Hiring Gen Y (Step 1B): Understanding the Generalizations & Stereotypes

by Traci K and BrightMove Staffing Software and Recruiting Software

Generation Y is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the workplace.  Their numbers are increasing steadily and employers proactive in planning for future training and management goals for their organizations must recognize the part Millennials will play in that big picture.  In order to assess where young professionals will fit in, understand how to make them productive, and encourage an overall fluid working environment in this multi-generational time we are finding ourselves in, you must overcome and learn to work around the stereotypes and generalizations that surround Generation Y.

Generalizations and stereotypes are, by definition, recognized traits that are applied to an entire group of people collectively.  Whether there is any truth to these “facts” is going to obviously vary person to person.  However, many generalizations and stereotypes are created because the behaviors behind them are observed more often than not.  Even though they might not apply to all members of the group, it is helpful to understand the high probability of encountering one or more of these characteristics in the youth of your organization and learn to manage them.  Heather Salmon provided the list below in a recent post on Entrepreneur.com:

Generation Y Generalizations

  • They’re independent, free thinkers, free agents, in charge of their own careers. They don’t want to be constrained by rules or policies. They’re “me-focused”, having learned from an early age that the best person to look after their interests is themselves. But they also have a strong need to stay connected. They may travel the world but they text and E-mail their friends continually.
  • They’re well educated. Their parents impressed on them the importance of higher learning, and they may well have more than one university degree.
  • They’re tech savvy. They not only know how to use technology, they think and breathe it. They use it to solve problems, find answers, and to keep in touch. It must be instant and it must be the latest.
  • They’re fast-moving, impatient for success, want rewards and recognition just for being there, and are confident in their value to any organization they work for. If they’re not valued and respected they move to greener pastures. They don’t expect or give loyalty, love change, and thrive on new challenges and excitement. They need new stimulation continually.
  • They have opinions on everything and want to express them. They value education over experience, challenge the way things are done, are innovative, know how things should be done, make decisions fast, want instant action, expect instant results, and think for the short-term. The rewards of strategic thinking don’t come fast enough.
  • They’re social. They believe life is for living, want work-life balance, enjoy socializing, and want fun and excitement both at work and at play.
  • They’re materialistic. They want it all and they want it now. Debt is good as it makes this possible. They’re not concerned about when and how they will repay it. They have high expectations for pay and perks.
  • They care about the world and want to make a contribution that will make the world a better place. They’re concerned about pollution, minorities, saving the planet and saving whales. They want to know that their organization is making a positive contribution to the world, and has a positive image in the marketplace.

All of these generalizations have upsides and downsides.  Let’s take a quick pessimistic and optimistic look on how these attributes can be spun to be advantageous or disadvantageous to your organization:

    • They’re independent, free thinkers, free agents, in charge of their own careers.
      • Pro: Innovation and dominance are a great combination for future leaders.
      • Con: In order to create future leaders, you need to be able to manage and mold them, which can be difficult with these types of individuals.
    • They’re well educated.
      • Pro: The pros of education are limitless
      • Con: These well-educated youths are going to be working amongst older individuals who might have experience over education, working their way up by their bootstraps.  This could cause workplace tension between generations.  Generation Y has no respect for older workers they feel are not at their level and don’t have a problem showing their dissatisfaction.
    • They’re tech savvy.
      • Pro: Being skilled at all things technological means not having to run to IT for problem within your department.  As well, this makes them far more capable of researching things on their own and having the ability problem-solve won their own.
      • Con: Going back to the older generations,  Generation Y will not have respect for those that are not as technologically minded as they are.  As well, having the knowledge of the “latest and greatest” will find them always wanting to be on the cutting edge.  Many companies might not be financially capable of keeping up with the standards Gen Y sets for being an innovative company.
    • They’re fast-moving, impatient for success, want rewards and recognition just for being there, and are confident in their value to any organization they work for.
      • Pro: This makes them driven.  They are always thinking, “what comes next?”, “where do I go from here?”, “one step further”.  This allows employers to constantly set goals and let their Millennials work to reach them.
      • Con: This makes them entitled.  If they feel they deserve a certain position, responsibility, etc., they are going to feel they could get the recognition they deserve elsewhere (and they will leave your organization to pursue just that).
    • They have opinions on everything and want to express them.
      • Pro: The ability to voice opinions keeps the flow of ideas and possibilities for great changes floating around in the air.  Their perspectives are fresh and they value being listened to.
      • Con: They want to express their opinions.  That’s great when it’s the appropriate time and place.  Your first day on the job may not be the time to start telling persons in your department how their processes could be changed to run more smoothly and effectively.  In believing you have the greatest ideas, a lack of modesty accompanies it.  They need to be taught that they do have a place in the working world and they need to work, not only to hold their spot, but to be in a place to criticize and critique.  This also comes back to the education.  If they feel they are more educated, they are then superior.
    • They’re social.
      • Pro: They can build relationships quickly and with their tech savvy nature, they have the ability to network.  This is always beneficial to organizations for sales, recruitment, branding, etc. opportunities.
      • Con: They talk and talk and talk (whether verbally, through e-mail, text, social media, or otherwise).  They constantly need to know what’s going on and they need to feel “in the loop”.  This can interfere with work responsibilities, productivity and the overall perception of laziness from other generations in the workforce.  Their social skills can be beneficial, but they need to be managed well.
    • They’re materialistic.
      • Pro: It’s hard to find a pro about being materialistic.  The need for immediate gratification and the entitlement of pay are not a good combination.  However, if channeled into something productive, the fact that Generation Y can correlate their hard work with what they get for their efforts (their paycheck), perhaps a better understanding of what it takes to make a dollar can help humble these young professionals.
      • Con: Where to begin. See the Pro for this one. This is a hard one to overcome, but it can be done.
    • They care about the world and want to make a contribution that will make the world a better place.
      • Pro: Who wouldn’t admire compassion for your planet and your fellow man?  If your company has programs in place to support these contributions, Gen Yers may immediately be on the list to help.  If not, that could be something a new recruit can help implement.
      • Con: Depending on the ability of your organization to take on human interest or green initiatives, this may not be such a great quality in your eyes for the youth of today.  There are plenty of non-profit organizations that you can align your company with that would take little effort and cost (United Way for example can help you set up to have a portion of employee paychecks donated to them and it is easy for payroll to process).  Or, for great, low-cost ways to bring your corporation on board with green initiatives, see the previous post People-Planet-Profit.

Urban Dictionary identifies Generation Y with the new term Slackoisie.

Slack·oi·sie; pronounced slack-wah-zee. noun.
– narcissistic young professionals who often complain about work, are critical of long hours, and have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and entitlement.

Everyone may have their perceptions of the type of people make up this Next Generation and the work habits that will come along with them.  They are here to stay and they are the future of many businesses, so like it or not, you better learn how to play up their strengths and manage their weaknesses.  First things first, however.  You can’t manage Millennials if you don’t have any working for you.  In the next post we’ll start the discussion on recruiting this generation, beginning with what attracts them to certain organizations.  See Step Two – Knowing What Appeals to Millennials.

Traci K. is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration.  When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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