Understanding generation Y

NTU program

You may fit my profile, and perhaps you may do similar work I do as a corporate learning facilitator. You have suddenly realised a change in the landscape in your class room. The starry eyed learner, is now, armed with a net book, a mobile smart phone, appears uneasy and easily bored when you start your lesson.

Welcome to generation Y. Young Techies who are now in the workforce and they will be attending your WSQ funded training programs in droves. Their body language tells you, they have been forced to get their attendance signed in and it counts as a KPI in their performance review. As a trainer, the alarm bells starts to ring. You see a rebel rouser, who wants to challenge you. You take offence to the direct, curt questions hurled at you. Is he trying to be funny? Take a deep breath, relax, they are not as monstrous as you imagine them to be. In fact Generation Y batch of learners are a robust performing bunch. You will get to like them if you know them.

Generation Y, is a label tagged against our young workforce and students born between 1977 and 1990. They are in their early twenties to the mid thirties. In Singapore alone Gen Y or the millennials make up 22% of our resident population, working out to 833, 300, with the female gender, topping the male cohort by about 20,000.

Here are some quirky behaviours that will define Generation Y. They are wired, connected to virtual social sites, salivate for information, empowered, able to multi task, independent and the lists goes on and on. These are functional behaviours that will excite any HR recruiter. They too, carry a “dark side”. They can be easily bored, and demand instant gratification.

Their staple diet on TV are reality shows, such as Survivor, The Idol, and Amazing Race, whilst we lapped up slap stick comedies and institutional propaganda known as serial dramas. Comfortable with diversity, they seek out alternative news, in BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera. Yes, we are still hooked on to the humble Straits Times, which we cannot do without. Entertainment for Gen Y has to be interactive as oppose to being passive. Simply put, make your curriculum interactive and fun.

Gen Y have a knack for talking and usually its with you. They want to share their opinions, they say it as it is and if you take away their airtime, they are quite appeased to talking to you virtually. Try taking a class of Gen Y students and google your name after your seminar and you will find their views shared in a blog.

Gen Y outlook is shaped by their formative experiences influenced by popular media, in print and the internet. 9 / 11, terrorism, the exponential use of mobile technology, Iraq war and contradictory statements made by statesman are some influences. Generation Y also experienced the near collapse of the banking giants such as the Bank of America and only to see the very same Bank return to profit in just 1 year. It’s perplexing to them, to bear the brunt of seeing their parents lose their jobs mercilessly.

Hence, Gen Y can be skeptics, when you engage them head on. They may show a lack of trust for governments and corporations. They may have short career prospects. They can be extremely independent and if you don’t hire them, they will be able to start up on their own. Case in point, 2010 new technological products came from start up enterprises as oppose to the big companies. They multi task and this behaviour can rear itself when you have them in your class. Be forgiving, don’t get too annoyed if they are working on their netbooks and their mobile phones when you are running your class. They are also listening to you at the same time.

See the world from their eyeballs. Gen Y are net savvy and they are comfortable, learning both inside and outside the classroom. Include elements of social learning with their peers in your training design. Consider the use of technological tools, such as a blog, Facebook, Linkein, Snapchat, Whatsapp and online communities to engage them. They are there for you to use and they costs at best the time taken for you to learn how to use them. As you gear up to take them on, do read my next article on the 12 valuable tips to consider when engaging Gen Y in your classroom. If you had some experiences you would like to share in handling Gen Y in your class room, do drop me a note at this e-mail.

Ebnu Etheris, MA.IDT, B Ed&Trn.