After appearing on a panel at the recent Mumbrella360 event in Australia, I was struck by one particular question from the audience: "Is being called ‘So Gen-Y' an insult?"
The short answer is yes. Anything said with negative connotations is going to be taken by as an insult, regardless of age.
But after further discussion, it seemed some of the characteristics deemed "So Gen-Y" by older generations were viewed by the panel as positives:
Having started from the very bottom and now working my way up through the travel industry, there are constant generational clashes.
The concept of "putting in your time at the bottom” doesn’t usually sit well with Gen-Yers.
We were raised by our elders to strive for achievement – now it appears that it is that drive which has us in hot water.
As Bruce Tulgan, author of Not Everyone Gets a Trophy explains, Gen-Y was raised in an environment where every kid got a trophy just for showing up.
Cultivating industry leaders from this group will mean using different managerial skills than we have in the past. As Tulgan continues, managers will need to be more like parents and take a role similar to a mentor.
Adding to the frustration of managers everywhere, the average Gen-Yer will stick around at the same company for 1.1 years and change jobs 29 times, more than double their baby boomer counterparts.
[For a classic rant on this from someone outside the age bracket, check out Jason Calacanis’ somewhat infamous tirade]
A common issue I hear from older generations is that Gen-Y has a lack for respect for its elders. This is possibly a side effect of being raised in a more liberal environment, some members of Gen-Y feel respect should be earned, regardless of age or experience.
I threw the question out to Twitter and Facebook, with interesting results. Almost all Gen-Ys (and some Generation Xers) felt respect had to be earned. Here is a snippet:
"When I was younger: automatic. Now: earned, after seeing some weren't worthy."
"(Respect is) earned. Always earned. No amount of respect is a birth right."
"Respect is earned."
"Every generation runs the spectrum of brilliance to idiocracy. I always give the courtesy of respect, it's up to you to lose it."
So what’s this doing to our industry?
Lets face it, travel industry events do not always attract the youngest crowds. Having managed a large Gen-Y team, I have had the opportunity to observe their career paths, if only for a short period.
What I saw breaks down very roughly like this:
- 50% move on to similar jobs in another industry
- 25% move to different jobs in another industry
- 10% go back to school for more training
- 15% actually stay within the industry
Keep in mind, this is a rough estimate from my personal experience, but this outlines a trend that could be building into a huge challenge for the travel industry.
Encouraging the most talented of the younger generations to stay within our ranks is going to become a focus for brands that value the input of Gen-Y.
I asked Wouter Blok, chief marketing officer of EasyToBook and manager of an all Gen-Y team, what it takes to keep things rolling from day to day.
"My solution to have the team fulfil their need to 'know it all' is to have weekly sync meetings, in which departments give updates, and quarterly workshops for the team. For the seniors in the team, 20% of their time is spent on an area they'd like to explore.
"[This means] they understand each others business better and come up with original ideas. Give your team autonomy, mastery and purpose, and they'll become extremely engaged and thrive within your business."
Of course, there are things we can do today to start making changes. WebinTravel, for example, has started WIT Next, a program to help mentor young people in travel.
Siew Hoon Yeow explains her vision for WIT Next as follows:
"We believe that with the right digital and social engagement as well as creating exciting, live experiences, we will be able to build a movement that will inspire new blood and young talent to look at travel and tourism more seriously, and to realize that our industry is truly the most exciting and most dynamic space to build a fulfilling career.”
So instead of going to your fifth conference of the year, try sending one of the youngsters instead. I for one would love to have some company at the kids table!