Q: I'm a manager who was instructed to hire new college grads. Having done so, I find these "Gen Y" employees lacking any sense of urgency or work ethic. They expect me to tell them everything to do, and if I offer the slightest criticism, they sulk. Meanwhile, upper management says I should "develop" them. Suggestions? - Brian
A: Dale: Let's start by trying to grab hold of that slippery term, "Gen Y." Its first use was in an Ad Age editorial, giving a name to those born in the late 1970s. However, a "generation" usually is about 20 years, and in the case of Gen Y, the original definition has stretched to those born in the last two (or two and half) decades at the end of the millennium. To add to the mix, you'll also hear about the MySpace Generation, the Pokemon Generation and the South Park Generation. For me, the last of these is the most intriguing - just watch the program and think about how you might motivate such characters.
J.T.: No, don't go there. I work with a lot of Gen Y clients, and it's just too easy to be critical. They will be the most educated generation in our history, but don't be fooled - "best educated" doesn't mean best prepared to enter the work force. More than 70 percent of those in Gen Y will attend college, but not because they are using education to embark on a career, but because it is expected of them. Many have not had to work their way through school, so they have zero office experience. Yet, in one survey, 81 percent said that they want direct access to senior management.
Dale: If you're going to "develop" them, Brian, you have to have more patience than usual. When it comes to business, it's as though they came from another country. And that's a helpful image because they indeed come from another culture, one distinct from that of baby boomers like me. In many ways it's a better culture - more open and less obsessed with work.
J.T.: It's a culture that asks questions in such a way that it might seem like they are questioning your authority; however, they merely are looking to understand your processes. Most are insecure, but won't own up to it. So you need to let them know that making mistakes is part of the learning process. They will learn to trust you, and you'll be rewarded with their energy and enthusiasm.