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Should You Train Generation Y Employees?
By Mike Phillips on
Sunday, February 15, 2009
:: 10632 Views ::
Should you train Generation Y?
This might seem like a silly question; after all, they seem so good with technology already! In fact you might be double-booking that new intern as your in-house computer tech (come on, admit it!). So the thought of spending actual money (if there is such a thing anymore) on training them might seem like a waste.
Before offering a glib answer to the question, let’s take a look at some of Gen Y’s characteristics. You might even want to bone up on
exactly what is Gen Y
, and if you are already training them read my recent article
7 Techniques for Teaching Generation Y.
But I digress. On to some of Gen Y’s defining characteristics.
Generation Y Defining Characteristics
Because Generation Y grew up with a silver mouse in their mouths, they:
Are quick studies
Are very comfortable with technology
Have short attention spans
Have Entitlement Issues
Are Easily Frustrated
Do Not Concentrate Well
Can Multitask like no generation before them
How did these characteristics come about? By having easy access to exponentially-growing technology, from hardware to software, during their formative years. Technology is second-nature to them. It’s as natural as breathing, as easy as walking, as integrated as the nose on your face. They think nothing of tackling any new technology; in fact they are hungry and eager for it! All of this makes for employees with a stellar knack for know-how.
So why on earth would you spend money to train such wonderful technical gurus, on technology?
Let’s break down some of those characteristics I mentioned, and see where they actually lead these young whipper-snappers into trouble. Although the discussion may seem a little unflattering, remember every generation has its strengths and weaknesses, and this article is merely after a reasonable assessment of whether these workers need your training dollars spent on them.
Soft-Skills Ain’t Technology
First off, a huge area of business training lies in soft skills such as communication, management techniques, employee conduct, project management, customer service, and the like. Although all of these areas of expertise utilize technology, they are separate disciplines in and of themselves.
In other words, your Generation Y employees don’t generally know beans about these subjects and if you want them proficient in them you need to invest in their educations. Knowing Word doesn’t make you a great writer, does it?
They Have Ozone-Sized Holes in their Knowledge
This sounds pretty bad, but it’s generally true. Gen Y employees’ impressive storehouse of technical knowledge comes with a lot of small and not-so-small gaps, some of which may prove to be mission critical. Why? Because these little geniuses are super quick studies and are largely self-taught, and because they have such short attention spans, it means they have not had the benefit of a thorough examination of most of what they do on the computer. They eyeball it, make some brilliant intuitive leaps, and arrive at a quick answer.
That’s great for keeping the ship afloat when it’s raining, and avoiding the rocks from time to time. But all the technical brilliance in the world doesn’t make up for a simple lack of awareness of a software application’s capabilities, and of the proper way of using it.
I’ll give you an example I’ve seen many times. Boss says, “We need a database. You, Jenny Gen Y, you do it. You know Access, right?”
Now, Jenny Gen Y is NOT going to admit she does not know Access—she prides herself on picking things up instantly, and whatever she doesn’t know she can just text someone or have a friend assist. Besides, she’s used Access a couple of times; it couldn’t be too hard, right?
Aha, well, not exactly. Building a database requires planning and foresight; without it, it’s very hard to build a workable solution. It would be a bit like having great skills at pouring concrete, framing, and plumbing, and then just building a house “on the fly,” without a blueprint, hoping that because you know these skills you will magically be able create a fully functioning building. Silly, right?
Yet this is exactly where Jenny Gen Y finds herself in her database situation. She still needs the benefit of a proper background in database design before jumping in and building something useful. Ignore this point, and the database likely will need to be rebuilt from scratch, from the ground up, at considerably more cost, time, and frustration to everyone.
On page 2, Are the Echo Boomers as Smart as They Think?
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