Five Things You Should Know About Your Latest Class of Employees

With New Group of 'Recession Babies,' We're Seeing a Progression in the Quality of Young Professionals

By Published on .

You can call them "babies of the recession."

Members of the class of 2012 -- those walking through our agency doors and into their first jobs this year -- were born during the recession of the early "90s and are entering the workforce after spending their college years in the midst of one that was even worse.

But there's a silver lining. We're seeing a progression in the quality of young professionals. This isn't a group ready to stay in the background and learn the way things are done. This is a talent dynamic that I foresee shaping the way we work and interact, and they'll present challenges.

Here are five observations about this generation, along with some thoughts on how to help agencies navigate between them and everyone else in the office.

Loyalty is back
Each of these employees is aware that hundreds of candidates competed for the job, and they're ready to commit to building a long-term career. But they need a reason to stay. They know they bring particular skills to the table based on their digital upbringing, and they want to be assured that those skills are tapped and appreciated.

Engagement is essential
That need to have their skills matter leads this group to want to engage with clients and, even more important, inside the agency. They respect the hierarchy but don't want to defer. Agency leaders should lean into this requirement, teaching, coaching and nurturing those skills while reinforcing traditional ones necessary for success.

Watch for short circuits
No doubt, different generations in the workplace are wired differently. The new group came of age finding answers online in seconds and lacks the patience that is sometimes required to navigate processes and systems. It has less entitlement, more enlightenment than the previous wave. We see them circumventing managers (with no ill intent) to get things done quickly, so the potential for clashes is greater than ever.

Make time for face time
There's a reason the term "generation gap" was coined, and much of it relates to the tendency for miscommunication. Some people are email or text addicts, some communicate via Facebook—but we need to get back to face-to-face. Shared meaning is created through context, tone and body language—none of which comes across with a keyboard.

Harness the coffeehouse effect
These young workers are accustomed to gathering up their electronic devices and meeting in open spaces to collaborate. Like many agencies, we've reconfigured the physical space, breaking down walls and cubicles to enable this type of sharing. Get on it, if you haven't already. This way of working horizontally empowers talent at all levels and gives voice to great ideas much more quickly.

There's tremendous potential in bringing disparate generations together under one agency roof, but a successful outcome requires a new style of leadership and management.

We also need to provide a type of training that doesn't just inform and educate, but builds habits. Whether through formal or on-the-job instruction, we need to help this Google generation -- accustomed to skimming the surface and going wide -- to dig deeper. And we can't let them escape teaching moments.

Just as agencies blend new tools into the marketing mix, so we must blend new talent into a thoughtfully reimagined environment. As an industry that typically stays on the leading edge, we can show how to pull a great progression out of the Great Recession.

Beth Ann Kaminkow is president-chief executive officer of TracyLocke.

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