We constantly hear, read or discuss about changing attitudes at workplace – and more specifically, the evolution of the current workforce. Who are these individuals, and why have they gained so much of importance of late?

Gen Y – in short, are individuals born between the year 1981-2000, who are commonly also known as Millennials. Their characteristics exhibit traits of confidence, embracing diversity and proficiency of technology, which hands them the term “Digital Natives.” These individuals have experienced historic events such as introduction of the Internet.

You are common to find them “infatuated” with Berries, Androids and tablets with increasing phenomena of sharing happenings at rapid pace. Gen Y prefer to share their views on social media platforms  - which has become a hotbed for discussion of penetrating topics from politics to society- that re-write history such as the Arab Spring.

Gen Y share different backgrounds, beliefs, values and ethnicities, whilst exhibiting varied perceptions to elements, which affect their general way of life. This is due to their ancestry, or the way in which their respective societies have evolved over time with internal and external influences to their heritage and customs.

Nevertheless, they also exert a great influence on corporate life – creating a hybrid of hard work intertwined with flexibility such as variable work hours or allowing use of social media at work – that has increasingly been an eye opener for “traditional” bosses. Some leaders portray them as arrogant, egotistical and self-important while others embrace their aggressiveness, passion for transparency and inclusiveness towards a participatory decision-making process.

With an increasing pace of globalization that has impacted both positively and negatively, it has practically affected everything. In the context of integration of processes, technology, ideas and methods of work, Gen Y is here to play a huge role in reshaping structure, systems and future of businesses. As more and more enter the workplace, understanding their needs and their generational/cultural attitudes towards work/life balance and engagement, can make for a better workplace for everyone.

Question is, how do employers take their understanding of Generation Y and translate that knowledge into a strategy for managing and developing an innovative workplace with Millennials’ talent?

  • Devising policies towards reflection of Millennials’ needs such as flexible work hours and interactive deliberation processes.
  • Establishing mechanisms to cater for growth of a talented Millennial by developing challenges and allowing a degree of flexibility to exhibit problem-solving skills. Delegation is key but with strong emphasis on trust of the individual’s ability.
  • Instituting mentorship programs at the workplace to assist Gen Y in comprehending organizational culture and enabling a mechanism of “appreciating” constructive criticism than “withering” under it.
  • Gen Y is energetic, vibrant and enthusiastic – frequently in search of new beginnings or better solutions towards work/life balance. Hence, it is imperative for ongoing feedback by scheduling regular meetings, discussing expectations, job performance and goal setting. Remember, it is essential to have an inclusive process!
  • With increasing integration of systems and technology aided by the force of globalization, Gen Y is inevitable to a different style of work. Thus, businesses should develop training programs that facilitate an experiential, team-based and collaborating process. Millennials are keen to embrace new learning styles and methods so as to effectively enable them to seize opportunities and deal with challenges. This will enable a productive workplace through transfer of skills and knowledge.
  • Constructively model a professional form of communication that is ethical in the corporate world. With exposure to social media and technologies of various forms, email should take a formal tone with equal emphasis on courteous face-to-face interpersonal communication.

Frankly, as a consultant engaged in facilitating skills development, I interact extensively with Gen Y, accentuating to employers the need for them to be trained, engaged and prepared for now, not in the future. Earning your stripes and promotions in fast changing times is far too slow a strategy.

Furthermore, it is imperative to develop a tendency to listen well and openly to different viewpoints and discuss them, rather than dismiss them. As one Gen Y said, “My generation invented the Internet and the Web, now, let’s see your generation do something great with them.”

Nabeel Hassanali is a Business Coach, Trainer and Chief Executive of Genesis Consult Ltd (www.genesisconsult.net). He can be reached at nabeel.hassanali [at] genesisconsult.net

 (This article featured in The First Thoughts Column of "Management Magazine" of July 2012)