My son Tane started at university this year. He’s decided he wants to be a lawyer and our entire family is proud of how he’s taken on the challenge of studying (with all the distractions and temptations that come with uni life!).
Seeing how hard he is working has made me think about Generation Y. So often you hear people moaning about this generation, about how they want to be handed everything on a plate, about how they expect good jobs and premium salaries and promotions but aren’t willing to put in the hard yards to get them. In my experience, this particular generation do want to progress through the career ranks quite quickly – unlike my generation, they won’t sit in the same job for fifteen years. In fact, if they’re in the same job for fifteen months, they’ll probably be questioning why!
Some say Generation Y’ers are Generation Why’ers: “Why should I do that?” “Why are we doing it this way?” “Why haven’t I had a pay rise this quarter?” I know this at-times bolshy attitude can frustrate many managers, who’d prefer to just have an employee who willingly follows directions and doesn’t question every decision. However, Generation Y’ers also have many qualities that can positively affect a work force…
Gen Y’ers constantly ask “why?” If we’re not careful, we can get stuck in our ways, thinking that how we go about doing things is the best and only way to do it. It can take the observation of an outsider (a Gen Why’er) to make us re-evaluate our systems and processes and force us to update with more efficient methods. If you find yourself answering questions with “That’s just how we’ve always done it”, you’re probably holding your company back. A good business person should be constantly analysing their systems, looking to add value and remove inefficiency. “But that’s how we’ve always done it” won’t wash with an inquisitive and demanding Gen Y’er… and that can be a good thing!
Gen Y’ers are good with change. Doing something differently doesn’t faze them – in fact, it energises them! So if you have a team who are solid and capable but resistant to doing things a new way or simply unable to get their head around a much-needed change, add a Generation Y’er into the mix and you may get some enthusiasm going. (But be careful the Gen Y’er doesn’t come across as an up-start – that will just have your already-resistant team members really dig their heels in!)
Gen Y’ers are good with social media. In fact, they’re great. They grew up with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest (while we grew up with the Hardy boys and Anne of Green Gables!). Put a Gen Y’er in charge of updating your company’s social media sites and they’ll do it by the time you’ve finished your morning coffee. They don’t have to spend half an hour wondering how to tag photos, what status update will get the company hundreds of ‘likes’ or how to upload photos of the company’s new product straight off their phone. It’s second nature to them. Just be careful with their judgement – they may be social-media superstars, but that doesn’t mean they have the nous not to overshare at times (like uploading those unflattering photos from the staff Christmas ‘do).
Gen Y’ers are good with technology. Needing an image resized, getting to grips with Powerpoint, stopping the red light on the printer flashing, figuring out why the computer seems to have frozen – none of these dilemmas will put a Gen Y’er into a blind panic. And they seem to know every shortcut key there is, meaning they’re often super speedy!
Gen Y’ers believe anything is possible. They’ve been brought up to think they can do anything, be anything, achieve anything. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for your business – we all need staff with a can-do attitude, who are willing to give anything a go and who are keen to aim for the stars. Just tell them anything is possible – but it has to be done within budget, ha!
Zac de Silva is a business coach and former owner of Barkers Menswear. He currently runs Business Changing and works with over 70 clients, including BNZ, Westfield, Huffer, Foodstuffs, The Icehouse and Les Mills.
Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription, an Idealog t-shirt and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).