Although the prospect of baby boomers retiring has been delayed by the recession, it is coming. Each day 10,540 baby boomers turn 60, according to Larry and Meagan Johnson, authors of Generations, Inc., and are thinking of doing something with their lives other than leading your organizations.
According to a survey of 578 companies by the Boston College Center on Aging and Work, only 33 percent of organizations have analyzed workplace demographics and made projections about the retirement rates of their workers.
Members of Generation Y are in the pipeline for leadership and are looking for something far different from their careers than what the baby boomers and traditionalists wanted. It’s wise of you to understand the traits of these younger leaders, listed below, and to take heed because it’s these values that will determine how Gen Y responds to efforts to direct, motivate and perform. Recognize that millennials are:
• Educated: According to Gen Y research from the Pew Research center, not only is the 18- to 29-year-old generation on the path to being the most educated in American history, millennials also have exceptionally high aspirations for their postsecondary education. Of those who are currently enrolled in high school, college or graduate school, almost half plan to earn a graduate or professional degree. These results are promising for adult learning advocates.
Further, although millennials haven’t yet surpassed Generation X in educational attainment, they are on track to become the most educated generation in history. Only 19 percent currently have a degree, but 39 percent are still in college and 30 percent plan to earn a postsecondary degree in the future. The most common reasons for postponing higher education are a lack of time or money, but the Pew figures indicate that many millennials overcome these barriers as 24 percent attend school and work either full- or part-time.
• Collaborative: Generation Y is the no-person-left-behind generation, valuing teamwork and teammates more than individual contribution. Millennials value opportunities to work in groups with not only peers, but colleagues across departments and divisions. We learn best by being taught and mentored by those above us and want that relationship established.
• Tech savvy: Many baby boomers learned to use a computer at work. Gen Xers learned to use one at school. Most millennials don’t remember learning. According to Connecting to the Net.Generation: What Higher Education Professionals Need to Know about Today’s Students, 97 percent of Generation Y own a computer; 94 percent own a cell phone; 76 percent use instant messaging; 69 percent have a Facebook account; 44 percent read blogs regularly; 34 percent use websites as their primary source of news, and 28 percent author a blog.
As millennials arrive in the workplace, BlackBerrys and iPads in hand, they yearn to effect change, but understand their lack of experience, professional relationships, interpersonal communication and leadership skills to do so. As millennials we do, however, have a wealth of information related to technology we’d like to share.
When former General Electric chairman Jack Welch realized GE was falling far behind other companies in its use of the internet as a business tool, he knew understanding and embracing online technology was critical to GE’s long-term success but also knew he needed help. To catch up, Welch instituted a reverse mentoring program at GE. He required more than 500 of his top executives to find a younger, tech-savvy Web mentor to teach them how to use the web and understand e-business. The experiment proved to be a success, and over the past few years, a growing number of organizations, from Proctor and Gamble to the Seattle Public Schools, have successfully implemented reverse mentoring programs to help them understand technology and business trends.
• Socially responsible: Although millennials are less radical than baby boomer activists who protested for women’s equality, protecting the environment and ending the Vietnam War, because of an influx of technology and stream of national tragedies, young people are creating their own brand of social consciousness. According to results from an online study by two Boston-based companies, Cone Inc. and AMP Insights, millennials are the most socially conscious consumers to date. Sixty-one percent of 13- to 25-year-olds feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world. Eighty-one percent have volunteered in the past year; 69 percent consider a company's social and environmental commitment when deciding where to shop, and 83 percent will trust a company more if it is socially responsible.
Ignoring this request could cost you both valuable talent and consumers.
• Diverse: According to the New York Times, among people of all ages, minorities make up 40 percent of the population in more than one in six of the nation’s 3,141 counties. Racial and ethnic minorities account for 43 percent of Americans under 20. Millennials were taught to celebrate differences among people from their elementary years and grew up in an educational culture of acceptance. Having diverse social networks is mandatory to this younger generation. As a result, your future workplace should inherit this nature for prospective leadership.