Introduction to Onboarding Gen Y

August 16, 2008

I taught at the University of Washington for eleven years.  As much as I treasured watching students succeed in my classroom, I reveled most from seeing them succeed in their first “real” job.

The concept for Onboarding Gen Y was born out of listening to the changing tenor of applicant and new hire stories from my corporate contacts.  These stories include tales of text messaging during job interviews, leaving positions after a few months because of an inability to get time off to go to Europe, and new hires needing much more feedback and project-starting guidance than new hires of the past.  My corporate contacts were seeking advice on how to work with these new hires.

I noticed changes in my students as well.  They were not only more accepting of feedback, both praise and constructive, they were requesting more of it.  They were more assertive about asking for and getting help with their projects.  They were more active communicators, mostly through electronic means.  Technology was not an “add on,” it was in their blood.  They had longer and more varied lists of volunteer work to include on their resumes.  They had a more innately global focus.  They were more creative and collaborative.  I needed to alter my teaching style and content to match their interests and temperament.  It made my teaching better.

But the most startling change was in some of my brightest students’ attitudes towards professional work.  Those students in the past would have known what they wanted to do, where they wanted to work, and what they expected from their professional future.  I was now seeing students of this caliber unsure of what they wanted to do and where they wanted to work.  The thing that amazed me most is that this didn’t seem to bother them.  While they were requesting more feedback on their work in my class, I was the one asking them about their professional hopes and dreams, not them asking me for career search guidance.

I thought it was a blip, and then started researching this new generation . . . Gen Y (also called Millennials, Echo Boomers, iGen, The Internet Generation etc.)  By profile they are technical, global and have amazing skills at multi-tasking and prioritization.  They are also delaying “adulthood” and insisting on more work/life balance than previous students demanded or even seemed to want at that point in their professional life. 

To make the transition from student to business professional smooth and successful, they needed more career counseling and general job search prep assistance.  They also needed more guidance in how to independently take hold of a project, how to communicate effectively across organizations and other generations, and business life skills in general.

The challenges that organizations are experiencing in managing this complex generation are understandable.  Gen Y’s don’t innately have the organizational loyalty and stick-to-itiveness needed to work through a professional rough patch and come out the other side stronger and more experienced.  They need more feedback, guidance, and coaching particularly in the areas of project planning, business communication, and business life skills.  They need mentors to support them, and help them see parts of the organization they may not otherwise see.  And managers need to understand this new generation and readjust their own thinking and approaches to attract, retain and get excellence from these new hires.  Gen Y has great potential to bring a strong technical fluidity, global focus, multi-tasking, creative, collaborative, caring, energetic and fresh perspective to the workforce. 

So, why should organizations make changes to attract and embrace this new generation of employees?

Two reasons: First, they’re the only game in town.  Second, they’re worth it.



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Our Mission

Onboarding Gen Y prepares new-to-market Gen Y employees to successfully enter the workplace and helps guide organizations to effectively hire, welcome, retain and enable these employees to exceed expectations.
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