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Getting Past Generation Y Stereotypes
My husband has one of the greatest work ethics I’ve ever seen. Though he doesn’t any longer, he has worked in grocery since high school as a part-time gig. In the five plus years I’ve known him, he has never once called in to work. It doesn’t matter how sick he is, he always says they are counting on him.
His last job at a grocery store was just 10 hours a week, but when they needed some extra help or needed someone to fill a shift, my hubby was the first person they would call because he always would agree to be there. And you know what, most of the time, people are shocked to hear how devoted to his job he was, even though he really didn’t like it at all.
Why were they surprised? Because stereotypes about the “Y Generation” (those born between 1978 and 1990 – which includes me) have lead people to believe many things about those of us in our twenties and teens, especially when it comes to work, that just aren’t true for the majority. And employers need to start realizing the truth about us young ones, because over the next four years, nearly 10 million of us will be entering the work force.
Let’s examine some of those stereotypes and I’ll point out the misconception and the truth:
That we’re disloyal when it comes to our job.
We are skeptical, since we’ve grown up in a world of untrustworthy employers (i.e. Enron). We don’t trust the system to take care of us. We can’t look at the long term because anything can change in the blink of an eye that pulls our long term perspective right out from under us. Instead, we look for what is best for us right now and go with that (which usually comes down to pay and benefits). If someone else offers us more, than many of us will accept just because we want something we can count on too.
Now some of us, like myself, get lucky and find a company to work for that we know has our back and, therefore, we’re sticking with it. I know that the guys I work for will take care of me and won’t let me down. But, as many of those who are avid readers know, I have started my own business, and do intend to leave the firm I work for when the time is right. What’s amazing is the fact that my bosses know this and still treat me the same, give me a raise, etc. That is where you will find loyalty from us, when you show us loyalty too. And there’s no place I’d rather be right now.
We’re not willing to work as hard as we should.
We simply want to know that what we are doing is actually getting us somewhere. If we feel like we’re working our rears off and have nothing to show for it (no recognition through raises, promotions, even a simple thank you), then what motivation do we have to continue doing that work. Unfortunately, many of us are all too aware that, just because we work hard, doesn’t mean we’ve secured our job for the long term.
In other words, you’ll get a lot more out of the Y Generation if you reward their short-term accomplishments. That’s why so many people like working at places like Google headquarters, where the bonuses and rewards are plentiful. And you know, the owners of that company are of the X Generation, which means they understand a little better what us twenty-somethings are looking for.
We constantly need praise.
We need to know when we’re doing a good job. No, it’s not necessary to tell us every day that the fact we came in on time is outstanding, but we do need to know when we are appreciated. One of the attorneys I work for is spectacular at letting me know I’m doing a great job. He doesn’t tell me every day by any means, but even on the little things, such as drafting a letter, he will read it and simply say “perfect.” That’s all it takes to let me know I’m on track, and it motivates me to do well with everything.
So, if you’ve got it in your head that hiring a twenty-something for the new accounting position is probably not your best option, because they’ll require more attention and work and may not even stick around, you’ve got things misconstrued. If you, as an employer, work to make your business a place where people want to be by showing loyalty to your employees, and rewarding and appreciating their hard work, you’ll find that the Y Generation is just as reliable as the Boomers… and maybe even more.
• Entrepreneur.com: Gen Y Myths Debunked
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