generations and they are likely to be the most educated generation. Despite this, they are increasingly underpaid, lacking in long-term employment contracts, and generally feel unfulfilled at their workplace. This is not because Gen Y is a coddled, whiney bunch but is because they are quickly coming to terms with the fact that it may be some time before they get the responsibility and respect from their managers that they so typically crave. Not only are Gen-Y members settling at the workplace, they are also settling with taking a job in general. The impact of unemployment numbers among this generation forces many into career paths that they do not want to take nor are they prepared to do so. With such high numbers in youth unemployment and the amount of critical attention they are receiving, it’s become hard to see how those in their mid-twenties and early thirties will soon be a generation ready to lead any industry at all.
One of the difficulties for Gen Y is the lack of leadership and understanding from older generations looking to connect with them. Although there are several mentoring programs available, many in Gen Y feel that they are not receiving adequate training. This may point to the overarching problem: that there is a greater need to understand the differing views from different generations and prevent intercultural miscommunication. Without understanding this generation and its impact on business internally, how can companies expect to understand the impact of future generations? And if this generation is confusing to its elders, imagine the communication gap with one that has actually grown up with Facebook rather than meeting it for the first time in late teens / early 20s.