Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Three Ways to Improve GenY's Bad Rep

Generation Y appears to have an image problem.

According to a recent survey by JobFox, recruiters aren't too keen on GenYers, and only 20 percent said they were "generally great performers" as compared to 63 percent who said baby boomers (age 43-62) were great performers, 58 percent lauding GenXers (age 29-42) and 25 percent saying traditionalists (63-plus) were great performers.


It gets worse. According to press release materials, "Gen Y was also classified as 'generally poor performers' by the largest number of recruiters polled. Thirty percent of recruiters classified Millennials (GenY) as poor performers, followed by 22 percent of recruiters who classified traditionalists as poor performers, 5 percent for GenX and 4 percent for baby boomers.

Double ouch.

But JobFox's CEO Rob McGovern thinks that managers and recruiters are missing the boat. Managers, he says, must "learn new ways to incorporate GenY views into the workforce."

OK, I agree. Managers and recruiters always need to be looking at how they can use an individual's strengths to help a company and boost the bottom line.

But I think it's more than that. I think GenYers (age 28 and under) need to be better at their own personal p.r.. I think that if they wait around to get the respect they believe they deserve, they may find themselves waiting a long time. Because whether they deserve the slacker reputation or not, the problem is that it exists.

Believe it or not, however, GenYers are being handed a golden opportunity to turn things around as the economy takes a nosedive. How? Let us count the ways:

1. Staying sane. GenY has lived a life of upheaval. They've grown up with AIDS, 9/11 and Britney not wearing any panties. They don't get rattled easily. Right now the older folks in the workplace are pretty well freaking and stressing about everything from how to make their house payment to watching their 401(k) tank. If GenYers demonstrate that -- while they understand the seriousness of the issues right now -- they are still upbeat and positive about life, it could have an enormous impact. Inspiring others to keep it all in perspective can demonstrate real leadership, and that's just the kind of reputation they need to develop.

2. Save others time. No one is more crazed these days that workers trying to balance the demands of their private and professional lives. But GenYers have grown up juggling, and have found technology enhances their lives. Young workers are in a great position to help other workers find ways to use technology to make their lives better. There's no way that anyone would be called a slacker for helping give someone more time with their kids or do their job better. Just be careful: You don't want your help to come off as smug or arrogant. Read Chris Brogan's post to make sure you do it right.

3. Provide the global view. The world has been delivered to GenY through television and computers since they were old enough to use a sippy cup. They have friends working in Darfur, they listen to bands from Japan and think nothing of IMing contacts in Istanbul or Tazmania. If they can keep their workplace informed on how events in Cambodia or Russia or Brazil may be impacting their business and bottom line, it could be enormously valuable. And let's face it -- those that contribute to the bottom line are seen as valuable -- and top performers.

While there are plenty of people telling managers that they need to treat GenYers better and learn to appreciate them, I think that GenYers may have to do some of the heavy lifting. They shouldn't wait around for someone to discover their strengths -- they should find subtle, but very meaningful ways to change perceptions that will have a real impact on their career success.

What are some other ways young workers can improve their image?

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Psssttt....Can GenYers Keep a Secret?

Generation Y (sometimes called the Millenial Generation) is often touted as being technologically savvy, great at coming up with new ways to work and influencing the workplace as never before. They’re also said to be a bit whiny and have a sense of entitlement.

Well, it also seems they can’t keep a secret.

Now, before everyone starts hitting the “comment” button to send me nasty messages, I just want to outline a conversation I had with Marian Salzman, who is touted as being one of the world’s leading futurists/trendspotters, and chief marketing officer for Porter Novelli.She noted that with the “total transparency” this generation practices, it can be a bit tricky getting them to keep their mouths shut – and their fingers away from typing or texting everything and anything they know or think.

So, maybe you're thinking this isn’t such a big deal. Maybe you think it doesn't matter what they put on MySpace or Facebook or even LinkedIn. But Salzman thinks it's a problem.

“We’re going to have to teach this generation the rules of confidentiality,” Salzman says. “We’re going to have to teach them to keep secrets and to learn the value of privacy."

This is an interesting point, I think. This generation has grown up with 24/7 news and they are accustomed to finding out anything they want with a few keystrokes. They’ve been privy to many "private" issues, from celebrity sex tapes to embarrassing conversations in the White House. They’re very comfortable sharing any and all information online.

Would it necessarily be bad if they made the workplace more open? Or, could their lack of discretion and judgment cause them to share information that could damage a company in the short or long term?

Maybe only time will tell. For right now, companies seem torn. At a time when they fire employees for blogging about the job, they also are entering -- or at least exploring -- the blogosphere.

Do you think it's a fair assessment that GenYers can't keep their mouths shut? And, does it really matter?


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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

GenY and Boomers: A Formidable Alliance

Much has been made of the fact that baby boomers will be retiring in droves, leaving the field as worn-out warriors with their outdated ideas. Younger workers - GenY - will be the new face of the workplace, revolutionizing the labor force with technology and demands for more flexibility.

The problem is that this isn't necessarily what is happening. Sure, baby boomers are retiring...but not in droves. First, there is the economic necessity to remain working, especially with the increasing costs of just going to the grocery store, the floundering stock market and of course, the housing debacle.

Second, GenYers are more supportive of boomers staying on the scene, and if nothing else, employers are paying attention to what younger workers want. In fact, according to author Tamara Erickson who just completed a book on retirement, GenYers like having boomers around. "When I talked to GenX privately, they are the one who are pretty darn excited for boomers to move on, because they want to move into their jobs," says Erickson. "But GenYers see that as disrespectful, and they don't like it."

Erickson told me that GenYers have grown up listening to boomers (their parents), and often rely on their advice. They are not a generation who resents this age group, but rather sees it as valuable and an important part of their lives. GenYers, with their gift for networking, see the boomers as an integral part of their success, and understand that they don't yet begin to have the talent to completely fill a boomer's shoes in the labor force.

The truth is, GenYers and boomers may be the greatest partnership since Dean met DeLuca. Employers will be getting hit from both ends of the spectrum by younger and older workers who have key skills and want the same thing: more flexibility and a chance to use their skills to gain the lifestyle they want. It may be just a strong enough force to finally make employers realize this isn't an HR delusion, but a real change in the workforce that must be addressed through more than empty promises. Finally, we may see new policies that forever change the way work gets done.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Poor Handwriting Skills a Problem

I had a very frustrating Monday as I tried to post to this blog. It finally posted sometime after 10 p.m. when I gave up in frustration and went to bed. My sister, no computer whiz, suggested that "maybe the guy holding the satellite was out sick."

This is the second time this has happened, and I am open to suggestions as to where to take this blog besides, which I find has about as much tech support as my sister can offer. Any suggestions on where I could move the blog that would be more dependable and offer the support I'd like?

Hopefully, this Tidbit Tuesday will post without problems, and the satellite guy is on the job. Here goes:

* When I was interviewing bosses for my book, "45 Things That Drive Your Boss Crazy...and How to Avoid Them," I was surprised by the vehemence some managers had for employees who could not write them a simple note. They complained that while much of the handwriting was sloppy, they were more concerned with the fact that they couldn't begin to decipher the meaning. That's why an article in Newsweek citing a study showing that good handwriting was critical in educating children caught my attention.
"Handwriting is important because research shows that when children are taught how to do it, they are also being taught how to learn and how to express themselves. A new study to be released this month by Vanderbilt University professor Steve Graham finds that a majority of primary-school teachers believe that students with fluent handwriting produced written assignments that were superior in quantity and quality and resulted in higher grades—aside from being easier to read."
Researchers believe poor handwriting skills filter into all areas of a child's learning and may hamper them in being successful.
One boss I spoke with told me that the more she had to rewrite or edit an employee's written work, the less likely she was to call on that person for important assignments. She added that while it would be nice to have the time to help an employee become a better writer, the truth was that she was jammed for time like most people, and wanted to be able to submit work to her boss that required the least amount of extra time from her.
So, it may be that not only do poor writing skills impact a child's learning, but their future success in the working world as well.

* Many GenY workers have gone to work for companies that also then hire their friends -- GenY employees say they'd rather work with people they like and often will jump ship to join buddies at another company. But according to a Wall Street Journal story, these workers might want to be careful.
"A growing number of companies sue job hoppers for luring staffers or customers while still employed," the story says. "Such lawsuits often claim breach of fidiciary responsibility."
The story goes on to say that even in a job interview, you should never suggest how many loyal co-workers would tag along with you. "Some skittish businesses reject candidates for boasting about their ability to recruit teammates."

The Chritian Science Monitor says that a new Financial Freedom Senior Sentiment Survey reports that among the 35 percent of seniors who plan to work in retirement, more than half say they enjoy working. Nearly 40 percent are bored. Twenty percent say their spouse is driving them crazy, while another 16 percent think they spend too much time with their spouse.
But retirees must learn the world of hunting for a job in the Internet age, and many are visiting online sites set up to help older Americans find jobs suited to their interests and skills.
At the same, while there is age bias against many of these workers, employers may not be able to snub such job applicants for long.
"Whatever challenges older applicants face, demographics are increasingly on the side of retired workers. In the next 14 years, the number of people over 50 will increase by 74 percent, and the number under 50 will increase by 1 percent...There simply are not enough younger people to replace those who are leaving the workforce due to retirement."


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