REAL WORLD is a series of Intermediate English lessons based on real world issues.
Lesson 01 - Gen Y Goes Pro
Lesson created by Paul Ponce
FOCUS: Business English (Management, Human Resources)
Every generation brings new challenges to the working arena, especially to those organizations that have existed for decades. The so-called Generation Y is no exception. Working side by side or managing people from this generation of the work force born between the 1980s and 1990s could prove rather challenging for those that don't understand what they are all about.
Maybe you belong to it. Maybe you don't.
Either way, the purpose of this lesson is to enhance your knowledge of real world Business English while learning about Generation Y at work. You can do the lesson independently, but ideally it is intended as a group lesson for independent English Study Groups or teacher-led groups.
Real world means that something the topic and its focus is true and authentic. Often times in English courses, the material and the language used is artificial and doesn't represent the way English speakers really express themselves. These lessons strive to give you a feeling for the real world.
Don't worry if you don't understand every single word. The purpose of Real World is for learners to be immersed in a single topic and to use the four skills in engaging it. If possible try to work on this lesson as a group and then record the session via Google Hangout so you can keep a record of it.
The language is based on a video interview. You will watch Paul Michelman from the Harvard
Business Review interview Tammy Erickson, an expert on Generation Y in today's workforce.
KEY VOCABULARY: Let's become familiar with it.
1. Gen Y-er: a person belonging to Generation Y (born between the 1980s and 1990s)
2. (Baby) Boomer: a person born between 1946 (after World War II) and the mid 1960s
3. Gen X-er: a person belonging to Generation X (born between mid 1960s and late 1970s)
4. to grow out of: to stop doing something that you were once used to doing.
5. formative experiences: the experiences that form who a person becomes
6. to be jumping up and down: to be really excited about something
7. peer-to-peer: an environment of members who share information on the same network
8. lingua franca: a language that can be used by those who speak different languages
9. to be big with: to be popular with (a certain group of persons)
10. asynchronous activity: activities that do not happen at the same time
11. two-fold: something that has two sides to it
12. cohort: a group of individuals having a statistical factor in common
VIDEO: Let's WATCH it once and ANSWER the following questions?
1. How does Paul Michelman define Generation Y?
2. According to Tammy Erickson, how do Gen-Yers tackle big jobs?
3. Why do Gen-Yers have such a strong sense of immediacy?
4. How do Gen-Yers feel about their manager's job?
5. Why do Gen-Yers want you to know what they're thinking?
6. What's one of the key differences between Gen-Y and Gen-X in terms of communication?
7. What's something that astonishes Gen-Yers about corporations
8. What's something that corporations could copy from Gen-Yers?
9. What kind of relationship do GenYers have with their parents?
10. What generation do Gen-Yers bond well at work?
TRANSCRIPT: Let's READ it and check to see if our answers are correct. Groups can delegate different members to read. Optionally, you can watch the video again after reading the transcript. You WILL NOTICE how much more you understand.
Later, you can also try to FIND the target vocabulary within the script and PRACTICE making your own sentences with it.
PAUL MICHELMAN: Hello, I'm Paul Michelman, director of content for Harvard Business Digital. And I'm delighted to be joined today by Tammy Erickson, author of books, articles, and of course, her Across the Ages blog for Harvard Business Online. Tammy, thanks for joining us today.
TAMMY ERICKSON: Hi, Paul. I'm happy to be here.
PAUL MICHELMAN: Great. Tammy, our subject for today's chat is managing Generation Y, those self-assured, sometimes overly emotive, text messaging 20-somethings who threaten to turn the world of work on its ear. Tammy, you've written about Gen Y-ers on several occasions in your blog, and you paint quite an interesting picture. Why don't we walk through some of your impressions of Gen Y-ers' most notable characteristics, at least as far as the workplace is concerned. So I'm going to quote you to you for a while. First off, you say that Gen Y-ers are happy to tackle the big jobs, and they'll do it with confidence.
TAMMY ERICKSON: Absolutely. Gen Ys, by and large, are the product of Boomer parents. And those Boomer parents have been telling them since the day they were born that they could do anything they set their mind to. And you know what? They're ready. They are here in the workforce. They've set their mind to it. And they're ready for your biggest and toughest job. Bring it on.
PAUL MICHELMAN: You say Gen Y-ers are also impatient, and they want what they're doing to be enjoyable and meaningful from day one on the job.
TAMMY ERICKSON: They do. And this is an interesting one for me. I think Gen Y is impatient and will be impatient 'til the day they die. I don't think it's something they're going to grow out of. It's not related to youthful impatience, as a lot of adults, older adults, would like to think.
Probably a better word than impatience, actually, would be immediacy. Gen Y is a group that had their most formative teenage experiences be things like 9/11, or Columbine, or now, Virginia Tech.
They woke up to a world that was filled with events that were inexplicable, sudden, completely
tragic. And as a result, I think many of them have made a decision that they need to live life now. They need to get on with the most important parts of their life. And that sense of immediacy, of living life in the current, is something that we find very pervasive throughout Generation Y.
PAUL MICHELMAN: Now as ambitious as Gen Y-ers seem to be, you reassure managers by telling them that Gen Y-ers don't necessarily want your job.
TAMMY ERICKSON: Well, that's true. I'm not sure if it's reassuring or not, but they don't necessarily want your job. We did a series of focus groups with people around the country, young employees who were in their 25, 26, 27 age group and had been, most of them, with their corporations for only a year or so. And we ask them, what did they think? How did these crazy places look to them, now that they've had a year or two to get experience within a corporate life? And one of the most dominant themes that came out is that they didn't want their manager's job.
In focus group after focus group, they said, it doesn't look worth it. I've looked at what the person
does, the hours they put in, the pressure they face. And frankly, the incremental amount of money that they get for doing it-- I don't want any part of it. So it's not like they're jumping up and down to step on your toes, if you're a manager. On the other hand, if you're charged with coaxing people in to take some of those middle management jobs, I think you've got a tough challenge making them attractive to Gen Y.
PAUL MICHELMAN: Tammy, this next one is one of my favorite of your observations. Gen Y-ers genuinely believe that you want to know what they're thinking.
TAMMY ERICKSON: They sure do. I bet you've gotten notes from them, Paul. They've grown up in a peer-to-peer world. So they are used to sending information to peers based on their perception of who could use the information, where it would provide the most value.
And they come into a corporate environment with that same set of assumptions. So if they have an idea that they think could benefit you, I don't care who you are, CEO, head of marketing-- they've got an idea. Chances are they're going to share it with you. That's the way they've operated up to now, and there's no sign that they're backing off now that they're in the corporate world.
PAUL MICHELMAN: So Tammy, should we be expecting to receive these great ideas via text
messaging? Is this the new lingua franca of business?
TAMMY ERICKSON: Text messaging is very big with Gen Y. In fact, it's interesting-- there's a huge change between the use of text messaging for Gen Y and Gen X. That's how Gen Y communicates. The interesting thing about text messaging is it's more than just the technology. It's not just that they're sending a written message, but it's also that they're using those short bursts to actually coordinate activities, instead of doing the kind of advance planning that maybe some of us have grown up being accustomed to. That's one of the things they point out when they look at what's happening within a corporation. They are astonished at the amount of time we spend trying to get a phone call together, trying to shape a WebEx meeting, or, goodness knows, trying to get people together in person for a round-the-table
conference. In their world, they would simply send quick text messages to their friends, and would resolve the issue quickly, with much less time invested to try to bring those people together. So text messaging is big. It's part of what they do. And it will change not only the technology we use, but it will also change, I think, some of the processes that we use inside the company.
PAUL MICHELMAN: But Tammy, we like meetings. We like structure in our organizations. How are we going to deal with this?
TAMMY ERICKSON: I think you're going to have to adapt to some extent, Paul. I'm not saying that the adaption is all on our end, that we have to make all the changes. I think the Ys will change as well. But I think we should be open to some of the things they can teach us. We should try some of the ways they do it, and see if it doesn't bring about some advantage.
Another example of a technology, of course, they use very effectively is the kind of Facebook
technology-- posting information in a common place where people can read it at their leisure. I like to say that Ys are very good at asynchronous activity. Think about Tivo, for example. A lot of them watch the same television show, but very few of them would watch it at the same moment in time. They watch it when it's convenient. Now that's a pretty smart concept, actually. And I think there are lots of processes inside the corporation where we could probably be a little more asynchronous, and make it easier for you and for me to do the kind of things that we're interested in doing at times when it's a little more convenient for us.
PAUL MICHELMAN: So Tammy, these Gen Y-ers, they're a pretty interesting bunch. What roles did their parents play in shaping them into the people they are today?
TAMMY ERICKSON: Oh, Boomers have played such an important role in shaping Gen Y. Boomers have been the most attentive, child-centric parents that we have yet seen. And it's had an incredible result on the relationship between the two generations. Gen Y very much likes their parents. You might be surprised to know that 90% of all Gen Y say they are very close to their parents. And that closeness is carrying over not just in school environments, but
it's coming right into the workplace. So we see moms and dads who are accompanying the kids on the interviews, who are calling the employer to find out why Johnny didn't get the job, or why Susie didn't get the raise-- lots of heavy involvement from those very active, very competitive, in many cases Boomer, parents. Now my view on that is two-fold. First, if you're the employer, I think you should step back from making the initial assumption that the employee has encouraged that behavior. Chances are, the young person wasn't even aware of it, certainly didn't ask for it. On the other hand, if you're the parent, and you're doing that, I think you need to back off a bit. Because you are tarnishing your young person's reputation in the workplace.
PAUL MICHELMAN: Tammy, your description of these great close relationships the Gen Y-ers have with their baby boomer parents might also explain another observation that you've had, that Y-ers really enjoy working with boomers in the workplace, perhaps more so than Gen X-ers, with whom you'd think they'd have more in common.
TAMMY ERICKSON: I think you're right, Paul. We have found, in fact, that Ys tend to form very good relationships with Boomers, or at least with most Boomers. Occasionally, you get comments that Boomers have been a little too condescending, or, in some way, not properly respected the competence the Y brings to the workplace. But in general, the relationships between Ys and Boomers are very effective. We highly encourage companies, for example, to set up mentoring relationships, and to encourage Boomers to spend time with the Ys, to pass along the knowledge that they have.
That's in contrast to Generation X, which I sometimes see almost like a middle child, caught in
between these two large generations. Gen X is a smaller group of people, and in many corporations, it's a small cohort of workers, with a lot of boomers on one side and a lot of Ys flooding in the door in the other. And the relationship between Ys and X-ers is not necessarily a happy one. They often view those folks as having less expertise than some of those Boomers that the Ys have already bonded with.
PAUL MICHELMAN: Terrific. Tammy Erickson, thank you very much.
TAMMY ERICKSON: Thank you, Paul.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: If you belong to an English Practice Group or if you are a teacher, we recommend you discuss the following questions as a group.
1. What generational group do you belong to?
2. Do you agree or disagree with the definition of the generation you belong to? Why or why
3. What's the generational make up of your company / group / organization?
4. Do you agree or disagree with Tammy Erickson's description of Generation Y in the
workplace? Why or why not?
ROLE PLAYING: If you belong to an English Practice Group or if you are a teacher, we recommend you role-play the following questions as a group.
Part A. How would the members of different generations (Gen Y, Boomers, Gen X) react to the following?
1. We need to organize a meeting
2. Our department manager has just resigned
3. Mom wants to have a word with the boss
4. I have a great idea I want to share with the boss
Part B. You need to hire a new young manager that generationally belongs to Generation Y? How can you make this job more appealing to him or her?
Final Tip: watch the VIDEO one last time after the lesson and discussion and you will subconsciously incorporate a lot of the language you worked on.
That's the Real World!