Coping with 'Y'
Strategies for Managing Multi-generations in Today’s Caribbean Workplace – PART III
Today we will examine part III of the multi-generation debate. Let’s be honest, this debate is taking place for one sole reason – that is, there is a new generation (the millennials) in the workplace and their managers are, by and large, unable to cope with them. Had GEN Y walked into the organisation without challenging the status quo, we would never have had this discussion.
What makes Generation Y so different? Are they really that different?
As discussed before, in most Western societies, including the Caribbean, this is by far the most privileged generation since World War II. The GEN Ys enjoy the highest levels of education and are the children to parents who have enjoyed comparatively higher incomes and standards of living than their grandparents.
So what makes this generation so different? Are we talking about values, their worldview or are they simply a product of their technological age? There are certain obvious answers:
1.Gen Y was clearly born into a technological age that is driven by digital technology. Though there is some evidence of the digital divide within the Caribbean, our region has a relatively high penetration of digital technology. See for example, the Watson-Ramlal 2007 study on the Digital Divide in Trinidad & Tobago.
2.This technology, together with Internet technologies, has made information more readily available and GEN Y is clearly more empowered with this easily accessible information.
3. From a hardware standpoint, GEN Y is also very familiar with the accompanying hardware and navigates this new world of computers, ABMs and other electronic devises and gadgets with much more ease than say their parents and grandparents.
4. More importantly, this generation is accustomed to information overload and a pop culture that is heavily influenced by excessive consumerism, change, speed, shortened product life cycles and a bombardment of marketing and advertising.
It’s against such a background that companies are struggling to find ways to incorporate GEN Y into the organisation. However, GES does not support the idea that the millennials are some special breed that is wreaking havoc on the organization. Nonetheless, what is required are the following: understanding, open dialogue and engagement. Here are some tips for managing and incorporating the millennials into the workplace.
Engaging the Milllennials
Remember that the same old rules of Talent Acquisition will apply and we cannot treat an entire generation as one homogeneous grouping. However we have observed some trends that led us to these tips.
1. Millennials definitely like technology. So one way to engage them is by incorporating the computer and the internet into their daily work. In fact, many organisations have now replaced paper based systems with computer based systems, using tablets.
2. You may also consider solutions that employ mobile telephone technology. This will certainly keep your Millennials engaged.
3. Be careful not to over-regulate your Internet and cellphone policies. There is a need for balance rather than outright prohibition. We are aware that there are challenges of lost productivity because of excessive use of these technologies and the Internet in the workplace but our challenge to employers is to find creative and innovative ways to incorporate these into the working environment.
4. Dialogue. It is important to bridge the generational divide in the workplace through dialogue as we alluded to before in earlier articles. It’s no different with the millennials. Engage them and make them a part of the decision-making and problem-solving within the organisation.
5. Finally, we have found that many of the GEN Y enjoy working in a project environment. This helps to alleviate the boredom of routine tasks. Again, this is not a one-size-fits-all but we strongly recommend that you experiment placing your millennials on project teams.
Developing training programmes for Millennials
Finally, it is important to note that today’s training programs are quickly trending towards the virtual environment, even here in the Caribbean. When compared to five years ago, we are now witnessing a marked increase in the demand for e-learning here in the Caribbean. This is driven largely by the global recession, more affordable bandwidth and more millennials entering the workplace.
How to make your elearning training fun?
1. We recommend “snack learning”. These are very short courses in the form of webinars not exceeding one hour. Three hour elearning courses simply DO NOT WORK.
2. Any-time-learning! Make your courseware available to the learner at any time.
3. Mobile apps. This can be a costly upfront investment but mobile apps are the way to go. Integrate your training program into web and mobile apps. This makes your training fun and more accessible to the your younger staff.
GEN Y is really not that different when we get to the core of human behavior, we just have to employ different techniques to keep them engaged.
*Next week we will start to examine The Rise of the New Independent Professional Worker Class.
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