The recent crop of college grads, those born in the early 1980s, have brought with them a set of technological tools that make fax machines, voice mail and spreadsheet software look positively quaint. They've grown up with scanning, text messaging and Googling, and they're not about to stop once they've hit the working world. Nor should they.
So how should you deal with these iPod-toting technical wizards (especially when you want to strangle them with their headphone cords)? Communication is key but recognize that generations communicate differently. As a colleague or manager, you need to understand and work within that framework if you want results.
The skills these newer generations bring with them are big assets when it comes to multi-tasking and productivity. But they're also a nightmare for many of bosses over the age of 35 who understand that while technology is a useful tool, it doesn't replace in-person interaction as a primary means of doing business.
Today's bosses, can't understand why their young employees, for all their brains and technical acumen, hardly ever walk in the door, sit down and actually talk to them. The Generation Y employees often use test messages, rather than walk over and talk to someone - frequently sending them messages without thinking. What some Gen Y'ers don't see is that the meaning and value of gestures and other nonverbal skills don't come through in a text.
Many organizations are finding that they need to emphasize face-to-face and telephone skills, which they see as lacking in IM-happy college grads. The good news is that most new hires are smart, talented and open to learning. Where they differ from their predecessors, is in their requests for more hands-on, interactive training. However, you may find that some do not have the patience to sit through an eight-hour class. You have to talk fast to keep their attention.
Working out the Gen Gap
With all these differences, is it any wonder that the generations can piss each other off?
What is the solution? Ideally, the generations would try to learn from each other. Try to pair young with older workers. The young may be able to help the older with technology: the older with social and business etiquette skills.
One of my clients, a pharmaceutical company did just that. Getting ready for a merger, they found the younger research and development scientists in a tizzy because they had never worked for anything other than a start-up organization. They were being acquired by large pharmaceutical giant. The solution: pair them with old hands who had been through more mergers and spin offs than could be counted. The surprising perk was that the older workers became more technologically savvy and learned some new research techniques - not to mention picking up some tips on downloading oldies to their iPods!
Adapting Your Crews
Is it possible that it's the older workers who will ultimately have to adjust, forced to do away with the personal touch in favor of pure speed and efficiency? After all, the young tech-savvy employees of today are tomorrow's company bosses. The answer is yes-and no.
While increasingly faster communications are here to stay, face-to-face skills have been a staple for getting business done for too long to think they will ever go out of style altogether. There will likely be a happy medium, if you can't build relationships with people, you can't do business.
Understanding the Different Generations
Generation X is the generation that followed the Baby Boomers. The Xers were born between 1965 and 1976, or so, depending on whose research you follow. They have been defined by the media as a group vastly different from the intense, hardworking Boomers.
Rightly or wrongly, the Xers have acquired the labels of slackers, more interested in having personal time than in going the extra mile to win a promotion. They value independence, technology, informality. They were the original latchkey kids and the first group to experience MTV.