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Generation Y: A New Species

By Sharyn Raiti
Posted: April 10, 2008, from the January 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

You may have noticed that a new species has arrived in spas and is quickly taking over the beauty industry. The newcomers may even have sent you a text message or an e-mail to warn of their invasion—that is, if your cell phone is switched on and if you are online.
       Staffing challenges are not new; in fact, the hot topic on a daily basis is the difficulty spa owners and managers face with motivating, and keeping the younger generation focused. Although it’s great news that some help has arrived, now you need to learn about it and how to speak its language. If you have staffing concerns, feel like you are treading water and still think that one size fits all, perhaps it is time to reconsider and be open to new ways of communicating. There is a good chance that your spa team is a generational mix, so they are all speaking different languages. This is where the challenge begins. (See The Generational Mix.)

How Gen Y thinks
       If you consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Generation Y has the same basic wants as any generation—food, shelter, a sense of belonging and a purpose—but in a radically different way.

Worst Leadership Traits as Stated by Gen Y

Tunnel vision
Won't delegate
Poor knowledge
Limited organizational skills
Boring educators
Disrespectful to younger generation
Intimidating attitude
Formal approach to grooming

       Generation Y has a different thought process because they have never experienced anything other than a great economy that offers the best of everything—life is rich and abundant; an all-you-can-eat buffet, so to speak. What intrigues an older generation may bore them and where change may totally blow you out of the water, they love it. Gen Y is not consumed with the past, so unlike other generations, they aren’t stuck there. They are free spirits who view the world with a vastly fresh approach and they question anything that gets in the way. The different generations are worlds apart, so the gap needs to be bridged and this is the beginning of the “how.”

Technology
       Members of Generation Y won’t accept anything less than the latest in technology; they are the experts when your computer has a mind of its own. They grew up with technology, remember, and it’s the way they communicate best. When you needed to write an assignment or study for an exam, you went to the library to find the textbooks and research information mostly using encyclopedias. Gen Y surfs the Internet for the latest, greatest information, and finds it in a flash. There are three speeds for this generation—fast, faster and fastest. Those in Gen Y are impatient, information-hungry global communicators who chat to their peers all over the world at the speed of light while the rest slowly update old computers (because there is nothing wrong with them) or are still using dial-up rather than broadband wireless. It’s no wonder Gen Y has difficulty communicating with other generations and why other generations can’t communicate with its members.

The future
       Ask any Generation Y person about what mobile phone you should buy and they will know; ask about their career goals in five year’s time and they will stare blankly at you, wondering what language you are speaking. Gen Y is focused on the now—today, tomorrow, next week, next month—short-term goals are cool, but go beyond that, and you lose their interest. This new species has a short attention span and a busy life filled with fun, entertainment and, most certainly, balance. Those in Gen Y know that life is short, should be enjoyed and shouldn’t be wasted on things that can’t be controlled. It’s a “just get on with it” attitude and you could learn a lot from them if only you would listen to them, ask their opinion and include them in your brainstorming sessions. They have a lot to say, and it’s often relevant and worthwhile. They have an unconventional approach to solving problems that may sound off-the-wall initially, but that can often provide solutions in a different way.

The perks
       Gen Y lives at home, or moves out and then returns, gets married later and is career-oriented. It seeks flexibility in the workplace, including weekends off, relaxed dress codes, job incentives, more fun—even job-sharing, so splitting a 12-hour shift between a Gen X and Gen Y person is ideal. Meet members of this generation halfway; your rosters can be made more flexible by adjusting to meet their requests, while meeting the needs of your spa. At the end of the day, you still have a business to run and too much flexibility will breed disrespect, so remember to be fair, but not a pushover. Make them aware of benefits and advantages that make the job great.
       They’re looking for fewer rules and more input, and will surprise you with the creative and innovative schemes they imagine. To maximize performance and help Gen Y achieves targets, be aware it loves incentives that lead toward time off. Consider such things as met monthly targets being rewarded with two hours off or a mini holiday. Gen Y is always saving for its next vacation and doesn’t mind at all about having outstanding credit card debt. It is living for the now, not for the future. Simply ask anyone in Gen Y what perks and incentives are attractive and take it from there.
       Statistics show that 48% of the general workforce does not intend to stay in its current job for more than two years, but 63% of Generation Y employees stay less than two years with an employer.

Species connection
       To have a successful impact on members of Gen Y, you must build rapport and establish a connection with their hearts. Tell the truth always. They were born with built-in lie detectors and will know if you are railroading them or being even slightly economical with the truth. You may have been told and taught to respect your elders and you wouldn’t consider anything less, but Gen Y wants respect from you and will offer it in return, but not the other way around. It is looking for its purpose on the planet, something to believe in and someone who will believe in GenY. Invest your time, energy and care with this new species by demonstrating the personal touch; members will respond on all levels and surprise you with their talents. Generation Yers don’t want to play safe and will not conform. They are bold, forthcoming and are risk-takers—they don’t just think outside the box, they actually live there. What a wonderful generation to keep the industry inspired and on its toes!

Independence
       In an increasingly impersonal world, Generation Y kids grew up with parents who both worked to provide a double income, and had every conceivable appliance in the house, as well as two cars parked in the driveway. Because of this, Gen Yers learned to be independent at an early age. After-school care or being home alone was considered the norm and parents called by telephone to check on their kids, but work demands meant they were not able to meet them after school. This independence has bred a confident group of people, able to take care of themselves and, by the time they become employed by you, they are talented and have already been exposed to the workforce. This means they know and understand the basic expectations of working, but will want to know more from you, so get ready for lots of questions when you are giving them direction. They have known nothing but unlimited choice and opportunity, so when employing Generation Yers, have your list of perks and incentives ready. Be organized to impress them and tell them what makes your business the employer of choice.

Recruitment
       What makes your job such a great one? What makes working in your business better than working at a spa down the road? These are relevant questions to ask yourself before you place your next job advertisement.
       If you are seeking new staff members, try doing it online, but be sure to acknowledge their application within 24 hours or sooner, and link them to your business Web site for further information and to keep their interest. This will be the first impression to a Gen Y therapist and the beginning of how you do business. They are looking for innovation in the workplace and if you can’t or won’t come up with it, they’ll go to someone who will. Unfortunately, Gen Yers are probably not thinking career; they are more likely to be thinking car or holiday—they have big dreams in the pool of life, but are short-term and lifestyle driven. To be really interested in working with you, they need to be convinced you have something to offer and that their voice will count. Be sure to be armed with why you are the best employer and state it with sincerity in order to capture the best candidates.

Marketing
       As you continue to compete for market share, you will need to be innovative and slick when it comes to attracting Generation Y employees. These merchants of cool are on the lookout for the hottest trends to hit the market, but with a twist to catch their attention (and hold it for a moment). Yes, they like to spend money because they have it, or access to it. Did you know that at the age of 11, a person begins to form brand preferences and, by age 12, is heavily influenced by fashion, beauty and skin care trends, as well as by our family’s choices. If mom uses a certain brand of skin care, it is likely to influence her daughter’s choice to use the same brand simply because it is trusted and endorsed by mom. What this really says is that consumers are heavily influenced by family and marketing at the very impressionable age, so if you want the future skin and beauty market share, you need to capture their attention now. Gen Yers are your future clientele and spa employees.

Part of something great
       Generation Y just wants to be part of something great—the buzz, the hype, the now. It will take on what you offer, just be sure it’s exciting and you are communicating with its members in a way they understand. Embrace Generation Y and welcome it with open arms into your business. It will keep your mind open to the latest and greatest in the challenging and rewarding world of esthetics.

The Generational Mix
Who is who and what makes the different? The generations include the Builders (61 and older), Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and the Millennium Generation--the next generation to hit the spa industry.

Baby Boomers
Generation X
Generation Y
Born between 1948–1964 (42-60 years old)

Committed to working and saving hard

Have a “save first” attitude

Stockpile for a rainy day

Like leadership guidance in a work environment

Prefer authority and rules

Like a steady pace and consistency

Promotion at work is earned, not given

Loyal, long-term employees

Married young

Like stability, tend to struggle with change

May find technology overwhelming

May feel the world is too fast

Watched television and played records

Used pay phones

May view Gen Y as slap-dash, impolite and disrespectful

Born between 1965–1979 (27-41 years old)

Motivated by environment

Want contribution and to add value

Need to be well-informed

Prefer casual feel in the workplace

Like the truth, but can be too honest

Like a challenge

Goal-oriented and like motivation

Value self-worth and fulfillment

Want the top job—high achievers

Watched videos and played cassettes

Used typewriters

Seek career growth—training and education included

Progression in plan important

Born between 1980–1994 (under 24 years old)

Instant generation, are impatient

It’s all about speed—time is of the essence

Stimulus junkies—nothing stands still

Confident and highly independent

Embrace and love change

Want to have input

Need immediate answers

Want the latest training techniques

Short, sharp attention span

Ambitious and reward-driven

Want the top job immediately

Communication difficulties

Watch cable television, DVDs, use iPods, mobile phones, computers and Internet

Technology addicts—the brand new of today is obsolete tomorrow

Free spirits—lack stability

Seek life balance and want to make the most of life

Work to live not live to work