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What to expect in managing a Gen-Y and Gen-Z?

February 23, 2015

What to expect in managing a Gen-Y and Gen-Z?

As a Generation Y myself, I could get really rich if I get a dollar for every article I’ve read that attempts to stereotype my peers with some shoddy descriptions.

Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder: we Gen-Ys and my later peers, Gen-Zs must have gone through some massive birth factory before we are packaged and delivered to our newfound parents to lead our brand new lives.

And in the process, our creators affixed these labels on us – lazy, narcissistic, hard to please, eager to impress, self-indulgent, fickle-minded, disloyal, impatient… (you get the point)

For the record, I tried hard to find these labels on me but I couldn’t find any! I am pretty sure my Tiger Mum and Dad are overflowing with pride now.

 

INSEAD Research on ‘Understanding a misunderstood generation’

 

Jokes aside, I am still going to give you my two cents worth for what the title has promised you.

In the universe of research about Generation Ys and Generation Zs, there are numerous research studies but there are few defining ones that focus on millennials in Asia with a meaningful enough sample size.

However in late 2014, the largest independent study ever on global Millennials titled, ‘Understanding a misunderstood generation’, was conducted by the partnership with the INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute (EMI), the HEAD Foundation and Universum.

According to INSEAD,

“The project was undertaken to better understand the many stereotypes of Millennials in the workplace and gain additional insights about this important cohort, those born 1984-1996, and soon to be the bulk of the future workforce.”

The survey involved some 16,000+ global respondents in the age of 18-30 years old from 43 countries globally. Although it garnered close to only 5,000 responses in the Asia-Pacific region, it is still a good start for us to look at some of the defining characteristics of Millennials in Asia and also find out if the hypotheses tested hold weight.

Here are some of the interesting findings extracted from the study:

  • 69% of APAC Millennials believe it’s important to become a manager/leader during their careers and Singaporean Millennials show some of the highest scores in this area
  • Money, influence and challenges are main attractions of leadership and for Singaporean Millennials, 59% place ‘high future earnings’ as the most important attraction factor
  • 51% of Singaporean Millennials scored the highest for their managers to ‘empower their employees’ rather than being micro-managed
  • Close to 80% of Singapore Millennials agree that businesses should contribute more to society
  • Most APAC Millennials agree that their families are a key supporter for their career aspirations but Singaporean Millennials appear not as reliant on family compared with their Asian counterparts in Indonesia and India

As a professional speaker and Gen-Y immensely invested in cross-generational issues, I still consume information with a huge pinch of salt and always approach every proposition with questions laced with healthy scepticism,

 

“How true is this and what are the implications if they are?”

And I believe this should be the approach that Millennial managers should take when managing the influx of Generation Ys and Generation Zs – openness, willingness for experimentation, looking beyond the broad strokes, maintaining balance between professionalism and personalization.

 

Curating a New Conversation about Millennials

I am on a mission.

It’s one where I’m not out to convince you that Millennials will be a generation of influence because it has been statistically projected that by 2025, 1 in 2 persons in the workforce will be a Millennial.

For the forward-looking organizations that are built to last, they’d be thinking about the repercussions in terms of talent attraction and development, consumer trends, business re-modelling, employee engagement practices etc.

Instead, I am committed to curate a new conversation about Millennials where we can recognize the collective force of this generation yet not neglect the individuality of the people that comprise it.

So you ask me, as a Gen-Y, how would we like to be managed?

I would suggest looking at the following continuums first:

 

Personalize versus Generalize

We all know people don’t leave companies; they leave the managers who manage them. It is no different with Generation Ys and Generation Zs. Yes, workplaces are not supposed to be our second homes and managers aren’t suppose to parent us. But it would be a great move from a “one size fits all” approach to one that allows us some room to design our job scope and have our voices be heard. When we see our inputs manifesting meaningfully in the work we do, our sense of ownership gets built up.

 

Empower versus Mollycoddle (or Micro-manage)

Related to the above point, Millennials do not live in an universe of our own where our concept of time differs from yours. We may have our own ways of doing things, that may not always be superior or effective, but you will agree some lessons are better experienced than being told. Allow for some degree of failure that is not jeopardizing to the company’s operations and even if we do fail, we succeed in the knowing that you have given us this opportunity to grow.

 

Mentor versus Instruct

Millennials are always looking for positive role models. And leadership on some level, is letting your followers see you doing the right things at the right times for a sustained period of time. Instead of adopting an “I say, you do” approach all the time (we understand there needs to be a certain degree of that), try a “I’ll do it first so you can do it too”

 

Uncover Greatness versus Instilling Fear and Smallness  

One enlightened senior executive in a global MNC once told me,

“Ben, we manage our employees not out of fear that they will leave us one day because they almost likely will. But with love that they will grow into individuals of value and contribution, whether in our organization or not”

Instead of creating an environment where people are fearful to experiment and voice out while feeling like they are but a cog in the entire machinery, ask how you can create systems and processes that bring out the best in your Millennials.

Managing Millennials, as with people from any other generations, are never easy. Sure, there may be more variables we are working with rapidly changing technologies, radically new work arrangements, moving global phenomenon.

But what’s certain is that when you steer away from the meaningless labels and look to each and every of your Millennial employee as a person of value and contribution for whom you are responsible for growing and developing, you will then be in the work of creating giants amongst them.

 

Read also: Watch your employees’ self-awareness, or pay on the stock exchange

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