Growing up with technology and the internet means Gen Yers have become accustomed to being able to make an impact. Here we explore how these attitudes have the potential to make an even bigger impact in the workplace.
According to executives, ‘the ability to make an impact on the business’ is the most important factor to Gen Yers at work. This generation is ambitious and they’re not willing to wait around to clock up numerous years of experience to get ahead – 91% want rapid career progression.
Workplace and Canvas8 spoke to Maddie Grant author of When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business, and culture consultant and digital strategist at Human Workplaces, to understand why Gen Yers want to make an impact from their first day at the office – and what that means for businesses.
Why are Gen Yers keen to kick-start their careers?
One of the interesting misconceptions about Gen Y is that they’re fickle and they’re job hoppers. That’s not a generational thing, it’s a youth thing.
‘Gen Yers have a much wider, global view of what’s possible’
And because they’ve grown up learning about anything they want through the internet, Gen Yers have a much wider, global view of what’s possible – from starting your own business to creating your own working style.
And when it comes to their careers, they find it very difficult to go slowly through a process in order to move up the chain. When an organizational structure doesn’t allow for the quick progression they’re after, it’s very frustrating.
It’s not about money, it’s about being heard. They want to have an impact and the ability to play a part in the future of the organization they work with. They tend to have a much more global view of possibilities and solutions.
And if they don’t have a place to offer their opinion on that, it’s very frustrating, because they can actually provide direction.
How can employers manage Gen Yers with ambition, but little experience?
From my research, I’ve identified four capacities that can help organizations be successful in doing exactly this: Digital, Clear, Fluid and Fast.
‘One problematic area for businesses is how best to communicate with Gen Y’
Whether it’s using the latest tech that resonates with Gen Yers digital mindsets, being transparent about ideas and sharing information with them, creating an agile and fluid organisational structure, or giving Gen Yers access to answers quickly, all of these ideals are born out of the demand this generation have to get stuck in from day one.
One problematic area for businesses is how best to communicate with Gen Y. And there are a lot of different answers to that because it’s so subjective no matter what generation you’re a part of.
The key is having the ability to work in the way they want – be that through one-on-one instant messages, video calls, group chat or over the phone.
How can mentor schemes help businesses manage Gen Yers’ career expectations?
I’ve heard a lot of frustration around Gen Yers actually eager to find a mentor but finding it really difficult. Now, there are many companies taking a more overt approach to mentoring with ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions.
‘Open communication platforms can also help to facilitate mentorship or skill sharing’
Group mentoring or skills sharing works well too. It’s a chance for everybody in the organization to list the skills they have and either teach others or apply for specific roles within the company that reflects their unique skill set, rather than based on moving up because of their quantifiable experience.
Technology and open communication platforms can also help to facilitate mentorship or skill sharing in many ways by allowing people to connect with each other, give advice and learn about different topics.
But it obviously doesn’t do it on its own. It requires cultural attention and specific nurturing from the employer if companies are to successfully mentor their employees.
How can flatter hierarchies help businesses manage Gen Yers career expectations?
There’s always a natural hierarchy within a business – there are going to be people who are more senior or have been in the company longer.
‘A skills-based, rather than role-based, approach to development is beneficial for all generations’
But today these hierarchies are far more fluid. Somebody younger or newer could actually have more expertise in a particular area and could be the one leading a project or a committee or a meeting.
If Gen Yers have the opportunity to bring in their own expertise, they’re more visible in the organization, which means they can move up in their careers far quicker than within traditional management structures.
This skills-based, rather than role-based, approach to development is beneficial for all generations too because it offers the chance for everyone to contribute if they have the know-how.
Considering Gen Yers lofty ambitions, what does the future of the workplace look like?
Traditional management was mechanical, systems were set up in a very rigid way and that worked well for the industrial age. But now, the digital age is all about individual contributions to an ecosystem – the human-powered workplace.
If Gen Y, and Gen Z, are given the opportunities to input their expertise and their enthusiasm into a business, it creates a workplace that has a space for everybody.
‘The digital age is all about individual contributions to an ecosystem – the human-powered workplace’
That’s important because Gen Z are even more aware of their own collective power. They’re coming of age during turbulent times where, even more so than Gen Y, they want to have a powerful voice.
It means that moving forward, these open communication platforms are really critical. Focusing on technology is a great way to manage millennials because it can connect them better to the work of the organization.