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December 15, 2010

Managing In The New World Of Gen Y

Filed under: General HR Buzz8:41 am

You’ve got to respect the demands of your youngest employees.

The way we have managed our organizations until now is finished. Generation Y, today’s youngest and newest employees, arrive on the job with expectations unlike anything we’ve seen before. For instance, they emerge in a world where technologies like Facebook and Twitter have made gratification quicker than instant. Barely a decade ago most of us would have been happy to receive a response to a letter in less than a week. Now even a moment feels like a long time.

The new generation has grown up in a time when information and access to it are truly democratized–democratized not only in their personal lives but in their professional ones, too. And that forces us to change the way we manage. Consider a recent survey of 2,600 employees in 13 countries, conducted by Cisco ( CSCOnews - people ). Three-quarters of the respondents said they might take a job at less pay if it gave them more flexibility in their use of electronic devices, and two-thirds said companies should let them use social media on company time and company devices. Such attitudes would have seemed outrageous just a few years ago.

Yet this new generation does not desire more than it deserves. According to the sociologist James R. Flynn, the IQ of human beings generally goes up by almost 10 points every 30 years. He attributes this phenomenon, known as the Flynn effect, to better nutrition, better education and increasing environmental complexity. The Flynn effect tells us that our youngest employees are at least 10% smarter than their older colleagues and bosses. No wonder they have heightened expectations.

How do you manage them? Take a quick lesson from the world of open-source software–from the phenomenon called “forkability.” That is the situation when a programmer will “fork” away from a project if he is dissatisfied with something about it, for instance the way his manager treats him, and will start a new project entirely on his own. Forkability is increasingly happening outside the software realm too. I was surprised to learn recently that at ITW Signode, a manufacturing company, the greatest competition they face is from their own previous employees, when they fork away to start ventures of their own.

Sergi Inko, a champion of open source software, presents an interesting analogy: “Imagine a king whose subjects could copy his entire kingdom and move to the copy to rule as they see fit. How would this king differ from one whose subjects were bound to stay under his rule no matter what he did?”

HCL Technologies seems to understand this world of new expectations very well. HCL promotes “intrapreneurship,” a great motivator of young people. Specifically, if an HCL employee can train another to do his job, he not only moves on to a bigger job but also is allowed to spend part of his time pursuing projects of his choice. He gets the freedom to engage in his real interests, and the organization offers him real support in terms of resources.

Leadership takeaway: Adapt to the new world of Gen Y, and the sooner the better.

Source: Sangeeth Varghese Forbes.com

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