By Jodi Beuder
Jodi Beuder, Customer Experience Advocate at Impact Learning Systems, believes customer service exists not just outside the company, but inside, too... "Having excellent customer service skills and knowledge are paramount to creating strong working relationships, whether you are in an office or out in the field." With over 17 years in Marketing Executive roles, Jodi has dedicated her career to assisting companies grow their brand presence and sales, and most importantly, their customer retention and satisfaction.
There is a lot of bad press associated with Gen Y employees in the workforce. This generation has been called lazy, narcissistic, flaky, entitled and arrogant. If your organization has tried to avoid hiring from this cohort, yours is not alone. Perhaps you have had some negative experiences with Gen Y employees, or you’ve heard others divulge their own horror stories. The reality for many organizations is there is no getting around hiring Gen Y employees, especially as more baby-boomers exit the workforce. To calm any jitters you may have about hiring Gen Y employees, let’s take a deeper look into the group psyche of this cohort and evaluate organizations that have successfully on-boarded Gen Y employees. First, it never hurts to reiterate the fact that many labels that have been affixed to Gen Y are generalizations and there are loads of examples that defy the stereotypes. As with any potential new hire, each person should be evaluated based on his or her strengths and past experiences and not dismissed because of generational labels. Of course, labels come about for a reason, but part of the conflict within the workforce has more to do with organizations failing to understand and accommodate the values of Gen Y employees than it does Gen Y employees being lazy or entitled. When organizations adapt to the values and attitudes of this cohort, the workplace is invigorated.
The Good News
When looked at through a different lens, some of the negative Gen Y stereotypes are actually valuable organizational assets. Let’s look at a few of the strengths of this generation :
Team Players—this is a generation that has mostly developed classroom settings where group learning was common. While Gen X employees are known for being fiercely independent, Gen Y is more comfortable collaborating with others and will often defer making a decision until they’ve consulted their peers, social media, and other networks.
Multi-Tasking—perhaps growing up in a gaming culture has influenced this cohort’s ability to multi-task so well. Coming of age surrounded by computers , cell-phones, and gaming consoles, and sometimes interacting with all these devices simultaneously, has made it so this generation has developed excellent skills in managing data input from various sources. It wasn’t too long ago that HR departments had to screen potential employees to test their ability to juggle multiple demands, nowadays it is mostly a given. Contact centers will especially appreciate this generation’s ability to easily manage multiple open screens while simultaneously juggling a number of customers.
Technological Natives--technology will continue to shape how customer service is delivered. Having grown up with technology from an early age, this generation doesn’t know a time when technology didn’t dominate their lives. As for integrating new hardware or software into your organization, this generation won’t blink an eye at learning something new, and would probably think something was wrong if you weren’t constantly evolving.
And the Bad News (but not too bad)
It’s not all roses and unicorns. The bad news for Gen Y is they’ve been shortchanged by companies that haven’t yet adapted to the new values and attitudes of this generation. Essentially, companies have been trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole regarding interviewing, hiring and training. No wonder then why this generation garners negative attention. The good news is this is an easily remedied situation. Organizations that plan, re-tool, and think in new ways, will be able to harness the energy and strengths of Gen Y into the workplace.
In case you missed the memo made public by Jack Ma of Alibaba where he places his trust in Gen Y employees by turning over all key management positions to “those born in the 1970s”, there is no more public way to declare faith in this generation than what he’s done. He isn’t being willy-nilly about turning over these positions to “the future”, he has been very intentional in how he has recruited, hired, trained and groomed this generation of employees. Rather than re-invent the wheel, organizations would be wise to learn from Alibaba’s attitude and strategic planning when considering Gen Y. Let’s look at some ways your organization can inject some “fresh” thinking about recruitment, interviewing and training.
Recruitment—if your organization’s recruitment efforts rely upon industry based ads, job fairs, and HR consultants to recruit prospective employees, it’s time to “think fresh”. When it comes to recruiting Gen Y, social media is a better tool. Using facebook and other social media sites is a successful platform for advertising open positions and receiving resumes.
Interviewing—when interviewing Gen Y candidates, you’ll want to forgo the formality of the interview process. By asking more “situational” questions, interviewers can get a better sense of the candidate.
Training—re-tooling how training is delivered will prepare new employees for their role and keep them inspired and engaged for the long run. Some successful training strategies include: truncating the training program to accommodate shorter attention spans; having trainers act as facilitators of peer-to-peer collaboration; shorter, but more frequent evaluations and assessments; adding “pop culture” into training techniques to make it more fun and relevant, which also enhances learning.
Other successful strategies for engaging this generation include continuous feedback and coaching loops. This generation is accustomed to constant feedback and expects it in their work environment. Additionally, this generation also values ongoing training. When they feel invested in with continuous skill development opportunities, they feel more loyalty to their employer.
If your organization has avoided hiring from this generation of potential employees, there is nothing to fear! With the fresh thinking and updated methods of recruiting, interviewing, and training your company can also benefit from this fearless, talented, and inspired generation.