Jason Ryan Dorsey, The Gen-Y Guy, stepped to the mic and began his canned “lecture-performance.” With high energy and lively stories, Dorsey explains that understanding the main characteristics of each generation is crucial for effective communication. Dorsey furthers that there are proper methods of communicating based on the distinct ways each generation acts, feels, and thinks. Dorsey contends that each generation – Gen-Y, Gen-X, Baby Boomers, and Matures – have unique ways of interacting and communicating, and it is especially important in today’s age to understand and relate properly with Gen–Y. But Y now?
Dorsey wrote his first book, Graduate to Your Perfect Job at the age of 17. The focus of this book is helping the graduating classes of Gen-Y find work in the “real world” and learn the “life skills” that are necessary for survival in the modern world. Dorsey understands that Gen-Y has the highest potential unemployment rate in history, and within this one generation there are more “off the books” unemployed than the Great Depression. These historic numbers are “off the books” because 60% of the Gen-Y graduating class went home to live with their parents and haven’t entered the job market yet.
More than ever, it is important for the Gen-Y’s to move out of their parent’s house, find a job (even if it is lower paying than what they expected their education would justify) and develop a means of self-dependence. It is equally important for employers, managers and peers to encourage and mentor Gen-Y so they can grow up and start contributing some capital into the system. Of course, this can only happen if we learn how the generational divides form, how each generation operates, and then apply the most effective method of communication.
Dorsey defines generations as a group of people who will react or feel similarly in the same situation. He understands many people define generations by age, others define it by offspring. He defines generations as, “born around the same time, raised in about the same place, had the same parenting trends, with similar technology, education, economics, and life span.” Dorsey explains, there are 4 distinct generations: Gen-Y, Gen-X, Baby Boomers, and Matures. We must engage differently with each generation for the most effective communication.
The goal of communicating, or connecting with Gen-Y seems impossible because of how challenging Gen-Y is at times. Dorsey explains that engaging with them is difficult because they feel entitled and need constant coddling. Gen-Y hasn’t developed personal skills because they haven’t learned it on the job where most of us learn how to work in teams and take constructive feedback.
If you get on the bad side of a Gen-Y you might hear, “mentor me or I’ll tweet about you!” Gen-Y desperately needs mentors who understand them. Many Baby Boomer parents spoiled their Gen-Y children and that self-absorbed disposition has carried into the workplace. Most likely, the Baby Boomers spoiled their children because the Baby Boomer “Mature” parents kicked them out of the house when they were 18 and said you’re on your own. The Baby Boomers have worked hard and now that they have children,”just want things to be easier than it was for them.”
One of the myths that Jason Dorsey invalidates is that Gen-Y is “tech savvy.” Many believe that this is a fact because Gen-Y grew up with technology. The truth is that Gen-Y grew up with technology, but they don’t know how it actually works, they only know how to use it. And they use it all the time. In fact, Gen-Y isn’t tech savvy, rather they are “tech dependent.” If any generation is really tech savvy it is the early Gen-X because they are old enough to have learned the programming languages that current technology runs on.
Gen-X is also naturally skeptical. They grew up with key losses – divorce, internet boom, housing bubble, stock market crash, parent’s unemployment – and because of what they have seen they are very loyal to individuals, but not organizations. The Baby Boomers are more committed to organizations than individuals and believe that “you must pay your dues,” work hard, and eventually you’ll have saved enough for retirement. The Matures believe this as well and they are also highly ethical, loyal and reserved. Surprisingly, Gen-Y feels the closest to the Matures. There is also a group of Gen-Y’s who don’t feel entitled to a promotion, big salary, etc. because of their upbringing or because they’ve worked hard since college and this is the group that is the most upset and frustrated with most of the Gen-Y.
Some companies made the mistake of thinking that the best way to sell a product to Gen-Y is by having another Gen-Y sell it. But actually, Gen-Y is terrible in sales with other Gen-Y’s. They get fed up with each other and don’t have enough patience or people skills to hold the conversation. Actually, the best way to connect with Gen-Y and get their support is by catering to them and making them feel special.
Here are some other pointers on speaking and connecting with Gen-Y:
- Ask them to join something
- Ask them the best way to stay in contact
- Show them how we fit in
- Ask us for money for good causes
- Be as unique as you are. Authenticity rules
- Use YouTube. It’s the #1 source on “how to”
- Use low-tech which is more authentic
- Never send a piece of paper
- Use text message
- Put the most important part of an email in the subject line
- Contact Gen-Y on their birthday
- Define your social network clearly
- Ask them to join and give away something free
The biggest turn-off for Gen-Y is not being included in something based on age. They also get upset by not getting a fast response from their friends, family, service provider, and anyone else. When managing Gen-Y, remember that they need to feel like their moving forward, learning, have completion and purpose. Gen-Y is very visual, for example they do not read a web page. Instead they scan for images and video while reading headlines and bullet points. If the images on a web-page are stock/generic, or if there isn’t any video or bullet points, Gen-Y will leave your site and likely never return. They will not look “below the fold” (aka the bottom of your web browser). Gen-Y is fickle and make quick decisions, but they are capable of feeling, connecting and working hard as long as you know how.
by Ian Evenstar