Tag Archive for generations

Your Gen Y Managers say ‘See You at the Crossroads‘

crossroad1I 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) 


Within the last month I’ve had several conversations with several different “young HR professionals.”  And I feel okay using that phrase because it’s the one that SHRM uses.  In fact, they’ve even got a community going which is described thusly:

SHRM’s HR Young Professionals group helps create a foundation for SHRM’s professional members age 30 and under by providing resources and educational opportunities relevant to the young HR professional today and building community for the next generation of HR leadership through social media and networking activities

If you are quick to think in terms of generalizations or stereotypes then no doubt the first thing that leapt to mind was every concept of millennials you’ve ever run across:

  • “she probably met them through social media”
  • “I bet their helicopter parents were right there in the thick of things”
  • “no doubt she had to continuously praise and reassure them throughout the conversation”

Well, no.

Each of these three young professionals was as different from each other as I am from Demi Moore (which is, to say, not a lot).  The primary commonality is that they’ve all attended the same university and all three have chosen HR Management as their career of choice.

But didn’t any of them fit a Gen Y stereotype?  After all, the managers at our organizations like to have something easily identifiable to latch onto; it makes managing the individual so much easier when we can lump them together, right?

Well, no.


I’m a boomer/Gen-X cusper but am tossed into the boomer demographic where I, stereotypically speaking, have very little in common with someone of my ‘generation’ who was born in 1946.  But we don’t really use the generational shorthand for boomers anymore.  Perhaps it’s because us boomers are the ones assigning the labels, so we don’t worry about labeling ourselves?

I don’t know. I just get really tired of labeling groups or people.  It’s one thing to recognize how society, culture or advancements in technology lay a foundation for how people live their lives.  It’s somewhat of a leap, however, to assume that millions of people from that era will act and think the same way.

Technology, culture and society are fluid.  So are people.  Let ’em flow.

Do the Millennials Need Some Evangelizing?

Yeah, yeah – we’ve heard it all before.  And we’ve heard it over and over again.  The Millennials are tech-savvy; they’re always online; they’re driving the way we communicate with each other through their extensive use of social networking.  If you need to figure out how to use “that twitter thing” ask a Millennial.  Well, I don’t buy it.

Sure – they’re plugged into Facebook as if it’s the IV drip that’s keeping them alive.  Agreed.  Last year I attended a local SHRM student chapter meeting, and as they were discussing chapter business the chapter President asked “should we send an email or just post it on the Facebook group?”  99% of the 40 or so students in attendance opted for Facebook – the lone holdout who wasn’t on Facebook and desperately clung to the idea of email was what we would call a “non-traditional” student.  But when I got up to talk to them about networking and using social media/engagement tools to assist in their professional development, learning and ultimate job search, once we moved passed Facebook, the level of usage dropped.  One student was using LinkedIn, none were reading blogs or engaging with HR practitioners online, and zero were using twitter.

At about the same time, we conducted a social-media usage survey of our employees and found that just 3% of our workforce was using twitter.   75% of the users fell into the Boomer/Gen X cusp group while the remaining 25% were straight-up Gen X.  Since that time, we’ve added  a few Gen Y’s who are using twitter.  Progress!

Now, none of them are what I would call active twitter users.  I have yet to see a tweet come out of the Gen Y’ers, and the others are rarely active.  Perhaps they’re all lurking; I semi-lurked for a good 6 months before I became an active user.  But I truly hope that they’re gathering information and gaining knowledge and are merely hesitant about furthering their level of engagement.  I find twitter to be such a great tool for finding information, starting conversations, reading/learning and connecting with people in a whole new way.

So my mantra continues to be one person at a time.  Come on in, the water is fine.  I’ll be your evangelist.

And that’s what I’ve learned today.  You’ve been schooled.

p.s.  don’t even get me started on HR’s usage of social networking tools.  That’s another post.  So here’s a great resource for HR professionals……check out Mark Stelzner’s Twitter 101 for HR