School is over and parents sign kids up for camps and college kids are home from school. End of year picnics are set and college graduation party invites are sent.  Parties are the one place parents will hear such great debates like "Who is better: Justin Bieber or New Direction?" and the latest and greatest smart phone technology will be on full display.

In a recent smart phone commercial set around a graduation pool party, parents and college kids talk about the different bells and whistles of their phones. Aside from my amusement about the bragging about cool features, it also tells a story about generation and culture.  Generation Y, or the Millennial generation, is highlighted.  This generation has been targeted in workplace design as well. Why is that? To answer some of these questions, I have Sudhakar Lahade from Steelcase Workspace Futures to enlighten us on Generation Y's culture and workplace trends.

What's the deal with Gen Y?
 
Gen Y are those born between year 1980 – 2000 and will soon be dominating the workforce population.  Having been born and living with technology, using mobile devices are second nature to them. Hence, multi-tasking, adaptability to ever-changing technology, connecting through different social platforms, and global awareness are inherent characteristics. The ability to be mobile gives them flexibility to work anywhere, anytime and enables them to balance work and life. 
 
Gen Y believes in doing what they love and find meaning in what they do. They seek opportunities to learn and grow, and are also socially and environmentally responsible. 
 
They also believe in an open communication within the organization, despite the differences in levels and seniority.  Personal development and opportunities to grow and learn are of importance to them. Sudhakar explains that "They thrive with peers, but they also want mentoring as they are focused on growth. So, instead of thinking about this generation vs. that generation, the future workplace should be thinking about the interdependency of different generations to achieve individual and collective goals."
 
What makes them tick and how does this affect my workplace?
 
A workplace that fosters collaboration and connection between peers is where Gen Y would thrive. These features open opportunities for learning and mentoring from previous generations,  Sudhakar says that one of the workplace trends that is attractive to Gen Y is providing an open environment. "They just want an open environment so that they can gain transparency of people, processes, projects and leadership thinking. In other words they want their leaders to be visible, want to hear them and see them in action. They want this most of the time but not necessarily 100% of time." This open environment leads to visual connection with peers and leadership thinking. Gen Y thrives in open and collaborative environment where they can be more innovative."

They want a workplace that is not limited to the 4 walls of an office. This generation lives and breathes technology and knows they are able to work despite being out of the office.  Workplaces are defined as where they are productive: whether at home, in open team spaces in the office or even at co-working spaces. 

Gen Y also seeks a progressive workplace that is up-to-date with the latest and greatest technology. Globalization and social platforms will continue to be part of our lives. Sudhakar shares that "Technology is Oxygen: integrate latest and greatest technologies and open social platforms… that is where the future is." 
 

So, what are some ways I can do to make my current workplace Gen Y friendly?

Create a variety of spaces that support different ways of working and keep Gen Y socially engaged. Think about intertwining work settings, with social settings and life settings (such as café, health & well being settings) at work. Flexibility is king. Alternative spaces in the workplace allows people to be productive outside their workstations and even outside the office. It is about being productive at anytime, anyplace.

Fill project spaces with mobile furniture so it can be easily reconfigured. It also allows them to personalize the space to how they need it to be at the moment.  

Create spaces that inspire learning and professional growth. Writable surfaces and technology that allows co-creation (like Steelcase Media:scape) encourages collaboration and innovation.

Provide furniture settings that support overall health and well-being. Start looking at furniture that supports different postures, different work settings to office perks such as yoga memberships, continuing education and getting their hands on meaningful work.

 
So, the next time you are invited to a party, take a look around and observe the quirks and qualities of Gen Y with the other generations. It could be amusing like watching that smart phone commercial on TV, but it could make us understand more about the next big thing.

  • Posted By:Turnstone
  • Date:Jun 14, 2013
  • Category:Uncategorized
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