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Generation Y and New Intergenerational Issues, with Steve Gavatorta

In T+D Magazine (March 2012) from ASTD there is a great article from Steve Gavatorta concerning the arrival of Generation Y into management positions and the reaction of their baby-boomer direct reports. Any “young-gun” coming into a management position is bound to cause some upset for the more senior staff, but Steve argues that it is even worse this time, given the GenY tendancy to overlook some specific communication preferences of other generations (namely: face-to-face!). I contacted Steve with more questions, which he was kind enough to answer here…

(If you want to read the article first, follow this link…)


Intergenerational relationships have always existing in the workplace, just like intercultural relationships. Why is the emergence of GenY on the workplace causing so much “fuss”? How is the difference so different to previous generation-gaps?

I think the main reason is Gen Y’s strength and experience using technology – be it using advanced technological devices and/or social media venues to interact and communicate. Gen Y people grew up using these tools/methods to communicate so it is what “they know” and its comfortable for them. Meanwhile, other generations had to learn a bit later in life, so its harder for them to grasp and it’s not their main means of connecting and communicating…also some from other generations have also refused to advance with the technology/new communication methods – all of these reasons are creating a natural divide.


If we believe the communication experts, using non face-to-face methods for communications could lead to a lot of misunderstanding (GenY use these tools a lot). Add to this the initial intergenerational “culture” differences that cloud understanding and its even worse…. What do you think?

I agree wholeheartedly – this method of communication is creating the big divide…two things happen when people solely use non face-to-face methods to communicate: Firstly, messages can get misconstrued and misunderstood. Secondly, there is a missing human factor that gets lost as well (facial gestures, eye contact, tone, body language) which diminishes “meaning” in communication.  All these things lead to misunderstandings and “watered down” messages and leads to ineffective communication.

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Onboarding GenY: Breaking old habits to build new habits

Alexia Vernon kicks off her session by admitting that yes, she is a member of Generation Y. Don’t get upset. She also has some experience and she has a vision… Let’s see what it is.


Why is better onboarding so important? Why this talk? Aren’t we doing OK? According to Alexia Vernon, the first day of many young professionals joining a new job looks a lot like this:

  • Sit in reception and wait for a while unsure what to do
  • Go to HR and fill in all the paperwork
  • Boss walks in after 3 hours and says “Sorry. Crazy day for me. Joust keep yourself busy and I’ll see you tomorrow…”


Alexia asked us to imagine our own first day at work, first job. What was it like and what advice would you give to your boss?

At my table, I heard from:

  • A first-dayer at HP who was given a big book and told to “Read This”. She sat and read for hours.
  • Another person was left waiting in a corridor area for the morning because the facilities guys hadn’t made her pass-card yet
  • I actually remembered my first day at secondary school – I arrived in the wrong clothes!
  • …and my first job, when my boss WAS present and spent the whole day with me (awesome!)


According to Alexia Vernon, most people see the onboarding process as a simple collection of things designed to handle compliance, processes, facilities, training and development. What onboarding should be about is building habits. Habits that are in line with the company and the joiner.



With regard to GenY, onboarding processes are awesomely important because by the end of day 1, most GenYers will have decided if they will or will not stay with the company in the long-term. What is important for young professionals is not responsibilities and tasks. It’s not benefits and holiday-booking processes. What GenY joiners care about is fit-to-culture, purpose and company culture.

What does your onboarding process focus on?


Many of the non-GenYers might be inclined to think that they should therefore simply do the opposite of whatever they do at the moment. “GenY is just the opposite of everything I am.”

NO. Sitting with @innovativesarah , I was happy to again hear the idea of “NOT EITHER/OR but AND” Sarah told me its the “Zen Generation”. We need the middle ground…


What does Alexia Vernon suggest for a good day start? 10 top tips:

  • Focus on the big picture, not the minutia
  • Help them to dive in to things, to get started and productive – the rest will figure itself out later…
  • Help create autonomy. GenY wants to feel that they can take things into hand, move on and have impact.
  • Give a focus for the first week
  • Make it clear what success looks like in their job
  • Give them tools to find what they need themselves
  • Make sure you give constructive feedback and what is and is not working – this will ensure that the habits they WILL create in the first 90days are the right ones
  • Ask about , care about and do something with the opinion and input of new joiners
  • Be sure to stretch them …just a little out of their comfort zone …to keep them in flow
  • Help them to learn how to communicate well in the workplace *

* note from DAN: Watch this space for a future guest-post-interview with Steve Gavatorta on how GenY needs to communicate better


…oh yeh, and one other thing:
Proactively answer all questions about lunch 🙂


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