Social business : Gen Y has not buried the generation X yet

Accustomed to work in network, followers of the social media, for many people, the generation Y is the one which is going to allow the social business to take off. Yet, when I look at the key age « evangelists » social business or developers of collaborative work or the use of social media that I encounter in companies, they are mostly X. So is Generation Y the messiah of 2.0 expected ?

The term « Gen Y » included those born between 1978 and 1994. Invented in 1993 by Advertising Age magazine, the term « Generation Y » is the next generation « Generation X » (born roughly between 1965 and 1977). The term « Digital Natives » is also used to point to the fact that these children are born with a computer. It includes about 13 million people, or nearly 21% of the French population. It is the largest generation since the baby boomers. It will become in a few years, the first generation in the enterprise.

Gen X gets the lead

Not quite sure that gen Y will be the messiah of 2.0. Many studies show that Generation X is pushing for the adoption of these technologies and practices attached. We must recognize that under age Generation Y has not enough weight and influence in the business in order to achieve change (what will change in time).

One of the favorite arguments of those who talk about the gap between Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y is that Generation Y is more skillful with the technology. According to these surveys results, this is not so simple.

The generation X employees contribute just as much as their counterparts Y on social media (network, forum, blog, wiki) of the company. But beyond the contribution, it is them who mainly tries to obtain from the company the installation of these collaboratives technologies. Besides many studies, shows that Generation X Generation is seen as a « pivot » with a positive influence in the company and is the bridge with Generation Y. Also Generation Y says learn more from Gen X than any other generation.

It may be noted also that the main promoters of the concept of Generation Y are most often X. Then make way for the young ? If not, gen Y are more and more numerous in our companies, so manager have to deal with intergenerational management.

A new culture ?

Usually generation Y is described as more ambitious and opportunistic than other age groups (X, boomers…). However, it does not seem to enter into a logic of sacrifice of its personal life for the benefit of his professional life. This is linked to a culture of fair’s fair. Indeed, they have been accustomed to be consumers at an early age. This has two implications:

  • have a choice;
  • assess the extent to what is offer is what it costs to get it.

This generation recognizes the experience of its older colleagues and expertise of seniority. Also, it expects from them listening and individualized support to succeed its own personal development. Responsive to the culture of social networks, they value highly the most experienced people in their knowledge of key individuals and the ability to guide or to get in touch with the owners of information or resources.

A different relationship to work ?

Raised in a world experiencing significant and rapid changes (it is marked by a relative short time), Generation Y comes with expectations of it own. No time to plan for the distant future, it lives in the short term and adapts permanently, this is why inside the company :

  • Gen Y wants to have its say on the first day
  • Gen Y is reluctant to rules
  • Gen Y claims

This generation has been accustomed to be constantly connected and quickly access to all types of information. It attaches importance to the potential of each and to the strength of alliances in networks or peer professionals. At all levels of responsibility, it claims the right to manage information to facilitate and enrich its work : it is natural to work as it wants and have an impact on its work environment. It is still necessary that its enthusiasm is not stifled by constraints useless, imposed by the organization.

If I have repeatedly emphasized, in this blog, the need to give meaning to employees on the choices made by the company, this is even more true for Generation Y. It needs to know to what it contributes and see the result of its action. In this case, it can be very receptive to criticism and suggestions for improvement.

The workspace has no border (business / home) and is open to the digital (digital workspaces, networks, which means that the company uses a social network internally and externally). With the development of nomadism, the office becomes a place for social exchanges where is reinforced the sense of belonging. Work is more in a network way and less pyramidal or hierarchical, in order to discuss, share, enhance short … retrieve at work the reflexes develop with social media (a perfume of enterprise 2.0)

Manage differently this generation ?

Generation Y often seems at odds with the usual codes of the company, here are some key reading:

  • Respect for authority: formal authority is not recognized. Like respect is earned, the authority must be recognized by their skills or, more broadly, for what it brings to people.
  • Compliance: again apply a rule just because it is a rule is not really in their state of mind. Must be anchored in the reality, to be justified and makes sense every day.
  • Career progression: the work is considered as a succession of experiences (especially work during its all life in a company is no longer valid). They want to know everything before they can get on now and not in a more or less distant future.

Similarly, the relationship must be individualized and customized. Used to be the center of attention as a consumer, with a more and more one to one marketing, or interact in a more direct relationship with social networks, Generation Y is waiting for this relationship with its management. Meet this expectation management is a powerful stimulant individualized and enhances its commitment.

Refuse to adapt to this culture (this generation will be the majority in the company) and want to fit them into the mold will lead at best to demotivation and conflicts and at worst a high turnover. But for sure, this kind of management is not only for gen Y but powerful for all employees.

Of course, this vision of Generation Y is that of an X, with views that are inherent.