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Gen Y is Here – Are You Ready?

September 13, 2012 / in General Information / by

I was at Table Rock Lake this past weekend with a good friend, Darin Duffin, owner of Midwest Aquatics Swim & Scuba.  One of my hobbies is scuba diving and I am an assistant instructor associated with Darin’s store. We had three hours of drive time together on the way down and one of the longer conversations we had was around younger people.

We talked at length about the fact that communication styles and expectations of Generation Y are different than those in Generation X and Baby Boomers. (Wikipedia defines Gen Y as people that were born between the 1980s and 2000s.)

Mic and I work with many different kinds of businesses in Kansas City and we see interesting and consistent trends when it comes to Gen Y. The following list doesn’t apply to every Gen Y’er we’ve met, but it’s a good place to start: 

They prefer text messages over email

This is a fact.  If you don’t believe me, look at the details of the phone bills for Gen Y employees or even your kids.  This matters because it will begin to affect the way we communicate when we want to get something done.  I have heard so many stories from my peers that they can’t get a response to their emails, but when they text message a Gen Y’er, they get an immediate response. 

In my experience this is also becoming true of Gen X’ers as well.  Next time you haven’t heard back on your proposal or contract that you sent over, text message them with a brief message asking where things are at. You will be amazed at the results.

They live and breathe on Facebook

I mention this only from the standpoint that Facebook is an important part of many Gen Y’ers lives.  If your company doesn’t allow Facebook at work, or has gone as far as to block Facebook from work computers, think about the impact.  I promise you that the Gen Y’er will have a smartphone to Facebook on to get around your information technology shennanigans. 

If your concern is that a Gen Y’er will spend too much time on Facebook, you may be going about this the wrong way.  They are going to spend time there throughout the day no matter what you do.  I recommend hiring good people that want to work.  They can be on Facebook and still be a productive and motivated part of your team.  I would make the case that they will be even more productive when they take a few minutes here and there through the day to recharge.

When buying, they trust the opinions of complete strangers over recommendations from family members when buying things online, including insurance

Think about what this means from a marketing perspective. If you sell products or services to consumers, Gen Y’ers are likely to research (using the web) what other people are saying about your product or service. Have you checked out your feedback on Angie’s List, Yelp or yp.com lately? 

We often see pretty poor feedback for companies that aren’t paying attention to their online reputation.  Think about it: Who is going to take the time to write a recommendation?  Often, it’s somebody that is frustrated and wants to let everyone know they are frustrated. 

If you don’t encourage your happy customers to post positive reviews as well, your overall score could be one out of five stars.  (We have seen this for really good companies and helped them turn that trend around)  I was pleasantly surprised last week when working with House of Diamonds to find they had eight reports on Angie’s List with a grade of A.

They want to be treated in a way that makes them feel special

The traditional mentality of “you have to start at the ground floor and work your way up” is completely opposite to the way a Gen Y’er wants to be treated.  They want to be given the chance to show that they can make things happen with their passion and drive.  The best story/recommendation I have heard about this situation was from Jason Dorsey when he spoke at a luncheon for the Downtown Council of Kansas City

He talked about how you, as the president of your company, could meet the new Gen Y employee and walk him/her around the office introducing them to a few people on their first day of work.  That will make a Gen Y’er feel special.  It will also help team morale and your company culture.  How much time will that take?  Not a lot, and the benefits are huge.

They aren’t super concerned about spelling words correctly in their communications

In their attempt to be as efficient as possible, (or some would say laziness) Gen Y’ers don’t take the time to fix typos.  You will see this in text messages and emails all day long.  I see it across the board in companies I consult with.  I see words misused often as well… whether vs. weather for example.  Why does this matter?  If you hire somebody that will be involved in communications for your company, including marketing, sales or account management, you probably want to make sure that their communications are professional and spell checked!

 And the list goes on.  Bottom line is that Boomers and Gen X’ers are going to have to figure out a way to meet Gen Y’ers in the middle when it comes to behaviors and expectations.  If not, we risk losing the future pool of employees and consumers of our products and services.

Be sure and let us know your thoughts via comments on our blog.  We would love to hear your stories related to Gen Y!

  1. Jason,

    Your last section hit on my biggest irritation, and not just with Gen Y, correct use of grammar and words. I understand typos and abbreviations in text messages and even emails (since a lot are done on mobile devices). What drives me crazy is the abuse of the language in blogs, promotional materials (including broadcast emails), reports, or articles. There is a part of me that says if you are not willing to pay attention to the proper use of words, what else or who else does not have your full attention. I may be the exception, but I value well written, professional communication.

    Mike C.

    PS I am not an English or Journalism major, just someone who has come to believe that words mean things and should be used properly.

    1. Thanks Mike. You are the first of many that said basically the same thing… that it is really frustrating. And lazy. And unprofessional. I think this can be addressed, but too often people will let things slide. I hope our peers take the time to help Gen Y’ers figure out the importance of spell checking and proof reading their work.

  2. It’s one thing to massacre the English language in the interest of brevity or adapting to the efficiencies of the means and method of communication. However, too many are unable to communicate in prose when called upon to do so. Read Farenheit 451. Ray Bradbury predicted the degradation of the written language into blurbs and sound bites in 1953. Well formed communication is the foundation of creative thought.

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