The Millennial generation, also referred to as Gen Y, Echo Boomers, Net Generation, Digital Natives, the Boomerang Generation, the Peter Pan Generation, and in a variety of less complimentary terms, has gotten a bad rap. Gen Y is not an entitled bunch of brats coddled by indulgent Baby Boomer parents— that’s a ridiculous generalization that’s just plain wrong. Sure, some of them were raised to believe they’re special snowflakes who deserve a trophy just for showing up, but what generation doesn’t have a certain percentage of those? But Gen Y does require some consideration, and I’ll tell you why: because they are going to save our collective butts.
Gen Y is the engine driving innovation in companies now and into the future. Innovation means a healthy bottom line and jobs. Here’s what Gen Y brings to the table: curiosity, willingness to take risks, creativity, technological savvy, and entrepreneurial spirit. All good stuff, right? We want that, we need more of that in our companies, right? Here’s what they need: development, development, development. And that starts with recognition—not to be confused with a trophy. It means we truly need to see Gen Y employees. Pay attention, get to know them, find out what they’re interested in and figure out ways to connect those interests with what’s going on in your organization.
If Gen Y workers don’t believe they are perceived as employees who can add something and that their bosses’ want their ideas and contributions, they will be out the door. Yes, seeing a clear a path to advancement is important, but more importantly is the sense that their employers see them, value them, are willing to invest in them, and every once in a while give than an opportunity to sit at the grown-up’s table once.
Lorrie Lykins is the co-author of the new ASTD/i4cp partnered report, Leadership Development For Millennials, which is now available at the ASTD store. A white paper that summarizes this report is available to i4cp members here.