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GENERATION Y: Are They Transforming Your Workplace?

“More Than Meets The Eye!” This was the tagline for the “The Transformers,” a line of toys that was introduced to the USA in 1984. Their remarkable transforming play features piqued the interest of both children and adults all over America at a time when we all needed a little distraction.

Today, we have a new line of “Transformers” and their name is Generation Y. Whether you see them as the heroic Autobots or the evil Decepticons, they are transforming Corporate America and are here to stay!

Some older generations may view them as lazy, lacking commitment, drive and discipline. In reality, they are highly educated, media-savvy, tech-dependent, flexible, loyal, adaptable and group-anchored.

Generation Y is uniquely different than their parent’s generation and they are transforming the way we do business— inside and out. The fast-track does not appeal to this young generation and they are willing to trade high paying jobs for flexible schedules and a better work/life balance.

Things that make you go hmmm…

While some companies are standing their ground and sticking to the “This is the way we have always done it” philosophy, others are taking the position, “If you can’t beat them—join them.” They are causing many business leaders to scratch their heads as they seek to understand this generation of workers and customers.    

  • How do we attract Gen Y as customers and employees?

  • How do we motivate Gen Y to buy and to join our company?

  • How do we inspire and engage Gen Y?

 

A recent survey of 500,000 Gen Y workers conducted by PayScale, Inc., a software provider and research management firm revealed that Gen Y are more attracted to smaller companies that offer flexibility, embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and don’t restrict social media use.  

Percentage of Gen Y workforce by company size:  

  • Companies with less than 100 employees (47% Gen Y)
  • Companies between 100 and no more than 1,500 employees (30% Gen Y)
  • Companies with more than 1,500 employees (23% Gen Y)

The Wall Street Journal‘s Leslie Kwoh published an article about how organizations are adapting to Gen Y in the workplace.

As Generation Y enters the workforce, more companies are jumping through hoops to accommodate their demands for faster promotions, greater responsibilities and more flexible work schedules—much to the annoyance of older co-workers who feel they have spent years paying their dues to rise through the ranks.

Their demands can be annoying to others, but do companies really have a choice?

According to a BPW Foundation’s Gen Y study published in April 2011, by 2025, Generation Y will make up roughly 75% of the world’s workforce. 

 We are only 13 years away from 75%—can we afford not to take notice?  

 Get To the Core: Gen Y on the job-Payscale.com

1.      UNDERSTANDING GENERATION Y

Like many of you, I have worked in the multifamily industry most of my adult life. It’s no secret that we have a reputation of falling behind the times when it comes to business trends, but I am not sure that we have an option when it comes to Gen Y. I believe understanding this generation will be the key to success in many areas of our business—education is critical.

When the U.S. division of Schneider Electric SA, a French energy-efficiency specialist, launched an 18-month rotation and mentoring program for Gen Y workers, some Baby Boomers cried foul. This rotation included leadership development and training for older workers to help them manage—and feel less threatened by—Gen Y. According to Jeff Drees, president of the company's U.S. division, “A few "blockers" remained resistant to the changes and we had to let those managers go.”

Are you prepared to let your “blockers” go?

According to Nicole Lipkin, a business psychologist, consultant and co-author of Y in the Workplace: Managing the ‘Me First’ Generation, “Companies need to think more carefully about who they promote into management roles. It’s important to balance technical competency with a leader’s people skills and emotional intelligence. When you’re a manager or a leader, it’s your responsibility to work with people to figure out what their expectations are. Help them get where they want to go.”

It’s a call for change in the business mind-set. Are you ready?

Get To the Core: Eight Reasons Gen Y Will Soon Take Your Job (Forbes.com)

 2.      THE “PERKS”

Are the employee benefits you offer the same ones that existed back in 1990? In a recent Mashable Business article, “Are These The Best Start Up Perks You’ve Ever Seen?” we get a peek into some of the latest and greatest benefits being offered by some fresh start up companies. I already know what you are thinking, “Yes, but our industry is different.” While I don’t expect to see Free beer on tap or tequila tasting on your list of perks, I do think that we can learn a lot about Gen Y from this list and maybe even consider a few of them.   

  •       Free snacks and coffee
  •       Discounted gym membership or health and wellness stipend 
  •       Casual dress code, because no one feels very comfortable in a pantsuit and pumps
  •       Fantasy football and March Madness tournaments
  •       Unlimited sick and vacation days
  •       iPad reimbursement
  •       Paid vacation day on your birthday
  •       Flexible spending accounts
  •       A creative welcome package

o   Warby Parker’s includes a founder’s favorite pretzels and a gift certificate to a Thai restaurant, since the founders lived off Thai food during their startup phase. ModCloth’s has pens, notepads, a water bottle, mug, mousepad and tote.

"We want to create a place where people are excited to come to work every day. We think the best way to do that is by creating a fun and productive work environment, where people are growing and doing great things while having a good time," says Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of eyewear retailer Warby Parker.

Now is the time when companies need to break free from the ways of the past and rethink their approach when it comes to redefining the workplace of the future. Gen Y represents a new class of employee who will “transform” the workplace—like it or not—in small and big ways. They love technology, love to collaborate, are tied tightly to their social networks, and they want to run your company—tomorrow.

When it comes to Gen Y there truly is, “More Than Meets the Eye!” Are you ready for them?

I often wonder if the structure of the multifamily industry workplace is out of sync with the lifestyle desires of Generation Y. What do you think?


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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Great blog! Very interesting!

  Sharon Cummings
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Thank you, Sharon! Would love to hear your thoughts.

  Maria Lawson
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Hi, Maria! I am not of Gen Y, but maybe I was ahead of my time since I would love the first four things on your list. I couldn't care less about the other stuff, except I'd like to be the one to put the Welcome Packets together for new hires and set up some interesting little get-togethers Really, I think almost any employer/employee situation that respects the different ways people in general learn and thus interact would benefit anyone. Thanks for the post!

  Mindy Sharp
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I agree completely and love the blog Maria.

  Talisa Lavarry
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Mindy,

I too really like the idea of welcome packets for new employees. The key here is understanding. While I would like to think that there is respect and understanding when it comes to how people learn and interact I do not think this is reality. Generational conflict in the workplace is very real and while some may put on a "happy face" and say that they "get it" the reality is there are a lot of back room conversations taking place about his subject. I was discussing this topic with a friend in the industry this week and the word "entitlement" can up over and over again while discussing Gen Y. We discussed the reasons behind it and some ways she could overcome it in the workplace--it was a great conversation!

I am not a part of Gen Y either but like you do appreciate several of the things that they do.

Thank you for your comments--I appreciate and value them.

Thank you, Talisa! :):)

  Maria Lawson
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Maria, what have you found to be the best way of recruiting and managing Gen Y employees? I mean, I have read lots of articles, too, and I love the ones you include. But what do you tell the person that puts on a "happy face" but doesn't embrace these types of ideas? Do you think it is because they feel "they paid their dues to get where they are" and don't "understand these kids expecting to get time off or not put in extra hours" (like on a Saturday or evening) when they did? Or, do you feel it comes down to they are simply afraid the new people will show up their perceived inadequacies or flaws and take their jobs?

  Mindy Sharp
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Mindy,

I can always count on you to bring about a great discussion--thank you! Again, I think a lot of these answers go back to understanding this generation--for that matter all generations. I remember an incident early in my career when there was a big blow-up over who would get the large corner office that X person had vacated. It was such a big deal that it involved Regional VP's and even some input from the CFO. At the time my thought was, "this is ridiculous!" I could have cared less where I sat--in fact I would have preferred to office at home. These two points show how vastly different a generation can be and how it can cause conflict. In this example- The Baby Boomers believed the size and location of your office reflected your importance and position. The Xer (me) in me wanted the flexibility to work from home. I practically raised myself so why did I have to sit in a box to get a job done?

I believe the best way of recruiting and managing Gen Y is understanding them instead of operating from the way we think things should be. Training is a great example. When I started in this industry I didn't receive any training. Again, I raised myself and I was really good at figuring things out. Within a few months I was the top leaser in the company. Not because of anything that I was taught in a class but as a result of my life lessons and ability to handle most anything that came my way. Today, we have a lot of Gen Xers in leadership positions. Unfortunately, we expect this Gen Y group to operate like we do. Maybe we do provide them with training but once they are out of class--presto--they should be able to handle the rest on their own. We did it with less! Again, it goes back to understanding that this generation was hand held from the beginning. They received everything and anything they needed from their parents and were supported every step of the way. They welcome leadership and guidance and they need it. Their training doesn't end after class--it is...

Mindy,

I can always count on you to bring about a great discussion--thank you! Again, I think a lot of these answers go back to understanding this generation--for that matter all generations. I remember an incident early in my career when there was a big blow-up over who would get the large corner office that X person had vacated. It was such a big deal that it involved Regional VP's and even some input from the CFO. At the time my thought was, "this is ridiculous!" I could have cared less where I sat--in fact I would have preferred to office at home. These two points show how vastly different a generation can be and how it can cause conflict. In this example- The Baby Boomers believed the size and location of your office reflected your importance and position. The Xer (me) in me wanted the flexibility to work from home. I practically raised myself so why did I have to sit in a box to get a job done?

I believe the best way of recruiting and managing Gen Y is understanding them instead of operating from the way we think things should be. Training is a great example. When I started in this industry I didn't receive any training. Again, I raised myself and I was really good at figuring things out. Within a few months I was the top leaser in the company. Not because of anything that I was taught in a class but as a result of my life lessons and ability to handle most anything that came my way. Today, we have a lot of Gen Xers in leadership positions. Unfortunately, we expect this Gen Y group to operate like we do. Maybe we do provide them with training but once they are out of class--presto--they should be able to handle the rest on their own. We did it with less! Again, it goes back to understanding that this generation was hand held from the beginning. They received everything and anything they needed from their parents and were supported every step of the way. They welcome leadership and guidance and they need it. Their training doesn't end after class--it is just the beginning. We (Boomers and Xers) are the perfect generation to teach them the "ropes" and embrace them. When they expect to take the Manager's job within a few months they need to really understand what that job is vs. just be told NO. They need to experience it from the inside out with OUR help. This is the job of a leader and leadership has NEVER been more important than it is today--in my opinion. True leaders are always learning from others--above and below. I spend a lot of time with Gen Y moms and I always learn something from them. For me I think it comes down to the fact that they were so nurtured by their moms and learned so much while mine was absent and I had to figure it out on my own. I could easily take the position, "I am older and I know better," but that is not the case and I realize that. A little off track but I think you get my point.

From my personal experience in a leadership position the conflicts that I have seen have to do with points that you make, "paying their dues AND fearing for their jobs." It can be very personal and very real. I often speak on this topic and I have a great presentation that I would be glad to share with you. IT brings humor to the entire topic while shedding some light on our generational differences.

At the end of the day I don't think there is much you can "tell someone" who doesn't embrace the differences--you show them and educate them. If they are not receptive to that they probably won't have a job. The Xers are most likely to embrace Gen Y because we have many similar traits. The Baby Boomers will struggle the most-I think some of them are still struggling with my generation. These are very interesting times in the workplace! If you need some good book resources just let me know--I have a bunch! lol

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  Maria Lawson
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Ahhh, that's a fantastic response, Maria! Thanks for your explanation. A tolerant attitude never hurts anybody. I guess I have a very open mind on most things in life, even though, I have my opinions and I don't seem to be afraid to share them. Thanks again! Love to see the book recommendations, too!

  Mindy Sharp

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