I am so sick of generational generalities. Over the last 10+ years I’ve stoically sat through numerous conference sessions, workshops and webinars with ‘experts’ telling me all about the scary things happening in the workplace because of Gen Y/Millennials. The HR drumbeat has been strong on this topic and there’s no sign of the volume being turned down anytime soon.
The semi-definitive source lists members of this generation as having been born between 1982 and 2004 so while latecomers to this group are 10 years of age some are now 32 years old. Millennials are the parents of millennials; members of Gen Y have spawned members of Gen Y.
Yet I’m invited to another HR event in the upcoming weeks that warns me “there is a new generation moving into the workplace now!” and informs me that I better “begin planning now!.”
Um no. Nothing new is coming; Gen Y’ers have been in the workforce for 10 – 16 years. In fact, go take a look around – these folks are the managers in your organization. And more will swell your leadership ranks when the last gasping Baby Boomers finally give it up and sail off into the sunset.
Besides the obvious organizational implications (you’ll now be playing Bone Thugs-n-Harmony tunes at the company picnic and quite possibly stocking Red Bull in the cafeteria vending machines) there are some things I can guarantee your new Gen Y overlords will do that will change your company dynamics. Things that will lead many an HR lady to spend evenings with her gal pals at whichever local watering hole sells $4 chardonnay and promotes ½ price appetizers.
So what are these new managers, freshly promoted or newly arrived in your company, going to do?
- They’ll question everything. Most assuredly they’re not going to believe everything you tell them, they won’t trust what’s written in your employee handbook, and will doubt the veracity of the slickly written marketing content on your company website. If they think your performance appraisals system, staff incentive plan or attendance policies are crapola they will let you know. And if you, Sally HR Manager don’t listen to them, they will scoot on up your sacrosanct chain-of-command to bend the ear of your boss.
- They will expect – and require – the ability to collaborate across boundaries, silos and organizational hierarchies. When one can reach out on Twitter or Instagram and connect with anyone why be held back from reaching out to Bob in Accounting if that’s what is necessary to get the job done? Or the VP of Marketing? Or the CEO?
- They will not let you squash either their curiosity or their access. If you tell the Gen Y manager of a regional sales team that she can’t download Skype because of firewalls and privacy concerns or some other garbage reason, you know what? She’s going to down load it anyway, hack the system, and make sure she can communicate with her sales team.
- They will redefine diversity and inclusion for their team and for your organization. Your ridiculous HR definition of diversity, confused with race and gender definitions as captured on your EEO-1 reports, will mean nothing to this new manager who has grown up in a multi-cultural world where labels and categories hold little, if any, importance.
Stuff is changing; but not because someone working for you was born in 1987 as opposed to 1973. If you haven’t recently reviewed your recruiting strategies or continuously assessed how to optimize job performance in today’s business environment I’ve got news for you; the need to do so has nothing to do with the birth years of your employees or candidates but has everything to do with your abilities to forecast, plan and understand the shifts occurring in the marketplace.
Evolution in the workplace occurs when we land in the sweet spot where organizational demands, professional expectations and personal desires converge. Cultural and societal norms shift and sway which allows people – individuals, not monolithic groups – to craft their personal world view and determine how they will walk on their unique pathway.
Let’s break it down with a topic that every HR practitioner understands – dress code. When baby boomers became managers SOME made it OK to ditch the girdles and pantyhose. SOME Gen X managers set the stage so we can now wear Chuck Taylors to the office. SOME Gen Y managers will question why you think tattoos and body art have any sort of correlation to the ability of someone to perform a job.
Are the oversimplifications we gravitate towards generational garbage? Are any of these conversations something new? Is it not necessarily one…or the other?
See you at the Crossroads baby.
Cross Road Blues by Robert Johnson (1936)
Crossroads by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (1995)