Singapore, Singapore (PRWEB) August 30, 2011
Jazzing up the workplace. That’s what many organisations are doing in order to recruit and retain the future engines of their workforce -- the ‘twenty somethings’ or Gen Y. Taking the lead are multinationals with an offering of interesting perks, such as the in-house gym at software company SAS; Google’s on-site laundry and massages; and Marriott International’s training podcasts.
Besides the creative sweeteners, however, what else awaits Gen Y at the workplace?
1. Cultural diversity
Visit a bank or a manufacturing plant or a hospital and you would find people from at least half-a-dozen nationalities working side by side. Thanks to globalisation, the first challenge facing Gen Y is a cosmopolitan workforce.
2. Generational gap
With increased life expectancy and growing trend towards delayed retirement, employees belonging to as many as four different generations – traditionalists (born prior to 1946), baby boomers (1946 – 1964), Generation X (1965-1981) and Generation Y (1982-2000) – have to coexist at the workplace.
3. Different attitudes
The third challenge stems from the first two: people from different cultures and generations bearing starkly different attitudes about work, success, work-life balance, values and technology.
Realities Poles Apart
Unlike baby boomers and Gen X’ers, Gen Y is not interested in linear, risk-free career path; but is impatient and ready to experiment with different options. For Gen Y, success is not something to be achieved after a long slog over many years; they want to taste it before turning 30.
For previous generations, work and family are two separate spheres of life; but for Gen Y, no boundary exists between work and personal life. A young lady working for an IT company is perfectly comfortable giving instructions over the phone about how to solve a software glitch, while entertaining guests over for dinner at home.
Being with friends can be so important for today’s young entrants to the workforce that they may select or reject jobs depending on where their friends are heading to.
According to a 2009 report by Nielsen on “How Teens Use Media”, an average US mobile teen now sends or receives 2,899 text messages per month. Highly tech-savvy, informed and connected, this generation has grown up playing with digital toys like Google, Facebook, Twitter, handphones, YouTube, video games and blogging. To their surprise, however, they may find their older colleagues not only less tech-savvy, but also view addiction to tech gadgets as “unproductive preoccupation”.
Will Gen Y be stuck sorting out differences over cultural and generational attitudes?
Three Keys to Constructive Coexistence
1. Understanding others
Perhaps the most profound step Gen Y can take towards constructive coexistence is to understand that how people think, behave and view the world is not entirely their own doing. To a large extent, it is shaped by the technologies, social and economic trends, events, political systems and cultural trappings they grew up with.
Someone from the older generation who is not so tech-savvy is not necessarily less smart; maybe this person was never exposed to the technology in the formative years. Similarly, people who come from highly-populous countries, such as China and India, could be highly competitive because they grow up competing for everything, from admission into a primary school to a seat in the college to a job.
People from the West are likely to be more blunt and frank; that’s considered normal in their culture. If Gen X’ers are not so “friends-oriented”, it is not that they don’t value friends, but that they are not used to staying connected 24 hours via Facebook and Twitter.
Making an effort to understand why other people don’t behave like you or share your values is a huge step towards avoiding “generational gap” frustrations and striking healthy relationships.
2. Upholding human dignity
In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, “How Will You Measure Your Life?”, Harvard Business School (HBS) professor Clay Christensen advises HBS students to avoid the pitfall of thinking that they can learn only from the people who are smarter than them. This applies to Gen Y as well. An attitude of respecting and learning from all regardless of their age or background can pave the way for unlimited learning, besides making it easier to get things done in a diversified work environment.
3. Synergising energy and experience
Gen Y’ers would do well in the workplace if they seek synergy between what they have – energy and ideas – and what their older colleagues can offer -- the wisdom of experience. Larry Page and Sergey Brin co-founded Google in 1998 when they were only in their mid- twenties, but hired Eric Schmidt, who was almost 20 years older than them, in 2001 to become the CEO and lead their start-up company.
The value of synergising energy and experience is certainly bountiful. Gen Y, having grown up in a world of technology and being more savvy with tools such as web conferencing, social media and mobile computing can also be ‘mentors’ and provide guidance to Gen X and Babyboomers from this perspective, whereas Gen X’ers and Babyboomers – having more on-the-job experience and knowledge could be great ‘advisors’ to the Gen Y.
An idealistic notion, but today’s diversified workforce calls for coexistence like in a garden, where tall old trees, young plants with blooming flowers and small grass all enjoy sunshine, rain and wind together, and make food – without sweating over their differences!