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Bridging the generation gap

By Zuza Scherer

The big wide world of the workforce can sometimes be a scary thing, especially for a Generation Y but in actual fact Gen Y's hold more cards than they think. We spoke to a Gen Y expert about what this group of tech-savvy individuals are all about and give Gen Y some tips about being in the workforce.

Generation Y grew up in the 'think big' days of Muldoon and 'Rogernomics' and for some reason that message has been ingrained in this generation. These young people have been told they can be anything they want to be. The pitfall some of them are falling into, like any generation before them or in the future, you have to work hard to be what you want to be.

Generation Y expert Zuza Scherer (who is also a Gen Y), says Gen Y is not about the specific age bracket; it is about the attitude that separates Y from other generations.

"Gen Yís have a 'me' work ethic. They ask 'what is in it for me?' but at the same time they want companies to have some sort of social responsibility. They want positive change and want you, the business owner to include them in that change.

Zuza says that with the way things are now, with more hierarchical and authoritative Baby Boomers in managerial roles and Generation Y employees brought up in spirit that everyone is equal and should be treated the same way, workplaces can be breeding ground for conflict and misunderstandings.

"Generation Y want equal opportunities for everyone. They want to be judged on how much they contribute and how good they are at what they do, rather on the basis of their age."

She believes Gen Y employees can be a great asset to a company, but what many employers and managers find challenging is, that they have to engage Generation Y workers differently.

"Generation Y have heard messages from their parents and schools about how good they are and how they deserve the best. They don't realise they have to start at the bottom and this can be quite an eye opener for some of them, as they thought as soon as they come out of school they will run the company or at least be offered top managerial positions!"

It's all about communication with Generation Y.

Regular constructive feedback is another big thing with Gen Y, just like socialising is, so you need to offer them a good working environment and reward them regularly.

"The great thing is that for Gen Y reward does not necessarily mean 'more money'. There are many companies I use as case studies examples in my presentations that do a fantastic job at rewarding their young employees. Usually it comes down to very simple things.

"The greatest thing about Gen Y is that more often than not, what works for them also works for other generations. The only difference is that Gen Y, when they donít get what they want, they get vocal about it, while other generations are unhappy and complain behind employers' back."

Generation Y has also been known to job hop, only staying in a job for a year or two at most. Zuza believes to retain talented Gen Y's you need to open the doors of opportunity to them.

"They will stay and work hard for you if they see a chance of climbing up the corporate ladder. This is where regular feedback comes in so they know how they are progressing and what they are doing well, or not so well so they can improve."

There are also a number of benefits to having Generation Y on your team. Gen Yís are 'technology natives', while the rest of us are 'technology immigrants'.

Because Generation Y's are new to the business scene, they come with fresh outlook, unspoiled with old habits, new ways of doing things and a lot of ideas.

"They offer a creative and fresh element," Zuza says. "Gen Y's will have brilliant ideas and will want to change everything for the better. They are enthusiastic and think anything is possible, but they often lack the maturity level to understand that things arenít always as easy as they think.

"They often get frustrated when change doesn't happen with a speed of a text message. But, businesses can make a great use of that youthful energy. Itís important to remember that your Gen Y employees are just like your young customers and they know what appeals to people like them. Instead of completely dismissing their initiatives and ideas, combine their freshness with your experience for the benefit of your business."

Handy hints to for the Generation Y worker:

  • communication is the key
  • expect regular feedback
  • be open to new, fresh ideas and contribute those ideas
  • You will climb the corporate ladder but you have to remember good things take time
  • You should be judged on your work, not your age. And if you feel you are being judged on your age speak up about it
  • Build strong working relationships within your company
  • Go for gold - if you know you can do something well, work hard and show your employer because you will be rewarded for hard work
  • Set goals and have aims. Be motivated to reach your goals and if you do that you are on your way to your dream career
  • Do something you actually enjoy doing. There's no point waking up every morning and hating the fact you have to go to work. If you do a job you love you won't work a day in your life
  • Respect managers and other employees. Listen to what they have to say and if you do that they will listen to you

Read Zuza's Biography here.

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