Mentoring Generation Next

I’ve had a first hand look at the managers of the future and it’s terrifying.

Seriously, it’s like watching a train wreck. So not surprisingly, it got me thinking…

Generation Y through to Next are the most connected generations in human history. By that I mean, they are technologically and informationally the best connected. What they choose to do with that information of course, is entirely dependent on a number of key variables.

Generations Next have always understood online community, what I see them struggling with is group unity. They seem to go through the standards of group development (form, storm, norm and perform) however, they are more interested in ‘ticking the boxes’ rather than doing the job to the best of their ability…unless of course they are going to directly benefit.

So as a business owner/ manager, how do you ensure best performance from your Gen Next staffers? Empowerment and mentoring. Generation Next are thinkers. They are wired differently, because for them access has always been pervassive, their concept of ‘No’ isn’t personal. However, their ability to work within the confines of a groups, to constructively manage through differences of opinions can be problematic.

I’ve spent the better part of last 18 months involved in a publishing project with Generation Next and have been astounded by the way they have managed (and by this I mean bullied and allowed themselves to be bullied) their way through both the process and one another.

Unlike those of us who remember life pre-internet, the networked generation is a generation of individualised agendas, not intrinsically matched to group-work environments. A sweeping generalisation? No, sadly I don’t believe it is.

However, it does raise a key issue for managers (and educators) of today and the near future. How can we enable them to give the best performance of Gen Next within a traditionally structured work environment, while maintaining (celebrating and nurturing) their individuality and creativity? Is it possible, or does it require a reworking of the organic structure of the modern-day corporate environment?

I’ve discussed this with university students, corporate managers and CEO’s and it’s a topic of interest (in some cases genuine concern) across the board.

Generation NEXT Participate. Hence the popularity of social and mobile media. They facilitate and embrace their multi-tasking participatory lifestyles. So what happens when you bring a group of Generation Ys and Nexts into a room to work on a project with a deadline but no rules?
If you’re like me, you try to show them a little direction, share a little wisdom, watch them as they stumble and be sure to ‘catch them’ before they fall too hard to recover and learn.

But I’m not sure my well-intentioned habits are what they need at all. These guys need the promise of the train wreck to perform. To prove their point and for the most part they will. The way they get there will at times be frightfully ugly, but as a wiser head on older shoulders catch yourself before you try to manage Generation Next the way you were.

They do things differently. That doesn’t make it any better or any worse, it just means YOU have to STOP, LISTEN and LEARN from them. Because they’ll tell you what they need, if you take the time to understand them.

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