Columnist David Allen Ibsen is CEO of market-driven business strategy firm Five Meetings Before Lunch, and a unrepentant member of Generation X, and lover of all things Gen Y.
Whether you noticed it or not, we are smack-dab in the middle of the largest generational shift since the Baby Boomers burst on the scene as a procreating response to the end of World War II.
Generation Y—the Millennials, as they are often called, number somewhere around 70-80 million people in the U.S. (larger than any other generation), and are taking over the world in terms of social norms, and consumer spending. Older generations—the Boomer and Gen X in particular, lump them all together as “kids,” but the reality is a large number of Generation Y are hitting their mid-thirties with mortgages, kids, spouses and sports cars (albeit hybrids). They are also influencing how other generations live, love, and speak.
“Generation Y” is more of how we all live today, rather than just a demographic description of those born since the late 1970’s.
Generation Y is highly adept at multi-tasking, and crowd-sourcing and decision making. Gen Y expects instant access, meaningful explanations of “why” things are the way they are, and excellent customer service. Generation Y is not narcissistic—but is highly self-aware. They value thought over experience, “the right thing” over tradition, and believe in “live and let live.” Gen Y is far less materialistic, and hierarchical, and goal driven then either Gen X or Boomers. They identify their personal drives, and passions, far earlier than those of previous generations who waited for their “Mid-life crisis” to find life’s meaning.
Wait, did I go too fast for you on that, let me elaborate.
Here are ten traits of Generation Y.
If you’re not doing three things at once, you’re lazy. If you can text while talking, listening to music and paying your gas bill online, you’re definitely part of Gen Y.
2). Crowd-Sourcing Fanatics
Gen Y’s first response to a question is to “ask around”—the stereotypical Millennial will ask anyone, for anything, without hesitation. They don’t want others to make decisions for them, but they do want communal knowledge to inform their own decision-making process.
3). Instant Gratification Seekers
The iGeneration—those who grew up post-Consumer Internet, have an expectation of velocity of action like no other. Generation Y expects movies, music, and products at their finger tips. Watch a Gen Y’er wait for a text response that takes longer than 15 seconds, and you know what I’m talking about.
4). They Need to Know “Why”
This is a big generational shift from the Boomers and X’ers, and has been a difficult pill for older folks to swallow—particularly in the workplace. Instead of “telling” Gen Y to do something (as is the habit of previous generations), you need to “ask” Millennials to do things, and explain “why” it is important to is critical to compliance, and for Generation Y acquiescing.
5). Do the Right Thing vs Tradition.
Just because that’s the way it was done before, does not mean its how it should be done in the future.
6). Demand Excellent Customer Service
Generation Y does not put up with bad customer service. They’ll vote with their feet (or fingered key stroke) and break with brand loyalty faster than any previous generation
Often mistaken for narcissism, Gen Y is more self-aware, and self-confident at earlier ages than previous generations.
8). Believe in Purpose over Possessions
Perhaps the least materialistic generation since the flower-children of the 1960’s, Generation Y leans towards happiness over goods. Consumer spending habits have changed decisively with this generation.
9). Live and Let Live
Generation Y will wear what they want, marry who they want, and do what they want like no generation before them. The legalization of marijuana, marriage equality and civil rights for all are only a matter of time—for Gen Y to out-live the previous generation. Generation Y has difficulty comprehending the oppression of others.
10). Live Life with Passion over Expectations
Previous generations waited until their midlife crisis to find their life’s meaning, and to lead with their passions over the expectations of parents, teachers, and bosses. Generation Y, brimming with a self-aware and self-confident attitude is forging their own path, driven by what makes them happy.
You see, Generation Y is not lazy. They’re not narcissistic. They aren’t rebels. They’re leading the way our society is, and should be—happy, engaged, and understanding that we’re all in this thing together.
Generation Y image courtesy of Shutterstock