Gen Y Cisco employee Kati Dahm gives perspective on the next generation workforce after attending a panel led by Silicon Valley executives.July 22, 2013
What makes your company competitive in attracting the new workforce? If it's free food, flexible work locations or employee recognition programs, you may be on the right track. The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco held a panel last week on attracting top tech talent and preparing for Gen Y, the newest generation entering the workforce.
The speakers included Cisco's Head of Collaboration Rowan Trollope, Melissa Daimler, Twitter's Head of Organizational Effectiveness and Learning and Todd Carlisle, Google's Director of Staffing.
As a member of the Gen Y workforce, I attended to see if what they were saying about my generation lined up with what I've seen firsthand.
1. Cisco's Trollope said, "The main difference between Gen X and Gen Y is that Gen X is tech savvy, but Gen Y is tech dependent." Here's my take. I think both generations fall more into the tech savvy category. I realize there is the ongoing observation of Gen Y being attached to their smartphone, tablet or other mobile device, but I think there are also a large percentage of us that are aware of the times that's appropriate (the other half are not, I'll give you that.)
When going to a meal, my friends and I elect to stash our phones in a pile. First person who checks their phone during the meal gets to pay the check.
However, Gen Y does not always rely on tech. Why? When we're tested in school, we aren't allowed to Google the answer or tap your classmate on the shoulder- it should be memorized. In the workplace, you're expected to rely on shared documents and to collaborate with your team to come up with the best possible solution. These two expectations tend to contrast when you enter the workforce- and that's something that companies hiring Gen Yer's should be aware of. There is no multiple choice at the office- just lots and lots of free response.
2. Daimler said, "Today's workforce is all about working anywhere at any time." Aside from the obvious perks such as staying in your pajamas, working remotely does have its share of benefits. I live in San Francisco, and the morning commute rarely falls under two hours. Rather than sitting down at my kitchen table and getting started at 8 am, I tend to sacrifice two hours of productivity commuting and snoozing on a shuttle in traffic. I've tried working on the shuttle, but carsickness tends to take over. This also depends on your personal preferences. I am a morning person, that's my personal issue. The ability to work anywhere at any time though also technically caters to individual productivity. Night owls and early birds can pinpoint the times they are most productive. That being said, there is still huge value in meeting face to face- which is also where video and collaboration capabilities come into the picture. According to Trollope, more than 5.5 million hours of travel are saved by using video collaboration technology in the home. Talk about cutting costs. Obviously, this argument fares better in some circumstances than others, but when we're looking at the whole picture, the value of working remotely does add up. Flexible work hours were one of the reasons I chose Cisco.
3. Now the most important aspect many Gen Yer's have been conditioned to look for: perks. We all know that companies that will go unnamed have everything from free frozen yogurt to a ball pit (yes, like they used to have at McDonalds) for stressful days. How do these measure up to what millennials really want? These definitely sweeten the deal, but they aren't what will advance your career. Workplace development and recognition tend to be held above other factors for competitive Gen Y colleagues with whom I've discussed the "ideal" job. Although the idea that aspiring for the corner office is dead among millennials was not a high motivator, I disagree. Why are we competing to work at tech companies in Silicon Valley if we don't have our sights set on success? I speak for myself as well as my peers when I say that many of the measures of success that Gen X holds are still career goals for Gen Y (partially thanks to Mad Men). At Cisco, approximately 80% of top talent managers were interns at the company. This development track shows the value to companies of providing ongoing coaching and recognition for new talent, and retaining them as top performing employees.
Learning how to work with millennials is important, but I think this panel created an important precedent for companies hoping to recruit millennials- we have learned to work in a wide variety of ways, and we have pretty much identified the way we work most effectively. Working from home may be ideal for some individuals, where others may prefer to be in the office for free lunch. Realizing these differences in work style for Gen Y may be the most important in tailoring recruiting and retention programs for the next generation workforce. Free froyo may be appreciated, but it's recognizing the differences in Gen Y employees that will attract us to your company.
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