Optimize for Gen Y: Do or Die

Photo: Flickr - Creative Commons 2012
Photo: Flickr - Creative Commons 2012

Every time I stumble upon an article about “Millennials” or “Generation Y,” I can’t help but read it. After all, I am part of Gen Y and curiosity gets the best of me. It’s fascinating to learn (from the media) what my daily struggles are, my life ambitions and goals, my career status, my relationship with technology (and maybe even other people) and, of course, the best ways to market products to me. Okay, I’m being a bit facetious – the reality is that sometimes these articles are on the mark, but just as often I think the articles don’t represent who I am at all.

I came across a recent article, “Generation Y: Looking for jobs – and an identity,” which I felt most definitely “hit the mark.” The article breaks down Gen Y from every angle possible: Where do we live? Did we graduate college? What did we study? What type of jobs do we have? What are our habits? When will we be able to afford a house? And, while there is some opinion and speculation, almost all of the statements are backed by hard data from various surveys and research firms.

While very comprehensive and well-written (I won’t go into all the details), the article highlights an important point: Gen Y’s world revolves around mobile and social technology.To some, this may be obvious. It’s no secret that 18-29 year olds are attached to their smartphones, obsessed with social networks and would pick “digital” over “print” any day. But, if this insight is so obvious, why are so few organizations jumping at the opportunity to optimize and reinvent themselves so they can engage more closely with Gen Y?

This “Gen Y optimization” (making mobile and social systemic) must be firmly rooted internally and externally. Organizations must enable “productive socialization” internally – embracing social networks, tools and platforms (e.g. Yammer, Facebook etc.) and encourage Gen Y workers to collaborate on those platforms. The return, in terms of productivity, employee happiness and retention, will not go unnoticed by employees and, equally important, will accrue to both the bottom and top lines of the business.

Externally, organizations must also take a leap of faith, embrace innovation and take steps to optimize in ways that demonstrably appeal to Gen Y. Today, for example, almost every bank has a mobile solution, or at least a robust online banking capability; almost every airline offers mobile ticketing (does Gen Y even own printers anymore?) and even the smallest restaurants have a grip on what Yelp and Foursquare reviewers are saying about them.

In addition to Gen Y being the most “technologically connected” generation ever, it’s also the generation that’s been hit hardest by the recession. With the election just around the corner, the possibility for an economic resurgence is on the horizon and perhaps this will give Gen Y the opportunity to truly shine. Fueled by digital, social and mobile, I believe this group will shine, and businesses surely don’t want to be left in the dust when this group finally catches its wind.

Jessica Boardman is a senior consultant at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter @J_Boardman.