A guide to reaching Generation Y and Millennials
It’s likely that every generation has looked with puzzlement on the one that follows it.
For Baby Boomers then, today’s young workforce, with its apparent addiction to the internet and strange habit of communicating in pictures (through Snapchat and emoticons) rather than words, could well be from another planet.
These traits might render them a potentially difficult prospect as a client or employee. But according to Millennial career consultant and author Anastasia Button, the so-called ‘Generation Y’ or ‘Millennial generation’ born from 1980 onwards will comprise 75 per cent of the world’s workforce by 2025.
“These are going to be the people you have to market to, and who will be working for you,” Button says. “And if you don’t figure this out early you are going to be in trouble.”
This is especially true for many Baby Boomer business owners who are striving to bridge the generation gap, especially if their only substantial experience with Millennials might be through interactions with their grandchildren.
As a result of this limited exposure, stereotyping by the older generation can quickly build up. Numerous books have been written on the behaviours of the Millennial generation, with a narrative forming that suggests Millennials feel more entitled than previous generations.
According to human resources consultant Jill Noble, the result is the formation of unconscious biases that quickly see Millennials dismissed both as potential customers and employees.
“It originates in our fight or flight response, where we have been conditioned as humans to avoid things that are potentially unknown or dangerous, or are unfamiliar.”
Noble says this response can apply easily to genders, cultures, and people with disabilities, as well as to generations.
“But what are the consequences of us remaining with that blind spot, and what are the opportunities for the future?” she asks.
Unconscious bias often manifests itself as a snap judgement, and Noble says recognising this trait can actually be the key to its reversal.
“So the antidote to unconscious bias is the opposite – very slow thinking, very deliberate conscious thought, and operating with intent and asking ourselves if we have all the facts,” Noble says.
Button contends that growing up with the internet has created a generation that is different from those that have come before. But she suggests describing Millennials as ‘entitled’ may be a misinterpretation of their search for meaning, which she sees as characterising a generation that has grown up with global connectivity.