Raised on electronic media and platforms such as Google, instant messaging, and texting, it is clear that Gen Ys hardwiring is different. They are clearly at the forefront of modern times and cutting-edge technology. This generation of workers is entering the workforce with networking and multiprocessing skills that their elders could never have imagined. They are able to identify solutions to problems almost immediately, but are limited when effectively handling interpersonal or face-to-face situations. This means that we need to sensitize our work culture and help them through these kinds of situations.
Gen Y views senior executives with years of experience as archaic thinkers and,in many cases, rightly so. It is imperative, now more than ever, for senior leadership to understand and use the language of Gen Y to effectively manage this talent pool without alienating veteran employees. With the onset of the late '90s tech boom, our country went from a stodgy, inflexible workplace to an open environment. It is now critical for us to seek out some semblance of a middle ground.
So how can senior leadership manage this group without feeling threatened? First, recognize a need for change. Ask yourself the following questions: How can we engage these energetic workers? How can we give them a work environment similar to online environments they are familiar with at home?
Second, embrace technology as a necessary tool to reach them. There are many ways Web 2.0 can enable businesses to have a conversation with their employees, including podcasts, social networking, blogging, vlogging, RSS, etc. Strike the right balance between these and traditional forms of communication. And, third, acknowledge the changing media model without losing core values. Executives must view new communication vehicles as an opportunity to engage in a dialogue with their employees — not a method for throwing a message and hoping it sticks. It is pushed and pulled — delivered and received.
With nearly half of our workforce being Gen Ys, CDW has worked hard to engage employees via an evolving corporate culture. We developed interactive solutions for attracting and growing our talent pool, from online recruitment videos to online mentoring programs, recognizing technology as a critical tool to help achieve cultural and generational equilibrium. But simultaneously we introduced several initiatives that provide this burgeoning generation with the opportunity to maintain certain traditional communication skills.
It is also necessary to provide tools that promote mobility and convergence (telework, web, blackberry, and video conferencing). Consider the example of Skadden Arps, a New York law firm that armed its employees with necessary tools such as laptops to work outside the office, reimbursing new employees up to $3,000 for home equipment and $1,000 every year thereafter. Such initiatives foster creativity and enhance productivity. Only then will Generation Ys nod their heads — and listen to your message. The more a company can remain current with the evolving technology landscape, the more new age coworkers will trust that the executive leadership is in touch and growing with the times. They will not only be more compliant workers, it will enable them to more fully realize their potential and contribute to your company's bottom line.
About the Author
Mark Gambill is vice president of marketing and executive committee member of CDW, a Fortune 500 company and a leading provider of technology products and services for business, government, and education. Gambill is responsible for the strategy and development of CDW's advertising, public relations, marketing intelligence and research, catalogs and collateral materials, creative services, relationship and segment marketing, pricing and marketing strategy, and corporate communications.