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Connecting the dots - Are Gen Y any different?

Udayakumar Nalinasekaren
Dec 21, 2010

Putting the pieces togetherWe asked earlier if Gen Y was any different from the previous generations.

I had the opportunity to interact with and observe the Gen Y's in my work place. Through my son who is technically Gen Y++ actually, I had the opportunity to interact with his peer group who is getting ready to walk into the work place soon. We are talking about Youngistan (with due credits to my son for the term) urban youth here. What is presented here is not well researched. The insights presented are just my takeaways at this time.

The insights are interesting and intriguing. Is Gen Y any different from their previous generations? They seem to have obviously grown up in a distinctly different environment. Hence their thinking and decisions have been conditioned differently. I must warn you that this is an unusually long post. Please read on and let me know what you think.

First and foremost difference of Gen Y is the parental environment that tolerated and encouraged questioning. There are other significant factors too. The acceptance for women folk as an equal gender seems to have gone up significantly in this generation. While the usual hormonal imbalance induced confusions about affection, infatuation, love and lust continue to exist, the number of healthy and mature friendships across the genders has gone up significantly and continues to grow. First there is a healthy respect for views from the female gender. I have also seen gender related issues being discussed in an open and healthy manner. I used to sweat at school and college when I had to talk to the opposite gender and had to mentally prepare for a couple of days for the interaction. Even today the effort spent on creating larger than life appearances (facades) is an amusing recall. Amazingly this tension and bravado continued even during early years of office. The contrast I see today in normal friendships is a welcome change.

The rules of marital relationship are constantly getting rewritten. There is increasing diversity in the workplace. The burgeoning economy has created job opportunities for them to step out and become financially independent. Previous generations worried more about saving for the future. They did not have many lifestyle options to aspire for. Our youngistan sees a very different India. They take the road, media and telecom infrastructure for granted. They have no clue of the starvation that existed before their times. The ever increasing lifestyle options are actually acting as drivers that make increasing number of families asking their women folk to be career focused. Therefore there is a drive to get them better educated. You should see the number of young women commercial pilots serving the country to experience this liberation. They are my source of immense pride and envy at the same time.

Previous generations in India had to depend of the government, public sector and agriculture for a living. Surprisingly, there are still people from Gen X, who had registered with the employment exchange on graduation, and are still patiently waiting for jobs that the government is going to offer. I was ridiculed by many close relatives about my mindless risk taking when I chose a private sector job. Today, the fear of private sector has gone away. While the Indian economy is growing, it is still on flakey foundations with respect to infrastructure, ability to deal with risks from global exposure, self sufficiency and sustainability.

Are Gen Y worried about any of these? Are they even cautiously optimistic? I think some are. Most of the Gen Y have an abundance perception about job stability already. Loyalty to an employer is not in the top ten items of their agenda. They get a bit worried during the downturns and the socialistic thinking usually returns. However, whenever they see growth coming back, exuberance sets in again and that too very rapidly.

The Gen X I had seen were very risk averse. They will not believe in the stock market. They will save in government instruments and mindlessly believe that the government will protect their wealth. We are not getting into a discussion here about those who filled their mattresses with wads of currency notes. When the private sector offered stock options, I had seen many Gen X folks who were unable to manage themselves well. The wealth carrot hanging in front of them made them take huge loan exposures mindlessly. When downturns hit, many Gen X folks expected their company to bail them out of their personal liabilities. Educated youngistan is more aware of investment opportunities. They also have the age to take risks. There are more instruments at their disposal. They value and try to learn from peer group experience. They are not averse to experiment.

Talking of peer group experience, Internet and mobile phone infrastructure has enabled connectedness several notches above what was possible and affordable for Gen X. Forming virtual teams of their choice at will, leveraging  crowdsourcing, building value networks, learning across cultural boundaries, and ability to manage information velocity have become formidable resources in the hands of the younger generation.

All of the above form very powerful stimulus, conditioning the mindset of the Gen Y. Because of this environment, we can say that they are built differently. However, do they question with conviction? It is an entirely different discussion altogether!

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