Now that the Generation Y is taking over as the main workforce in our economy, it is time for managers and companies to overcome long maintained stereotypes. Our guest author Martin Giesswein, Co-Founder of Digital City Vienna, explains why it doesn’t matter anymore if you wear a suit or tight jeans.
Stop quarreling about the bearded men with tattoos and their Generation Y colleagues (people between 18 and 35 years) working with you. They are up to 25 percent of the current workforce and the biggest single age group of the U.S. population already. They are natural born digital pros – unlike the Generation X (people 40 years old or older). That means they don’t just smartly apply digital technology to their lives and businesses but are rather interwoven in their thinking, living and business DNA. Most importantly, they are able to understand what young to middle aged customers expect from life and how they make their buying decisions. Essentially, they know how to approach their pairs and therefore can transform declining businesses into a zero-margin-cost buzz.
Youngsters make your business ready for the digital age
Some years ago, grey-haired CEOs got applause from shareholders when they argued how that internet thing does not affect their company. Today, realism is seated in the board room, with 77 percent of business leaders rating digital transformation as biggest single immediate business issue. Now companies know that having the Generation Y staff in transformation projects, cooperating with startups and allowing venturing outside of current cash cow products might be the only chance they have not to be swept away be the digital wave.
#1 Do not ask for conformism
Generation Y are striving for meaning, fun and balanced lifestyle more than for an old fashioned car allowance program. Many cherish a non-conformist lifestyle and do not hesitate to leave a company when asked to wear a tie and show up every day at nine o’clock at the office no matter what. Management needs to grant them access to corporate IT systems 24/7 accessible from any device they fancy to use.
The good thing is, that a lot of those loose guns are as business focussed and career orientated as the Suits. As studies show, 60 percent of the young belong to adaptive-pragmatic or conservative segments and they are not reality-rejecting punks. They simply use their own way to reach the business goal.
#2 Encourage emotional leadership
For a long time, management aimed to structure workforce and optimize output, not focusing much on individuals. It seems however we finally need to follow the Harvard Business Review advices on emotional leadership. Indeed, leading Generation Y means individual attention to all team members. Proclaiming the corporate strategy in an all-hands call is not enough anymore. We suit-wearing leaders need to find a person-by-person overlap of companies goals and the personal motivation of every single employee. The lifetime relationship with Generation Y pros last as long as the overlap is bigger than the pain of aligning with the corporate structure. If not, they will move on to the next more „meaningful“ job.
#3 Be nice – they might be your customer soon
„Generation Y are illoyal job-hoppers“ is one stereotype we often hear in the news. That is as wrong as the belief that a career has to consist of one or maximum two companies from cradle to grave. It is perfectly normal to have ten or more employers in your life and to switch between employments, freelance, part-time, pro bono work and capitalistic entrepreneurship. The only one holding back in that development are laws and social insurance systems looking at possible abuse instead of chances of an (European) society in the international war for talents.
Martin Giesswein is Co-Founder of the Digital City Vienna Initiative and a freelance business designer. He is an expert in smart city development, growth strategies, startups & exit management. Previously Martin worked 15 years in the IT-sector. Among others he held positions as CEO of immobilien.net and General Manager at Nokia Austria/Adriatics. Web: giesswein.org