After the Iowa primaries, Penelope Trunk compared Obama’s victory there to the workplace of the future, where Gen Y’ers reign based on the differences in their approach to getting what they want. Toward the end of 2007, we heard a lot more chatter from the media as companies start waking up to this, talking about it on their websites, their blogs, their contributed articles. But most agencies aren’t yet looking this far ahead, and while they seem to know that this change is a riptide swirling underfoot, they are missing the boat completely.
(Sidenote: Wonder how I know advertising is getting it yet? Do you know how many advertising people have blogs? Do you know that aside from two or three articles on adage.com I couldn’t find a decent post on this topic from any of those blogs? Seth, where are you? Wake UP!)
Dear clients, Pay attention to this discussion. It will make or break your agency in the next five years.
Dear Gen Xer’s, You too. Do you want to still be an account supervisor or director when the kid you hired as an intern five years ago becomes VP Strategic Resources in your agency? Or how about when she becomes your client?
I know what you’re thinking. So what? Just because there’s a new generation of people entering the workforce doesn’t mean I have to change my entire work life to revolve around them.
Actually, it does. You should assimilate to their culture, and the faster you get on board, the smoother your life and career is going to be. It is the new direction of business. The baby boomers in management now get to retire soon. You, my Gen X peer, are going to get passed over if you’re not careful.
Back to the agency discussion. Many agencies are looking for young people who get it, but for whom under the market salaries will be acceptable. They’re unproven, so not worth the risk of the higher salaries – right? Smaller, more traditional agencies are not able to get these people on board for what they’re willing to offer, because the ones who get it in the Web 2.0 world are worth more, and they know it. But its not all about the money, either.
So they take the offers, not always for more money, but for more work/life balance, from more socially respectable, big name companies with the resources to meet their needs. They don’t need window offices, they’re used to cube farms. They want 401k contributions, stock options and free parking, not free Cokes from the vending machine and company Christmas parties with a cash bar. And clocking in by 8:30 or risk having your mug posted on the tardy wall of shame? They’ll pass, thanks.
Unlike Gen X, who feel the need to fight the presence of that kind of authority (John Mellencamp, anyone?), Gen Y’ers generally don’t have a problem with the structure that provides, they just don’t like the idea of being singled out and looked at negatively. Its not very nice, you know, to treat people that way, and they were raised in a world where nice and fair and self-esteem ruled the day. They are a kinder, gentler, generation. And yet, they expect to get what they want, when they want it.
Don’t believe me? Check out AskGenY, a consortium in the UK. Click around. Be sure to check out the agenda for the summit they are hosting to companies interested in learning more about integrating millennials into their corporate culture. Those companies are there to learn, and this is a step in the right direction. But they’re about to find out its not about incorporating this generation into their company. Its about changing the company B.S. to meet their needs.
Let’s hope American companies are figuring this out, too.