Gen Y recruitment worries miss reality
What does Generation Y really want? As a supposed member of the generation that is said to have preceded it, Generation X, allow me to posit this: They probably want to stop being condescended to with questions like that.
First off, the concept of generational cohesion is largely a false one. There are groups of geographic, economic, political and cultural cohesion, but the notion that people who happened in their formative years to be alive when certain music or television shows were popular gain anything other than a common set of nostalgic touchstones once they grow old is ludicrous when taken to extreme--as it is by pop psychologists and their suckers.
True, cultural norms do change over time, and this can be clumsily tracked by "generation." But to extrapolate from age to a wider set of expectations ignores the other factors involved in shaping worldviews, such as the economic climate.
I mention this because there seems to be a lot of hand wringing by some people in government about how to recruit Gen Y into its ranks, or "are we doing enough to satisfy young people's expectations?"
The most ridiculous example of this I've recently seen comes from a Government Accountability Office report that worries that because National Nuclear Security Administration staff must often work in secure areas that prohibit the use of personal cell phones, email, and social media, that they suffer "a disadvantage in attracting younger skilled candidates."
Really? What insane person, member of Gen Y or not, has an expectation of Facebooking from a top secret site containing nuclear bombs? "Status Update: Gonna take the nation's nuclear deterrence stockpile offline in an hour in order to do some maintenance. Hope nobody finds out!"
But the real problem is that in seeking to glean workplace expectations from age demographics, worriers of this ilk miss out on the fact that expectations tend to conform to a plausible reality. The workplace shapes expectations as much as expectations shape it. And so, Gen Y and all people find themselves in the same place of participating in give and take of desires and needs balanced against organizational imperatives and inertia. It's the same story that's happened since forever.
Stop worrying about what Gen Y wants, or what any made-up demographic wants. Really worry about extracting the maximum amount of good work out of individuals--that's the important thing. The rest will follow. - Dave