"In my day..."

There is a LOT of talk about Gender Diversity at the moment, which I am all for and can talk about for hours given the platform.

But today I want to talk about Generational Diversity. Because I don’t want it to get lost in the diversity conversation, because it is still so relevant.

It is a different conversation to Gender, for obvious reasons, but it’s still about recognizing the strengths and value of everyone in a company equally.

There will be five generations in the workforce by 2020. Why are we worrying about that? That’s not scary, that’s awesome!

I won’t reveal my sources, but here are some quotes I’ve been ‘privileged’ to hear over the years about working with Gen Y (assume this is the catchall title for anyone under 30yo).

“Bloody Gen Y. If they don’t like it they can [insert here] off. There are plenty more of them out there.”

“I can’t believe they feel so entitled! In my day…”

Firstly, a stat - When you consider all of the costs associated with employee turnover - including interviewing, hiring, training, reduced productivity, lost opportunity costs, etc - here's what it really costs an organization: For entry-level employees, it costs between 30% and 50% of their annual salary to replace them. For mid-level employees, it costs upwards of 150% of their annual salary ….  (answerquest.net)

Extra fish maybe. Lost time, resource, IP and money – priceless.


Here’s the truth that smacked me in the face with all the force of a frying pan: you see what you’re looking for. If you walk around thinking that all Gen Y are the same, that’s what you’re going to see. It’s a bit like my Dad’s rule that ‘anyone who wears a hat driving is a bad driver’. If there’s a guy in a hat driving badly, this will be your default reason – you won’t think about, or even have noticed, the other 10 people in hats that drove past you perfectly well. 

Gen Y is not one organism. It’s like saying all white men can’t jump.

There are spoilt Gen Y and ambitious Gen Y and hardworking Gen Y. And Gen X, and Gen Z and Baby Boomers.

And in each of these generations there are men, women, introverts, extroverts and different personality types from extendedDISC D, I , S, C, O (Actually, there’s no ‘O’ but I couldn’t help myself.)

We feel better when we can put a label on things. I get that, as long as the tribe you ‘belong’ to has a good reputation.

I’m not dismissing generational traits. Generations’ work ethic and ideals are the result of the times in which they grow up; each generation has different political, economic and social experiences that ultimately affect who they are personally and professionally.  There’s a great article on bananastravel.com which I’m going to talk about in another blog.

But for now, consider this:

1.     Gen Y, Male, Introvert, and Steady personality type

2.     Gen Y, Female, Extrovert, Direct personality type

What are the chances that the same things that motivate one, motivate the other?

I think we need to consider the tools and ways of working across the different generations, but at the end of the day it’s all about communication.

Everyone wants to be listened to – whatever generation they are. And the best way to know how to get the best out of someone, is to ask.

If you’re the MD of a 1000-strong agency, this is hard but not impossible. If you’re in a boutique agency of less than 50, there’s no excuse.

And this process works just as well managing up as it does down. And let’s face it pretty soon there’ll be a lot of Gen Y managing Gen X; it’s not about age and experience any more.

Treat others as they wish to be treated.

It’s not about you, me, my way or the high way – it’s about getting the best out of your teams, particularly your high performers.

It’s not touch-feely, meditation stuff – adapting to your environment and your audience is how you get ahead and create high performing teams.

Making others feel good and allowing them the freedom to work to their strengths and air their opinions is effective, productive and creates an environment people want to work in.

I have literally seen people do a 180 after a 30-minute, honest chat about what they wanted. Not a review, a “what gets you buzzing?” chat.

‘Lazy’ can mean disengaged.
‘Slow’ can mean unmotivated.

Ambitious can be…ambitious. What’s so wrong with that?

Every time you think “bloody Gen Y”, think, “Am I being generationalist?”

Because taking the filter off, asking a few simple questions, and changing how you treat the people in your workplace could just bring out the next Mark Zuckerberg right there in your office.


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or to ask a questions for the Mumbrella column;
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