the Net Generation
of the greatest challenges of the skilled
leader is to seamlessly
blend work teams of mixed generations by
enhancing the strengths of each generation. The new wave of
professionals entering the workforce have had lifelong exposure to the
Internet which has worked to shape unique expectations, needs, and
definitions for success. This
group of new professionals was labeled the “Net Generation” by Don
Tapscott in his 1997 book, Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net
A new government
study outlines the work characteristics and expectations of the Net
NET-GEN CHARACTERISTICS *
The Net Generation can be generally
characterized as the most demanding generation in history, demanding
challenge, meaningful work with impact, committed coworkers, and the
ability to reach personal and financial goals. While recognizing that
Net-Geners prefer to be viewed as individuals as opposed to “a
group,” managers can benefit by understanding where this generation is
coming from and where they want to go.
Net-Geners are products of hectic, dual-career families and grew up
during a time of significant economic prosperity when Boomer parents
were able to bankroll their technology-driven lifestyle. Additionally,
this was a generation exposed to a concerted, nationwide movement by
parents, teachers and counselors in the 1980s to build their
this period, it became general practice for trophies and certificates to
be awarded for every participatory endeavor, regardless of skill or
contribution. The result is generation with a strong sense of entitlement and
self-confidence, as well as a need to be recognized.
employers and employees will need to manage their expectations, and
strive to achieve mutually beneficial expectations. For the Net-Gener,
this means coming to the realization that they probably won’t become
superstars in the workplace overnight. At
the same time, employers must understand the Net-Geners expect to
receive challenging assignments shortly after arriving onboard, to be
recognized for achievement, and to be paid for performance. Growing up
on the go, Net-Geners have been steered to maximize their time,
particularly with parental influence and guidance, and may not have
learned how to set work priorities themselves. They
believe they can do it all and expect managers to feel the same.
and fortune are high on the list of Net-Geners’ personal goals. In
a January 2007 report from the Pew Research Center, 81% of 18 to 25 year
olds polled said that getting rich is their generation’s most, or
second most, important life goal; 51% said the same about becoming
in fact, is by far their biggest problem, with 30% citing financial
concerns as their top worry. Net-Geners
may earn more than their parents did, but their earnings have less
purchasing power. Additionally, many do not have health care coverage
and may come into the workplace carrying more educational debt than any
previous generation. While
the Net Generation may view getting rich as their own generation’s top
goal, it is not always a top response in work-related surveys. One
of their personal top drivers when job hunting is the need to feel as
though they are making a difference, according to research and surveys
commissioned by the Council for Excellence in Government.
Managing in the Net-Gen World will take more time,
and perhaps more patience. Net-Geners will expect more feedback, more
often, both to recognize their accomplishments and to help them move to
the next stage in their work project. While they will want flexibility
in how they do their work, they also need structured accountability and
deadlines. Routine meetings
will bore them and the formality, slow speed, and repetitiveness of
bureaucracy, will frustrate them. It will be important to educate them
in the reasons for procedures, processes, and the repetitiveness of some
tasks. Additionally, expect there to be give-and-take on communications.
Older managers will need
exposure to the greater efficiencies from text messaging and wiki
collaboration, while younger workers will need tutelage on the need for
documentation to meet statutory and regulatory requirements as well as
verification that they can adequately judge the credibility of online
sources of information.
their quest to succeed, Net-Geners will be looking for genuine
mentoring. This is a generation that when asked to write about someone
they respect, often selects their own parents. They respect the
knowledge that others have to share, and while they may overplay their
own assets, they do not underplay the skill sets that older generations
have. The challenge for coaching this generation will be to know when
they need supervision and when they need growing room and to make time
to help them improve.
are also used to being heard. They will want to share their ideas with
senior leaders and decision-makers. Organizations would do well to
determine how to balance protocol and openness to ensure they do not
stifle the creativity and energy that the Net Generation will bring to
the workplace. At the same time, Net-Geners may need some mentoring on
office politics and the chain of command. There is a place for both
protocol and openness, but the balance is starting to tilt toward the
Net-Geners as organizational hierarchies begin to flatten under the
positive weight of collaboration.
the Net Generation is integrated into the workplace, managers and
leaders may discover more similarities than differences among all four
working generations. Also, “cuspers,” those at the beginning or
ending years of a generation, may possess a mix of norms,
characteristics and values, based on their upbringing and other
influences in their lives. The end goal is to help teammates of
different generations find common ground, mutual appreciation, and
They don’t want to be labeled.
They want continuous feedback and recognition.
They value genuine mentoring. They want autonomy,
responsibility, and challenges.
They need structured accountability.
They’re not interested in “paying their dues.”
They’re used to having their opinions heard.
They’re used to group/team problem solving.
They expect high tech/constant stimulation.
They’re used to living in a 24/7 environment.
Source: Net Generation, http://www.cio.gov/Documents/NetGen.pdf