• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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BusinessDay

Generation Y aims for the sky

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Craig Nathanson, online faculty member at the University of Roehampton, London discusses the changing sphere of business education challenging the notion that Generation Y workers are more concerned about work-life balance than rising through the ranks.

Only two years ago, the press was reporting that organisations and companies worldwide should be nervous about or be wary of Generation Y employees — those anywhere between ages 18 and 34. Not because they are ambitious or ruthless in their pursuit to the top, but rather that their work ethic wasn’t so strong. Since being called “the most high-maintenance workforce in the history of the world,” Generation Y has faced an uphill battle to change the perception of entitlement that often accompanies them.

Born into a world of global connectivity fuelled largely by the Internet and wider technological advancements, Generation Y is often labelled as having inflated self-esteem and high expectations.

This presumably would overspill into their professions. However, tech-savvy and highly educated Generation Y is actually looking for meaningful and challenging work along with flexibility and work-life balance as well as a “business mentor” instead of a boss. While myths of idleness and privilege perpetuate an undesirable impression of Generation Y, much of the evidence actually contradicts these stereotypes when examined closely. Though Generation Y employees place a high value on family, friends and leisure, they also possess a good work ethic driven by a desire to succeed and further their careers. Rather than being the most high-maintenance generation, perhaps we should say it is the most ambitious.

As a result, this ambition is now utilised in businesses around the world, and the uptick in business education is an excellent indicator. Institutions like the University of Roehampton offer the online degree programmes that Generation Y professionals seek because they can earn their degree while working full time and apply what they learn in class to their daily job almost immediately — a win-win for both student and employer. For many working professionals, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) has been an essential part of their business armoury, equipping them with the skills to succeed in their careers. While an MBA had previously been associated with experienced business figures, now it is becoming much more popular with professionals in their 30s keen to quickly climb the corporate ladder or start their own businesses. Without it, many younger Generation Y professionals feel constrained by a lack of prospects or career development opportunities.

With approximately 70 percent of the population in Nigeria below the age of 35, Nigeria is well positioned to nurture its deep pool of talent eager to rise through the corporate ranks.

The challenge will be to retain this talent within Nigeria.

By its very nature, Generation Y has an international outlook, looking beyond borders to experience a wider world of work and opportunity. For some, the MBA itself can open the door to international experiences, learning in an online or classroom environment with students from across the world.

The significant impact of Generation Y on the corporate landscape has already become evident; we only need to look to some of the world’s largest and most profitable businesses to witness this. It’s crucial that we dispel the negativity around Generation Y workers and embrace their fresh approach to business along with their desire for personal and professional development.

Nathanson is an educator, author, speaker and coach for mid-life adults. Nathanson’s most recent books include The Best Manager, Getting Better Results WITH People and Joyful Work in Midlife: The Five Stages.