By: ROBERT BASSO
Working with the 20-something crowd is incredibly rewarding because you can have a tremendous impact on their outlook on career, life and desires. Shaped by a youth of instant gratification—compliments of today’s technology—many of the young adults entering today’s workforce have a different take on work and career than my generation. Quite frankly, it can be a challenge to bridge the gap to get the best from a set of society that is sometimes characterized as having a lack of ambition. Bridging that generational gap to find out what truly motivates the latest wave of college graduates is key to the growth of our struggling economy and future success as a nation.
“Millennials” grew up with technology at their fingertips in an era of instant gratification. For them, multitasking is second nature: they talk on the phone while updating their Facebook status and simultaneously typing a paper. Expression and acceptance are more important to this generation, and they have high expectations when entering the workplace. These qualities are often written off as entitlement and lack of ambition by employers who aren’t used to working with Generation Y, and these stereotypes certainly make it more difficult for the nearly 2.7 million recent college graduates to get their first professional job. Adding insult to injury is the very high unemployment rate and the staggeringly slow addition of jobs to our national workplace. We need this set of young professionals to lead the charge back to a prosperous economy.
I’ve been mentoring a young Web designer, Justin, and his partner Dan, whom I met when I recently addressed a youth organization. As opposed to the negative characteristics that are often discussed, they had many positive ideas for their new venture; with their ambition and dedication they exemplified the best characteristics of their generation.
During one of our weekly meetings, Justin mentioned that he was a stay-at-home son! I almost fell off my chair. I had never heard the term before, but understood clearly what he meant by it. As he worked to get his fledgling business off the ground, he also held a separate full-time job to maintain a source of income, but he still couldn’t afford to live on his own. So at 26—and by not fault of his own—he was still living in his parents’ house.
As business owners, what actions can we take to help get stay-at-home sons and daughters out of their parents’ houses? We can start by looking at some of the ideas cited below to get a better understanding of how this generation thinks. We must do our best not to force our will upon them, but use our skills to assimilate them into our companies and professional enterprises.
1. We are living in a world that has become an information superhighway
One Internet click is all it takes to understand that the 20-something crowd has grown up with instant access to everything. Texting, Google searches, fast-track educations and even microwave dinners have made instant gratification the norm, so it may be natural for them to think they will ascend to the corner office after their lunch break on their first day.
Be patient and speak frankly with them about a natural progression of a career. Use real-world examples of how your own skills and knowledge took years to mature to help them establish realistic expectations.
2. Multitasking hell
Talking on the phone, texting and writing a memo seem to be the norm for not just the young professional, but almost everyone. I believe it has sapped creativity, accuracy and our ability to do our jobs better.
If feasible, based on their job responsibilities, suggest having them turn off their phones so they can work with one less distraction. Although many of us insist we can handle all the incoming messages and four over things going on at once, the reality is that our brains don’t function as well in this environment, and it’s important to provide structure in the workplace.
3. Cater to their strengths
Millennials thrive when working in groups and taking on challenging projects. The millennial generation is also leading the charge when it comes to technology. Regimes all over the world have been toppled due to the power of the youth as they harness technology and the Internet.
Use their strengths to your advantage as an employer. Have your new hires take over or create a social media campaign for your organization. Give them freedom to create grassroots marketing strategies and help bring your company into 2011. Pair them off on challenging projects so they can play off each other’s strengths. You’ll find that the results will be remarkable.
Help your neighbor’s get their son or daughter off the couch and into your business. Your region, your state and the country depends on it. Our “stay-at-home sons and daughters” are our future.