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Back to the Gen Y Future

Posted: Feb 04, 2015 by Ari Ashkenas

Remember the movie Back to the Future with Michael J. Fox? His character, Marty McFly, gets transported to 2015, and he sees everyone around him getting around on hover boards and in flying cars. Writer and director Robert Zemeckis may have gotten the hover boards and flying cars part wrong, but the 2015 business landscape is like nothing in the past.

I want you to take a deep breath, close your eyes and imagine that all your sons, daughters, grandkids and the kids you drove to soccer practice and swim classes make up the majority of the global workforce.

Open your eyes. What you just imagined is about to come true in a big way. According to Deloitte and many others, more than 50% of the global work force will be made up of Millennials (those currently 20-30 years of age). Millennials, also known as Gen Y, have a different set of standards and values and want to hit the refresh button on how organizations operate.

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How will organizations adjust to this new reality?

During the months of January and February, senior leaders reflect on their organization’s mission and values and set out on a journey to fine tune existing values statements. In some cases, they create a whole new vision that reflects the changing business landscape so the organization can succeed in their marketplace. Organizations have been trending during this time to also evaluate some of their social impact programs, telecommuting policies, maternity/paternity policies and a myriad of many other areas that Gen Y cares about more than the shiny 401k match.

So how can organizations reel in top Gen Y talent, but also preserve the values and missions that have made them successful? Here are a few tips to consider.

  • Social Impact : According to Harvard Business Review, about 86% of Generation Y want to make a positive impact on the world. Organizations are adhering to this statistic; they are organizing global charity days that touch the lives of community members and really make a difference. Ford Motor Company employees even get 16 hours of paid time off every year to volunteer. In turn, many organizations have found that, when time is invested into social impact, engagement becomes higher and turnover is decreased. Additionally, volunteer opportunities afford employees to develop as leaders which will also positively impacts the organization.
  • Mentor, not Manager : Traditionally, employees are assigned a manager who oversees work and gives them an ever so exciting performance review. However, according to Jamie Gutfriend of CAA’s Intelligence Group, 72% of Gen Y would like to be their own boss. But if they do have to work for a boss, 79% of them would want that boss to serve more as a coach or mentor. The need for more frequent feedback and coaching makes logical sense. We live in an instant gratification culture where the answer to a question is a Google click away on our smartphone or tablet. This need for instant feedback is not dissipating and will only increase with time.
  • Well-Being: It is widely known that Gen Y prefers the “life” in “work-life balance”. In a recent study conducted by Deloitte, researchers found a 20% gap between current leadership and Millennials regarding the need for proper well-being and benefits. This is just one of many priorities where Deloitte found a large gap between senior leadership and Millennials.

With the New Year in full swing, we should all take time to reflect on our organizations’ missions and values. This exercise is not just for the C-suite to conduct, but for all of us within our own teams to discover and establish areas we are passionate about. By taking time to reflect, we will all establish new ways of working and living that will increase our employee’s engagement levels and the relationships among all generations of our organizations. Go ahead and give it a try!

Ari Ashkenas is a Senior Consultant at Strativity Group.