Sunday, March 29, 2009

What is Generation Y?

Ipod listening, trendy clothes wearing, iphone using, twittering, facebooking, downloading, text messaging, connected to a local wifi, commenting, researching, sharing, and creating a new blog about their perspective on life. . . and the crazy thing is this is all happening simultaneously as they walk down the street to their Starbucks to get their sugar free vanilla soy latte.

This is obviously an exaggeration, but in all reality the differences between "how" we communicate and socialize has changed more rapidly creating a large divide between the generations. Where emailing and cellular phones were considered a huge progression in communication and socializing, with the drawbacks and strengths being you were always connected or accessible. Gen Y actually takes that one step further and embraces the accessibility publicly through twitter, and facebook, linking with their social and professional networks and always being public with everyone that is interested. Creating a whole new medium for commerce as well as socializing and developing one's values and ideals.

Its confusing to most Gen Y'ers how the simple handshaking, eye contact, and presentation of their outfits can and could matter to their effectiveness in most organizations. They tack on more to their personal styles and opinions - searching for humor, purpose, and belonging to a niche vs following the main stream. They multi task to the point of spreading their focus on so many areas simultaneously that it usually hinders their ability to connect and influence; searching for instant gratification in socializing, and use frequent informal methods of communicating. They lean towards questioning the purpose for tasks to understand the bigger picture and have a need to know "what" they're doing falls in line with their opinions and values. Direction taking is not as necessary or culturally accepted unless they know what it is they're doing and why and that also includes the fact that they are more confident in questioning authority.

Its hard to decipher how to reach, build rapport and ultimately to lead this new generation but to understand the weaknesses as well as the strengths will directly aid into creating actionable tactics on leading Gen Y.

I've covered some traits of a stereotypical Gen Y'er and some of the negative points but to further bullet point it from a manager's point of view. . . . :

Unable to function without questioning
Unwilling to bend personal values even in the face of organizational values or changes
Alleviated fear of risk creates unsound judgements and actions

Optimizing for efficiency
Ability to understand the bigger picture
Multi tasker
Alleviated fear of risk creates novel and new ways of thinking and growth
Savvy in social events and bigger picture thinking
Willing to give back to a cause or have a cause & purpose

Please feel free to comment and let me know if there is anything that you think I can add to the list.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Its probably the most noticeable and shocking aspect of the generation Y that people notice first wether they realize it or not; that's why they are uncomfortable or perturbed when you interact with Gen Y. The entitlement aspect of who they are and the idea that they automatically deserve "something". Who knows how it came to be, beyond the fact that its simply there and hard to detect. Its a tricky balance to recognize it and then to have to manage it. Hopefully if you can understand it though it will help you recognize it and then you may be able to learn how to manage it.

Entitlement goes something like an employee of mine that would say "you better promote me since I've been here for almost 2 years and I know how to do everything, or you should or I'm going to leave" or some variation of that. Or entitlement could be in comments like "I'll just get a better job where they will respect me and better utilize my strengths" even though they might have no experiences beyond the skills that they have learned here. And oblivious of the fact that the skills they have learned were from the same place they are upset about. Its that they don't appreciate the idea that they need to prove themselves, its the mentality that they can already do it or already deserve it.

I've seen this entitlement work both positively and detrimentally for generation Y and for myself. I lead fearlessly and work with a fervor that would scare the most diligent. I don't doubt that I can achieve and always feel confident that I can do things that may be higher than my position or pay grade regardless of my experience or even if I don't have any knowledge of it at all. Its the just-throw-me-in-and-I'll-figure-it-out attitude. This superficial confidence allows for me to achieve and reach higher levels than those with fear or an aversion to risk and security, but on the flip side my development and growth tends to be riddled with trials and obstacles that I could have avoided if I had taken a slower more progressive route to learn and develop the skills that were needed to excel. And the most notable thing for me is that when I do take a moment to reflect on my past and growth I always admit that I know more than I thought I had did when I said I knew it all. Which is something we all say but the difference between Y and X is that Y will rarely reflect, and will rarely be grateful for the growth unless it's shoved into their faces.

And its with that mentality that we usher in our newest generation into the workforce. Its no longer a game of working hard, putting in your time, and learning skills and earning raises progressively. Its give me first and I'll give you my will and work back. Learning to manage it is diverse in tactics and methods as it is complicated to understand, but its a mentality that we all need to understand to truly lead and motivate generation Y.


I'm very new to blogging but I've been entertaining the thought of writing, sharing and explaining some of my experiences, failures and successes in managing the generation Y that most companies are now hiring and decided that blogging would be a good way to try it out. I'm not sure how I will structure it or if it will be even beneficial to anyone more than myself, but I look forward to documenting my philosophies, best practices and learned ideas from managing and working with generation Y over the last few years.

I'm currently a Starbucks store manager and even consider myself partly generation Y but I've come to many cross points in my years of managing Starbucks stores all over the south bay and up the peninsula. Learning from my reports that have various backgrounds, as well as the diverse customers that have taken the time to talk with me, and of course all of the many managers that I have had through out my 12 store, 5 year career with Starbucks.

Please feel free to comment and give me feedback on anything and I hope you enjoy.

Young Han