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Gen Y, reality or hype

One of the questions we get asked a lot by clients is what do we think about Generation Y, are they really that different?

And our answer is we are not that sure. What is very clear is that there have been great societal changes and technological shifts over the last 20 years. This has led to big changes in how people see themselves and how they see their interactions with others. So I guess prima facia there is a case for there being a big intergenerational difference.

The challenging thing is that once we get to the point of working with individuals those differences seem to melt away compared to the bigger issues of the more existential type, what am I here to do, am I a fraud, will I ever be good, do people respect me.

Also when we look at the data it is pretty skewed towards North America. Is it true that the Gen Y experience in Italy or India or Brazil is the same? And does the generational difference dominate the other cultural factors? Not so clear.

Yes we see some interesting shifts around information and communications. New graduates seem to find it harder to recognise that information sent to them is not necessarily for copying to everyone else. Whereas 15 years ago "semi-secret" news would be spread by repeated conversations, they are now copied either through personal emails or social sites. What was previously untraceable and un-sourcable has become linked to the sender.

Some interesting work from PCL using the Hogan Development Survey and looking at the dark side produces a more interesting view on what being young and joining the work force in the 2000s means. It is worth a read.

But in general the issues of managing high potential people are pretty stable across the generations. They are high maintenance because they ask for a lot and don't give up at the first refusal. They seek lots of high quality feedback. They want lots of challenge. They want to be on high profile projects. And they don’t want to be stereotyped.

One interesting aside is the clients who we find are most interested in the generation issue are normally Generation Y themselves. Maybe it is more a question of youth wanting to be different and rebelling against the system, or was that Generation X? I get confused.