Much has been written about the generation known as ‘millennials’, ‘digital natives’ or ‘Generation Y’. Those born between 1980 and 2000 are alleged to differ vastly from previous generations.
We’re led to believe that they favour digital interactions over personal ones. That they are better at multitasking. That they possess a natural instinct to self-fix a computer or a technical glitch. Much of that is myth of course. However, there are certainly things we can learn from them - digitally speaking.
It could be said that the work ethic of older generations, one in which ‘you pay your dues’, has been eroded. However, when you consider the change in the current working climate, the focus on anytime, anywhere working and an always on culture, Generation Y has more reason to seek balance.
Generation Y just wants to work smarter, and knows how to make full use of the technology that can empower them to do so. Technology can make work sit more comfortably alongside family life – and Generation Y demands it. In fact, Samsung’s ‘Work Life Blend’ infographic found that three quarters of Europeans use work time for personal tasks, and an almost identical amount work in their ‘free’ time.
Know your audience
It’s important to understand the values and priorities of your ‘audience’ when recruiting for a small business. Generation Y finds value in technology. They value smart and connected products, they don’t want to ‘make do’ with substandard products and services. Offering them premium devices, the very tools of their trade, and what they expect in their personal lives, is an effective method of talent acquisition and retention.
There’s much that older generations can learn from Generation Y about flexible working, connecting anywhere; using and manipulating technology for business advantage. But there is also much for Generation Y to learn from older generations too.
Experience still counts for a lot. Generation Y must understand that older colleagues have seen social and economic climates change and affect market places. They possess perspective over many years. Their experience should always be taken into account.
Whilst Generation Y has the know-how on the latest tech and how to use it, that information and intuition, operating in a vacuum, is worthless. The application of a new world of tools needs to be applied in context.
The best of both
In the ever changing modern workplace, having the patience and perspective to apply new tools and techniques to proven processes is key. Many established protocols and procedures are there for a reason, but there’s always room for improvement.
Taking the tribal knowledge of the company ‘elders’ and applying the fresh eyes and techniques of Generation Y will put businesses in a prime position to harness the power of both, and stay ahead of the competition by continuously optimising and refining business practices.
Technology can be embraced by both parties. As older generations often prefer to master one device that can do many things, 2in1s should appeal, enabling them to ‘do it all’ on one. Equally, Generation Y expects visibility of a state of the art interface. 2in1 devices let them have this, whilst ensuring the functionality required by business, that you’d often associate with a laptop – such as Windows.
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Journalist and editor with nine years' experience covering small businesses and entrepreneurship (ChrisGoodfellow.net). Follow his personal twitter account @CPGoodfellow and his events business @Box2Media. He has written for a wide range of publications in the UK, Ireland and Canada, including The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent and Vice magazine.