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Grow Your Business Your Team

Gen Y: Your Work BFF?

Gen Y: Your Work BFF? Credit: Dreamstime.com

Gen Y often gets a bad rap. They're often branded as lazy and too laid back. But, at work, Gen Y can be your best ally. That's the contention of Shirley Engelmeier, CEO and Founder of Inclusion, Inc., who has been an inclusion and diversity strategist and consultant for more than 19 years.

She is also the author of the book, "Inclusion: The New Competitive Business Advantage." She said workers should value Gen Y in the workplace for a variety of reasons.

  • Gen Y is more technologically savvy. Millennials, as they are also dubbed, have grown up with more technology than any other generation. This group grew up with technology and social media and has a strong capacity to work with and leverage the currency of a knowledge-based global economy. If one platform or the latest app doesn’t work, they try something else until they find a solution that meets their needs.

They are sometimes referred to as "technology natives," in contrast with older generations who often struggle to adapt to the new workplace tools that Gen Y takes for granted and demands.

  • Gen Y is more comfortable with diverse ethnic groups. Gen Y’s daily use of email, texting, and social networks is expected to follow them to the workplace and has made Gen Y an extremely social and interconnected group. This means they are not only more comfortable collaborating with coworkers virtually and in person but also that their social interactions aren’t bound by geography. They are much more likely to be familiar with diverse and distant groups and cultures.

Additionally, Gen Y is much more ethnically and racially diverse than previous generations. White people make up only around sixty percent of this generation, with roughly twenty percent being identified as Hispanic. The growing competition for Gen Y employees in the workforce and this group’s diversity means that companies will have to be increasingly willing and able to create diverse and inclusive organizations.

  • Gen Y has limited patience with the status quo. Members of Gen Y have grown up being encouraged by their parents not to take the world at face value. They have learned to question virtually everything and are sometimes called "Generation Why."  This group is always looking for new ways to approach business as usual and isn’t satisfied with answers like "Because that’s the way it's always been done."

Many in older generations might look at this willingness to challenge the status quo as a lack of respect for authority or a know-it-all approach to professional life, but much of this willingness to challenge business as usual stems from the fact that members of Gen Y have grown up in a world of constant technological and societal change. They realize that doing things the way they have always been done simply won’t continue to work.

  • Gen Y are today's business innovators. The business world of the future will belong to Gen Y, and companies looking to succeed in that new world absolutely have to include Gen Y in planning for it. The speed with which the global economy and business world are changing cannot be overstated. Gen Y represents the best weapon available to many organizations as they transition into an increasingly global environment as this cohort is best equipped and best personifies the characteristics that companies will need to be successful in this changing arena. They can lead those companies' transformations to knowledge-based, globally competitive organizations.
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