#GenY writes about #GenY

Laura WolfsGuest post by Laura Wolfs, from Point-Blank International.

Laura Wolfs, Research Executive at Point-Blank International (PBI) in Berlin, co-authored the paper “Y Market Research” which she presented at this year’s Esomar Congress in Nice. It was, despite the authors being newbies in the industry, nominated as Best Overall Congress Paper and Best Methodological Paper. Here Laura shares with us some of her views on Generation Y, or Millenials, which anyone working with Generation Y should bare in mind. For a more detailed look on how these points relate back to hiring and keeping a GenYer.

Is there anything on your mind you’d like to share? Try Laura. Not just is she great listener, fascinated by other people’s stories and ideas, but she’s able to listen in 5 different languages, too – making her our most multilingual cultural translator. She’s a natural born organiser and structured thinker who likes to assess the big picture before tuning into the finer details. Her analytical and people skills aside, we at the PBI headquarters love Laura’s frighteningly great memory, amazing style and wonderful photographs.

#GenY writes about #GenY
Articles and research on Generation Y tend to underwhelm me. They tell me, that I am part of a generation that is self-obsessed and has commitment issues. It is not that I cannot take criticism, but research on #GenY (to be fair: more recent articles —– are more fair) has a flaw: it is often not grounded in trying to understand a GenYers perspective and putting into a larger generational perspective. So let me share some points with you, which I refined together with Point-Blank International’s founder and managing director, Dörte Töllner (herself a, well, not GenYer).

I remember when I went back to university, at the time I was studying in the UK, and Lehmann Brothers had just happened. Some of my friends’ parents had already lost their jobs and I was glad to have another year ahead to finish my studies and not having to find a job. Youth unemployment was rising and friends of mine, all highly qualified with first class degrees from Nottingham University were having trouble finding a job. It was the first time I realised that unlike my parents, my university degree was not going to necessarily mean I was going to get a well-paid job– despite having done a paramount of work experiences and speaking several languages.

What was then labelled the new quarter life crisis, I would now call #GenYangst – and it started to take hold of me.

What is #GenYangst grounded in?
#GenYangst is a reflection of a generation that grew up learning that everything is quantifiable: your looks (good looks = facebook likes), how funny you are (again = facebook likes), how relevant it is what you have to say (= retweets). Thus, I learnt how to create #BrandMe very early on – always judging my market value through the external validation I received. My intrinsic motivation on the other hand suffered. But, it is not just me: external validation is #GenY’s currency. As a result, we require more frequent feedback loops than previous generations, giving us some idea of our current ‘market’ value. The good news is, this will force anyone working with #GenY to reflect more on their approach

There is much talk about the need for meaning in #GenYs work – and their desire to have a private as well as a work life (the audacity!). This tends to be equated with the concept of a Work Life Balance. I don’t think that the concept is an apt description for the way GenY really feels.

What is the #WorkLifeStew grounded in?
Diffused in part through social media (yes, since we are digital natives it does impact in a large part of how we organise our life and how we frame things) private and work life have merged. But, in order to balance something you have to separate it. So we at PBI coined the term #WorkLifeStew: in recognition of the impossibility of separation and embracing the fact that we can’t. You want people who are flexible – so give them some flexibility.

Industries such as Market Research, where work and private life have for long not been separated (“No, sorry can’t come to the cinema– I got a focus group till 10 pm.”) could benefit from GenY’s take on life. That is, if the industry acknowledges the ‘crossing of borders’ – and gives #GenY something in return for their willingness to work long and odd hours. This return can be extra days off and a greater flexibility with working schemes. No one likes a burnout – so why don’t we let #GenY break up path dependencies of an unhealthy work culture?

Overall, Generation Y is far less of a burden than you may think. Preventing #GenYangst through open communication channels will benefit your business, because open and honest communication improves job satisfaction on a whole. Secondly, transforming the work culture of our industry and maybe even re-branding it might just give it back its swagger – which it desperately needs.

Generation-WHY might just be what we have been waiting for: a generation that forces us to re-think WHY it is that we do things, the way we do.

See the ESOMAR video of Laura’s presentation
Click here to watch Laura’s presentation at the ESOMAR Congress in NICE.