Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Generation Game

Generation-Y. Credit: weekend paper had a multi-page spread about Generation-Y Singaporeans in the workplace and how their attitudes on life and work differ from previous generations. Given that the purpose of children is to rebel against their parents, I'm wondering where the story is.

Anyway, Gen-Y is loosely defined as those born roughly between 1978 and 1994 and is a simplistic progression from Generation-X (originally coined as a pejorative by fiction writer Douglas Coupland in 1991).

The key characteristics of Gen-Y are that they grew up with digital technology and now use it as part of their everyday lives, so mobile phones, video games, X-Box, Facebook, MySpace, SMS, IM, Twitter; all of which is supposed to explain the Gen-Y trait of seeking instant gratification. How it explains their penchant for using scooters in the office, getting Celtic knot tattoos, piercing their faces with metal bars and saying "Whatever" a lot isn't explained.

The Times had an vaguely amusing quiz to determine if you are a Gen-Y:

  1. Do you have your own web page? (1 point)
  2. Have you made a web page for someone else? (2 points)
  3. Do you keep in touch with your friends via instant messaging? (1 point)
  4. Do you SMS your friends? (2 pts)
  5. Do you watch vidoes on YouTube? (1 pt)
  6. Do you remix videos downloaded from the Internet? (1 pt)
  7. Have you bought & downloaded music from the Internet? (1 pt)
  8. Do you know how to download free (but illegal) music? (2 pts)
  9. Do you blog professionally? (1 pt)
  10. Do you blog as a online diary (2 pts)
  11. Have you used MySpace at least 5 times? (1 pt)
  12. Do you communicate with friends viz Facebook? (2 pts)
  13. Do you use e-mail with your parents (1 pt)
  14. Do you SMS your parents? (2 pts)
  15. Do you share photos from your mobile phone with friends (2 pts)

Score yourself as follows:
0-6 points and you are a baby boomer
7-12 points, you are Gen-X
>12 points, Gen-Y

At about 13pts, I am a Gen-Y apparently, despite being ~15 years too old. My ever faithful partner in life scored as a Baby Boomer. Both reasonable results given the quiz covered use of digital technology, not wider attitudes towards work, politics, personal goals, and so on.

The end of the article included a list (gack! about as predictable as a montage in an action movie) of 8 ways to get the best/most from Gen-Yers:

  1. Be Precise. Set concrete, aspirational goals to direct their ambition.
  2. Boring is Bad. Work needs to be challenging and changing.
  3. Constant Recognition. Feed them a regular diet of reinforcement and constant feedback. Do appraisals monthly or quarterly.
  4. Group Therapy. Assign teams and leverage their desire for collaboration.
  5. Work-Like Balance. They have lots of outside interests; get to know what they are and leave time for them.
  6. Generation Why. Explain the big picture and what part they play in it.
  7. No Bullying. Command-&-control leadership fails, use Emotional Intelligence.
  8. Office Party. Make work fun and employee-centered.

Why make a big story about young people labeled with an ill-defined and disputed moniker? There's little Singaporean spin on the story and much of it could be a straight AP piece off the wire. It does play to young people as reassuring recognition from nasty authority types. Mainly it confirms what we already know, that young people are selfish hedonists who are a pain to integrate into post-industrial, commercial enterprises. It's called Generation-Next and ever will it be so.