The Care and Feeding of Generation YBy Janine Moon
Employers are gearing up for the coming generational change-out…the departure of the Baby Boomers from their work places and the continuing arrival of members of what has become known as Generation Y. Whether employers realize the importance of this transition may well determine how successful the business will be when the changeover is complete a decade or so from now.
For the record, the Boomers first bloomed in 1947, meaning they begin to hit 65 in 2012. That is a scant five years from now. And although many Boomers may elect to stay in the work force beyond the traditional 65-year-old retirement point, some will elect to enter retirement earlier, so the transition may begin sooner than employers think.
In their final years in the work force Boomers will have an awesome role to play: nurturing, coaching and mentoring the incoming generation of workers. The good news is that it can be a rewarding experience for all involved.
From the older employees’ perspective, younger workers are often characterized as computer-obsessed and “wet behind the ears.” In reality, the new worker is a pretty bright breed. The internet has been their friend all of their lives and global learning is old hat to them. Their baseline education level is higher than a Boomer could have ever hoped to have achieved this early in a career.
The best part, however, is that the new generation of worker is eager for feedback… welcomes it and listens to it. It’s a generation accustomed to constant feedback from its computer-driven lifestyle and it’s a generation unafraid to try something new to produce better results.
It doesn’t, however, know the ropes…the processes in a particular organization that have evolved over decades to establish “how we do things around here.” That’s where the older workers become so valuable to the new folks: helping them stay between the lines as they accelerate up to speed, and listening to the new workers when they question why the lines are drawn where they are. The good mentor will explain the rationale behind the process when it’s explainable, and will join the new employee in questioning the process when the mentor discovers it isn’t explainable. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes improves “how we do things around here!”
The boomer-coach will also allow the younger employee the room to make mistakes, because Generation Y uses mistakes as learning experiences….they learn faster and more effectively “what works.” Remember it is okay for them to strike out a couple times if it’s apparent they are learning how to “read” the pitcher. It is not okay, however, to let them go to bat without a helmet. In other words, give them room but not enough freedom to create a catastrophe…for the company or for the employee.
The best practice a supervisor can follow is to maintain daily contact with the new worker. Make it a point to chat with him or her every day; in fact, don’t make it a point, make it a priority. They will welcome the interest, pick your brain and quickly become a valuable part of your organization.
And when that day comes when the boss hands you the watch and wishes you well on your retirement, you can look at the successful team you are leaving and say to yourself, “I built it.”