Tag Archives: Gen Y

Gen Y on Facebook – They Just Don’t Care

Last week I had the good fortune of being invited to give a talk and be part of a panel at a conference organized by Health Canada on Intergenerational Workplaces. I had a great time presenting, listening to the other speakers and meeting the participants.

Acknowledging the dangers of speaking in terms as broad as generations, there was a highlight moment about generational differences worth sharing. This moment reaffirmed to me how poorly Generation Y is understood – even the alleged “experts.”

During the panel someone asked (what has become and inevitable question) about Generation Y’s attitudes towards security and privacy. In short – don’t they know that the photo they are sharing on Facebook is accessible to the world?

Both the technology expert and the “generational” consultant on the panel talked about how Gen Yers obviously didn’t realize that when they post a picture (say, for example, a photo of them greedily swigging a beer at a conference they helped organize in Toronto) there are a ton of people who can access it – such as everyone in your municipal network (this could be, for example, all of Toronto). Both concluded that if Gen Yers realized what they were doing then they’d behave differently. As a result, it was up to us older – and obviously wiser – members of the audience to educate them.

deaves drinking on the job v2
This, to me, was a stunningly problematic diagnoses which in turn led to a flawed prescription.

My fellow panelists were basically asserting was that they – a boomer and a Gen Xer – had a better grasp of Facebook than the early adopting Gen Yers.  They were arguing that Gen Yers who share photos and information the panelists wouldn’t choose to share were – to put it bluntly – at best ignorant or naive, at worst, dumb. Remember, the conclusion is that these people mistakenly believe they are just sharing something with friends. If they knew it could end up getting shared more widely, they’d make a different choice.

Really?

When a young person shares a scandalous piece of news on Facebook or posts a picture of themselves drunk at a party you really think they believe others won’t be able to end up seeing it? More often than not… no! They know that all of Toronto may be able to see it. They just don’t care.

That’s right, many Gen Yers just don’t care.

Many take the attitude that what they do on their time is their business, and if you don’t like it… well that’s okay, I probably wouldn’t want to work for you anyway. And in an era of labour scarcity (who else is going to fill the jobs of all those retiring boomers) that attitude probably won’t push them out of the labour market.

What’s important here is that if you realize they don’t care – telling them that the photo they share is viewable by anyone isn’t going to change their behaviour. They already know it is viewable by everyone. While some may make different choices if they believed their career prospects might be impacted – many (and I mean many) will not. A number of Gen Yers (recognizing the enormous problems of using sweeping generalizations like generations) will be making different choices than both boomers and even Xers around both issues like privacy and what they feel is acceptable to share with the world.

I know many boomers believe this will impact Yers employment opportunities. Maybe. But then, boomers did elect a democratic president who admitted to smoking pot (but not inhaling) and a republican president whose done coke. Why shouldn’t a Gen Yer believe that if it is okay for the president to have engaged in that behaviour – how can a photo of me drunk at a party be a deal breaker?

The Boomer Factor

I’m not sure what to make of The Boomer Factor. In some ways it’s a fascinating read, a snapshot of how Canadians view themselves at the beginning of the 21st century. But while reading it you can’t help but feel that all the author has done is list stat after stat and link them together with a few sentences. This assessment may be a little unfair, but it reads more like a play by play of the data than as a thought-provoking analysis. Maybe it’s just that there’s very little prose between the streams of stats that inundate the reader.

I should also warn you that I have no capacity to assess whether or not the methodology used to generate these steps is it all sound. If there are true statisticians reading this I’d love your thoughts. That said I did find some of the presentation of the statistics deeply troubling. A notable example is the graph to your right. It shows two bars – one more than twice as large as the other – suggesting an increase of 100 – 120%. And yet, a closer looks at the numbers indicate there’s only been a 12 point difference between the two data points. This visual representation is thus grossly misleading, visually suggesting the argument is much more dramatic than what the data supports.

But these problems aside the book’s author, Reginald Bibby, keys in on several trends that are of interest. Some chapters, like “From Deference to Discernment” have been well documented by others. Others however, such as “From Tomorrow to Today”, a chapter on our quest for more time and the rising expectations we have of one another, along with Chapter 6 “From Knowing too Little to Knowing too Much” on the implications of the Internet and are increasing access to knowledge, are interesting.

But what’s most intriguing about Bibby’s concluding thoughts in these chapters – and the book overall – is that it departs from the book’s title. Bibby seems sanguine about the baby boomers’ capacity to adapt to our changing world, but is exceedingly optimistic about post-boomers – Gen Y and Gen X. Indeed, he terms these emerging generations “Reflective Post-Boomers” and says this about them:

Perhaps to a greater extent than any previous Canadian generation, they (Post-Boomers) have been able to have the time to assess what kind of lives they want to live...

…As they have been assembling their lives, post-boomers have been able to take a good look at how their grandparents, and her parents, lived. They grew up in homes were dads and moms, frankly, were experimenting with how to combine education, careers, raising kids, and marriages. The Post-Boomers saw how things turned out.

Such a vantage point has provided the emerging adult generation a unique opportunity to learn from the pre-boomers and boomer cohorts and extract the best and delete the worst from both. The preliminary evidence suggests that many younger adults are doing just that. They, like the boomers, have moved away from the racist and sexist tendencies of many older Canadians, to an extent as readily exceeding that of boomers. They also have recovered and restored some valuable pre-boomer “files” the boomers had tended either to use infrequently or delete – what people want most, the importance of family life, stability, and religion.on a

They have drawn on the boomers strong emphasis on education, discernment, and information. But they are determined to do a better job of harmonizing such themes with their desire for relationships, time to focus on their children, social compassion, spiritual fulfillment, and the opportunity to simply enjoy life. And so far, at least, they are reporting levels of happiness and for film and that match those of pre-boomers and exceed those of boomers.

Promising developments indeed!

According to his research Bibby also reports that younger Canadians — post-boomers — are more likely to be politically active than their boomer parents. given all the talk about political apathy this conclusion was counterintuitive and interesting. Sadly there wasn’t much discussion before the next statistic was thrust before the reader and the text moved on.

The two places where I think Bibby falls down is in his assessment of how Canadians are associating with one another. He refers repeatedly to the notion of how we’ve shifted from a we to me, while at the same time many of his stats suggest that people are actually deeply interested and engaged in communities. I’m not sure there we’re shifting from a we to me in an absolute sense. What is true is that people are more selective and have more options about who they associate with. Does this mean that we are more “me” focused? Or is it that we can afford to be more “we” focused in ways that make us comfortable?

The other place where Bibby lost me was in his discussion about religion. He suggests that many baby boomers are returning to religion to fill a growing spiritual void in their lives. I confess I don’t know. But this chapter had more analysis and opinion than any other, and so it felt like the story didn’t flow and it was less clear the data supported his assertions. A religious man himself, and an expert on religious trends I couldn’t help but feel that Bibby was inflating this chapter out of personal and professional interest. This could be a gross misunderstanding on my part, but while the rest of the book resonated with my personal experience from what I’ve seen of the country this chapter felt out of place.

Is The Boomer Factor a must read? Not really. But it was nonetheless an enjoyable read. For those interested, it will give you some compelling statistics to reinforce a number of trends you observe, and live with, on a day-to-day basis.

Public Service Reform: Starting at the Apex

So I’ve just sent APEX a copy of my speech – I actually never write out my speeches so I literally had to go back through it in my head – anyway I will post here soon as well.

For me, one of my favourite parts revolved around the APEX logo (APEX is the organization that represents all the executives of the Canadian Federal Public Service). I asked the conference attendees to take off their name badges, look at them, and tell me what they saw. Most saw it right away. The Apex logo.

Symbols matter. So, when you look at this symbol what do you see?

After a day and a half of hearing speaker after speaker talk about creating a public service that was more open, more innovative and less hierarchical, I wanted to draw their attention to the symbol the Public Service Executives use to portray themselves to the world.

Could one imagine a symbol that conveys hierarchy, control, and dominance more effectively? (I love that it is not just a pyramid, but that its angled so you have to look up at it). “Were on top! Guess where you are?”

Do we want a different public service? It will take a lot of work and changing symbols won’t get us there. But it is a start.

At this point I like to briefly say thank you to Michel Smith for inviting me to talk – he invited me to come and speak and I thanked him by dismantling his organizations logo… he deserves better.

So, in that spirit, I’d like to propose an idea based on something the president of Scandinavian Airlines once talked about in an article he wrote (where, I don’t remember). After much reflection he flipped his organizational chart upside down so as to place him at the bottom, understanding that his role was to support everybody above him, so they could, in turn, support the front-line workers who actually touch the customers. Maybe we could flip the APEX logo on its head? Can we imagine a public service executive that thinks the same way?

Now, if only we could come up with a better acronym… Any suggestions? (Remember it has to work in French and English).

Spare a Public Service Story?

APEX, or the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada (phew! that was a mouthful) has asked me to speak at their 2007 Annual Symposium, which has been themed – Public Service Matters: Says Who? They’ve entitle my talk “Does the Public Service Matter to Generation Y?”

My work from last year has lead me to conclude that while it remains unclear if the Public Service has a hard time attracting recruits, it definitely has a hard time retaining people. For example, when the public service sent out a survey to new hires to assess job satisfaction, almost 10% of respondents had already departed. More importantly, there is clearly a generational divide… new hires under 30 say they are more likely to leave than those over 30 (37% vs 22%).One piece I intend to talk about is how Gen Yers do care about public service, they just don’t necessarily want to be part of the public service. A decision made easier given all the options they now have to directly engage on issues they care about.I’d love to hear from other Gen Yers out there both in and outside of the public service. If you are so inclined please send me your story about why you love working in the public service, or why you left/dislike it. Please feel free to post it, or if you’d prefer to, you can email me directly.[tags]APEX, Government, Bureaucracy[/tags]