During a morning tea break at a training seminar I was running a young man from Generation Y asked me if the coffee provided was “fair trade”. I told him I was unsure to which he replied he’d rather skip the coffee just in case. An isolated incident? In my work with Generation Y I’ve seen many of them get passionate about global issues affecting consumer products, environmentalism and justice for the poor and oppressed.
True, Generation Y are not entirely unique in this trait. The inherent idealism of youth has long seen them at the forefront of many opposition movements to social and political injustices, although the difference with this generation is that they see the world as a much smaller, interconnected place. Through the internet and social media they can be informed of what is occurring in real time and can immediately express their views online through a blog or something as simple as a facebook “like”. In short they have a belief that they can make a difference regardless of how far geographically they may be removed from the issue.
This global awareness and responsibility is accentuated by the concern for a future that appears increasingly uncertain amidst environmental, economic and political issues that are played out before them daily.
However, importantly for businesses, globalism is affecting Generation Y beyond the boundaries of the issues themselves. They have a distrust of institutions and a dislike of political game playing. They would rather mediate than polarise, and will stand for any issue that promotes tolerance and equality for all.
When it comes to employment, a company’s ethos, values and culture are important to them. They want to work for businesses that are socially and environmentally responsible—ones in which profit is not the only bottom line. They want to do work that is meaningful and has purpose—even work that makes a difference in people’s lives. They also prefer to work in places where hierarchies do not exclude people or make them feel second class. They want access to decision makers in order to present their views.
When it comes to networking and the exchange of ideas, they are not limited by traditional geographical and cultural boundaries. Through the internet they can access boundless ideas and personal contacts and will use these in developing their own suggestions for improving productivity and effectiveness. In short, they are likely to see your business in a global context more easily than you and will help you to capitalise on this context if given the opportunity to do so.