The American workforce is rapidly progressing from an industrialized nation to an information nation with the advancement of technology. For the first time in the history of the American workforce, there are four generations available to meet the demands of organizational employment needs. The technologically savvy Generation Y has entered as the fourth generation in the workforce. A review of literature shows the difference of Generation Y employees from the other generations creates various challenges and opportunities for the employer; yet can provide a creative advantage to the success of the organization.
The following shows a summary of considerations for the generations in the workplace. Depending on the author, the literature varies on the name given to the generation and the date of birth ranges.
- The Greatest Generation or Traditionalists, born prior to 1945, were 75 million in population and currently comprise 10% of the workforce.
- Baby Boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, are 80 million in population and comprise 45% of the workforce.
- Generation X, born from 1965 to 1980, is 46 million in population and comprises 30% of the workforce.
- Generation Y, or the Millennium Generation, born 1981 to 1999, are 76 million in population and 15% of the workforce (Eisner, 2005; Hirschman, 2005).
Generation Y is projected to rise from 15% of the workforce to 22% of the workforce in the next four years as the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers retire. There are specific characteristics that demographers identify for the Generation Y population.
- One in three Generation Y is not Caucasian.
- An overwhelming majority of Generation Y are products of households where both parents work. Social relationships are extremely important to Generation Y employees.
- Generation Y are comfortable with technology having grown up with computers, Internet, cell phones, cable and satellite television.
- Generation Y work well in teams and desire voice and e-mail as primary means of communication.
- Generation Y desires goals and challenging work that matches and extends their knowledge, skill, and ability (Eisner, 2005; Hirschman, 2005).
Generation Y are the children of the Baby Boomers and have only their population size in common with their parents. Those in Generation Y are very social and have strong commitment to community. There are many challenges and opportunities for managers with integrating Generation Y employees in the workplace. Generation Y understands and respects diversity in race, ethnicity, customs, and traditions more than other generations. The opportunity exists for an organization to foster diversity and bring creativity to the workplace with maximizing social opportunity of Generation Y.
Literature supports that Generation Y was raised being told they can accomplish anything they attempt. The opportunity to challenge this generation with realistic and achievable goals will result in creative and innovative advancement from the industrial era to an information and technological society. There is extensive support of leadership literature that shows decision-making and problem solving from teams has more successful results than sole decision making with the organizational leader or manager. The opportunity to increase team building skills and activities with Generation Y employees in the workplace, will result in solutions to business problems versus treating a symptom.
Strategies to Manage The Technolog"Y" Generation
The opportunities to instill creativity and innovation in an organization can be achieved through strategies that maximize the talents of Generation Y employees. The following recommendations challenge leaders and managers in organizations to integrate Generation Y employees in the workplace.
- Restructure Compensation Package. Generation Y enjoys compensation for their talents, however, the availability of balancing work and personal time is more important than monetary rewards. Generation Y is astute in deferred compensation such as 401k and stock options, and creative structure of paid time off that does not distinguish between vacation and sick is an attractive benefit. Generation Y employees place a high value on personal relationships and would take time off to be with a friend in need over their work responsibilities.
- Technology Investment. Investment in the latest technology is an attractive benefit for Generation Y, along with investment in skill enhancement. Generation Y desires the newest available technology to accomplish their job in the most effective and efficient manner. Technology training and higher education to enhance individual knowledge and skill is important to retaining Generation Y employees.
- Job Redesign. Flexibility in the workplace is important to Generation Y and providing challenging goals that match talent is essential. The use of job sharing and telecommute provides job flexibility to Generation Y, and assist in employee retention. Combined with technology availability, flexibility will maximize resources to accomplish the job.
- Team Development. Generation Y is a generation that desires socialization, inside and outside the workplace. This makes Generation Y very compatible to working in teams. Their natural appreciation for diversity coupled with team projects would develop team skills to provide creativity and innovation in the workplace. Conflict resolution for the manager would not change since literature has shown there is little difference in conflict resolution in Generation Y compared with other generations in the workplace.
- Collaborative Skills. Generation Y and their managers need to understand collaborative leadership skills. Generation Y responds well to understanding how their contribution to the workplace fits the organizational strategic plan. Collaborative skills include self-development, knowledge sharing, open communication, and mutual respect in an integrative and interactive management style.
The technologically savvy Generation Y has entered as the fourth generation in the workforce. Research on this newest generation in the workforce continues and further knowledge to manage and lead Generation Y continues on a daily basis. There are specific characteristics that demographers identify for the Generation Y population. Generation Y desires goals and challenging work that matches and extends their knowledge, skill, and ability. The challenges and opportunities for managers in integrating Generation Y employees in the workplace can be met to ensure creativity and innovation in the workplace. Specific strategies implemented in an organization will ensure the Generation of Technolog'Y" is valued and retained for maximum retention, effectiveness, and efficiency.
Dembo, M. and Gentile, M. (2000). Reaching generation. Public Relations Tactics 7(5). Retrieved April 16, 2007 from EbscoHost database.
Eisner, S. P. (2005). Managing generation Y. SAM Advanced Management Journal (Autumn). Retrieved March 29, 2007, from EbscoHost database.
Hirschmar, C. (2005). Here they Come. Retrieved April 10, 2007 from www.workindex.com.
Dr. Wayne Brock is currently the Director of Academic Affairs for the University of Phoenix - Birmingham, AL Campus where he is responsible for the overall academic quality, rigor, hiring, and training of faculty. He has over 25 years leadership experience in various mid and senior level positions with federal, state, and private organizations. Dr. Brock is an active faculty member with the University of Phoenix Online Campus and serves as a peer reviewer for the Problem Based Learning Clearinghouse (University of Delaware).
Dr. Brock also assists organizations as a consultant on operations management, leadership training, strategic planning, and streamlining existing processes for increased efficiency. Dr. Brock's formal education includes a Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix and Masters of Public Administration from the University of Texas - El Paso. His research areas of interest include collaborative leadership style and generational differences in the workplace. Contact Dr. Brock by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.