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Game-changing dynamics of Gen Y

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Game-changing dynamics of Gen Y

Q: Who are Generation Y and why is it so important to understand them ?

A: There is a sense of urgency about understanding Gen Y because we are on the cusp of major demographic change. We define ‘Generation Y’ as age 13 to 25 - those at the top of the bracket are either already in our workforce or among our customers. They need and demand a different approach which could necessitate major change in corporate culture and management systems. The way an organisation responds will directly impact on its bottom line in two important areas - staff retention and productivity and also customer retention and sales.

Q: Is there any difference between the behavior of younger and older members of Gen Y ?

A: Yes, our research support this theory. At the lower end of the category (the 13-18 age group), there is an even more marked divergence in behaviour between young teenagers and the majority of today’s workforce. To them, the internet has always been there, and like electricity, is an invisible force in their lives which they take for granted. They are what we term ‘i-Natives’ or ‘Digital Natives’ and they view multimedia communication platforms as completely natural and convenient methods of communication for work and leisure.

Q: Does this have a bearing on what will happen in the workplace ?

A: Absolutely. When the younger members of Generation ‘Y’ enter the workplace in significant numbers within the next five to 10 years we will see unprecedented change in workplace dynamics and customer interaction. Factor in that they will be serving an ageing population and you begin to grasp the seismic change on the near horizon. It is essential to work out what makes this generation of i-Natives or Digital Natives tick or you won’t understand a large swathe of your co-workers or customers.

Q: How do i-Natives differ from the rest of the population ?

A:There are fundamental differences between i-Natives born into a world of mobile phones, internet, SMS, and social networking, and the rest of the population whom we broadly categorise as ‘Adapting Immigrants.’ The latter category (the majority of the population currently) can master these technologies, but their underlying behaviour and attitudes remain quintessentially different. The biggest differences concern consumption of information, broadly characterised as a multi-tasking, multi-channel lateral approach exhibited by i-Natives; and a more concentrated, in-depth, task-oriented, linear approach exhibited by Adapting Immigrants.

Q: Do Gen Y have positive attributes and attitudes to bring to the workplace ?

A: Yes, very much so. There is a tendency (among older generations) to dismiss younger generations with different work patterns and attitudes as of less intrinsic value to an organisation - but this risks overlooking skills with real relevance in today’s workplace and beyond. We believe that i-Natives possess valuable skills in efficiently sourcing, selecting and sifting data from multiple sources. That makes them precisely the kind of knowledge workers needed by progressive organisations.

Q: Why does this influx of ‘i-Natives’ matter so much to organisations?

A: Fundamental changes are taking place in the way people communicate and consume information and understanding what lies beneath these changes is important. Organisations must find ways to bridge a considerable communications gap which exists between i-Natives and Adaptive Immigrants. It is clear that i-Natives expect and respond to different styles and forms of communication and this must be taken into account by customer service operations which will need to adapt accordingly.

Q: What happens if the communications gap between the generations is not bridged ?

A: If no attempt is made to bridge this gap, or if efforts to do so fail because the wrong tactics were deployed, there is a risk that employers and managers will be left grappling with a factionalised, inefficient organisation which is ill-equipped to deal with customers.

Q: Are there any reasons to be optimistic ?

A: Happily, yes. The major positive is that the answers to tackling these issues already exist. The existing body of knowledge about organisational structure and culture can and must adapt. Engaging with people who truly understand these generational shifts is paramount to formulating an effective future strategy for recruiting and managing staff. What will mark out the excellent organisation from the average in future is the ability to effectively deploy both new technology and the unique skill sets of Generation Y. If this is done successfully, a dynamic, motivated and highly efficient workforce will emerge which is good news for employers and importantly, customers.

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