Millennials In The Workplace: Solving The “Gen Y Problem”

The perceived shortcomings of Millennials are well documented: we’re know-it-alls, arrogant, pushy, and want to get hired higher up the ladder than the bottom rung we deserve.

There’s a perception that social media is the silver bullet for reaching Gen Y candidates and consumers, but paradoxically, these online networks seem to be the launching pad for perpetuating these myths and stereotypes.

In fact, I’ve seen a few recent blog posts, Twitter chats, webinars, etc. that look more like Soviet-era propaganda than then true dialogues or debates, all aimed at solving the “Gen Y problem;” we’re apparently up there with the recession and recreational drug use on the list of societal plagues, at least if you believe the blogs.

But the real problem seems to be that older generations really don’t know how to react to the fact that, well, they’re getting to be the older generations.

They seem to forget that from the time the automobile took over the horse and buggy to the protests of the sixties to the go-go materialism and egotism of the eighties, there’s always been a resistance to change, and one that’s almost always unfairly assigned to ‘those darned kids.’

But change is inevitable, and resistance, as they say, is futile.  Because what are often perceived as our shortcomings are, in fact, significant assets: ease of technological adoption, innovative thinking, and the ability to constantly connect, communicate and multitask.

So what’s behind the disconnect between Gen Y perceptions and realities?  To quote Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof (using a reference Boomers should be familiar with) “I’ll tell you in one word: tradition.”

As the title of the ubiquitous business text “Built to Last” suggests, the best brands historically pride themselves on legacy and continuity, spending as much time proudly pointing to their past as they do looking into the future.

But this tendency seems to also ignore the present reality: that Gen Y is transforming business norms from being driven by brands to being driven by peers.  Call them connections, contacts, friends or fans, word-of-mouth matters most.

Yelp reviews, Facebook likes, FourSquare check-ins and Twitter mentions form the basis of our opinions, and purchasing decisions, more than any Super Bowl ad or traditional marketing campaign ever could (or will).

While companies are figuring out messaging through market research, we’re doing our own, simply by participating in the social conversation.

So, while Boomers might still mostly run the C-Suite, the days of business as usual are becoming increasingly numbered.  It’s not that traditional organizations don’t sense this seismic shift; the problem is, many are attempting to jump into a medium they don’t understand, targeting a population they view as a ‘problem’ rather than an opportunity.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s not Gen Y that’s the problem.  Maybe, instead, the Gen Y ‘problem’ stems from having a closed mind and steadfast belief that experience matters more than potential.

Which is literally their loss: a loss of billions of dollars in untapped revenue, a loss of brand cache and perception, and a loss of being able to build the emerging talent of today into the leaders of tomorrow.

All this is really too bad, because by embracing Millennials and the unique talents and attributes we bring to the table, businesses really have everything to gain. – Originally posted on MonsterThinking by Lexi Kubrak