Gen Y has been accused of a lot of things. Ego-centricity. Being not able to finish things. Needing a trophy for everything.
I disagree with labeling people Gen Y. The challenge with classifying people according to arbitrary periods of time is that you will find that many people, perhaps too many, are exceptions to the rules you’ve laid out for a “generation.”
For instance, people who have lived through the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s tell me that the 70s were more wild and crazy like the 60s are portrayed today, and the 60s were more like the 50s, more straitlaced. So if you were a hippie in the 60s, perhaps you were more of an anomaly than a hippie in the 70s.
That said, here are some ways that people born between 1975 and 2010 might be different from people who came before.
Apparently our brains are now reorganizing themselves to deal with larger and larger amounts of information. So you’ve probably heard the statistic that ONE Sunday NYTimes contains as much information as a person in the middle ages would come across in their entire lifetime.
A person who spends 6 hours a day on the internet, even if they’re just looking at pictures on Facebook, is going to be absorbing a lot of information. Here’s an article about how constant exposure to technology is affecting our brains.
So let’s assume, for a moment, that there is a Gen Y, in the way that we’ve got a group of people who have been absorbing more information than previous generations. So they have greater capability to digest, sort, and re-purpose information. And they can also be more impatient, fragmented, and know-it-all than previous generations! So the challenge here for Gen Y is to slow down, unplug, and breathe.
To Manage “Gen Y” here’s what you can encourage.
1. If they’re all about the data, make them organizational researchers. Ask them to interview others, look up the best ways to do things, and synthesize this data into a report.
2. If they’re always about communication, ask them for advice on new ways to reach donors. Let them spearhead that project. And be aware that their preferred method of communication might not be yours. You might be a face to face person. They might be texting, emailing, forum poster, or skype-ing person. So ask them how they communicate most often, how they prefer to communicate.
3. Show them every week how their work is making a difference. Appreciate their efforts, and you’ll see a better worker. While this is true of most people, Gen Y especially needs this recognition. They need it because we live in a society now that focuses on the negative, perfectionism, always trying to do better, or more, or run on crises. Often, people in Gen Y don’t slow down to appreciate themselves or others. That’s where you can come in, and show them how slowing down and appreciating their own efforts and their team’s efforts can give everyone a boost in morale and productivity.
4. Show generosity, listening, and respect. Gen Y have been more aggressively marketed to than previous generations. So they’re more suspicious. It’s almost a relief not to be sold anything for five minutes. So when you talk about your nonprofit, find ways to engage by listening to them, and drawing them into your conversation. Slowly slowly cultivate Gen Y by showing them you are their strongest supporter. Retweet them, comment on their blog posts, be genuine. Find their hot-button story, the thing that gets them passionate. Since they’ve been marketed to, spent so much time online, and with TV, they’ve had less people listening to them. Respect them by lending them your ear, and watch your relationship with them grow.
5. Go outside and take a walk with Gen Y, no cellphones. Encourage slowing down and disconnecting from electronic leashes. Start to have a dialogue about what they’ve noticed that needs to be changed at your nonprofit, and what matters most to them. Share your own vision. Walking and talking without distractions can be one of the best ways to get Gen Y to open up and really breathe and listen. Then tell them a joke. Encourage them to laugh more! Life doesn’t have to be a series of serious crises. It should be fun to work at your nonprofit too!
Other suggestions for managing Gen Y? I’d love to see your comments below!
Follow @wildwomanfund on twitter! Because you’ve got someone in Gen Y to manage and Mazarine’s got advice!