Maybe we should all adopt the perspective of Gen Yers. Maybe we should take off our blinders and look at our work environments with a fresh perspective, an open mind and an enthusiastic attitude. If we were to evaluate our organizational structures within this context, we might see that it’s time to change and update.
If we don’t, it may be the end of the road.
“[Generation Y] is huge. By some measures, [it’s] as big if not bigger than the baby boomers,” said Robert Rosell, president of Quality Media Resources (QMR), an organization that produces training programs such as “AWESOME!”, a two-part video-based training that helps employers engage Generation Y.
“Their impact as both employees and customers is going to be enormous. And the leading edge of this generation is just now coming in,” he said. “If you don’t have them as your customers and you don’t have them as your employees, the life expectancy of your organization is pretty limited.”
Just as companies must change, so must training. Those in learning and development must re-evaluate training’s structure and make it more malleable to the attitudes and learning styles of this group.
“This is a generation that’s used to a lot of entertainment,” Rosell said. “They multitask; they do a lot of things at once. They’re perfectly comfortable watching a streamed video on their computer while they’re texting with their left hand and writing a report with their right.
“Their level of stimulation and what they need to keep engaged and interested is different than previous generations. Training and development has to see that as an opportunity to do things differently. A stand-and-deliver lecture is not going to work with this population. You need to integrate media, you need to address different learning styles and you have to keep it brief and to the point.”
It’s an especially exciting time to be in learning and development if you can adapt. With their propensity for Internet, where questions can be answered with the click of a button, it’s no surprise that learning is second-nature to this generation of workers. If learning organizations can harness their curiosity and motivation, they can become a dedicated generation of learners who will push the boundaries of excellence.
“The whole focus of this generation is on changing and adapting,” Rosell said. “They’re in an ongoing learning process, and if organizations tap into that, that’s a very positive thing.”
Whereas Generation X and baby boomers may not have expected ongoing feedback, this generation does.
“Don’t expect that if you close them off in a corner somewhere, they are going to be fine,” Rosell said. “They need to feel like they’re an important part of the process. This is a generation that is used to [being] told in an ongoing way how they’re doing. They really need to hear when they are doing well, as well as when they need correction and guidance.”
With these new workers, it can’t just be business as usual anymore.
“Where organizations can get themselves into trouble is in not adapting to the different style and expectations that the younger employees are bringing in,” Rosell said. “If the organization is rigid and says, ‘We will not change. We will not adapt. We’ve done it this way for 50 years, and damn it, we’re going to do it for another 50,’ then they’re probably not going to be very attractive to the younger employees. They really need to look at how they have been doing things, what they can change to do better [and how they can] use the energy and creativity that the Gen Y employees bring with them to make positive changes in the work environment.”
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