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CHUNG Kweon-Taek

BRAVO: Understanding the New Generation

CHUNG Kweon-Taek

Sept. 8, 2011

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To get a tongue-in-cheek, younger generation's view on life and work, the Internet offers “43 Commandments for the Office Worker.” Among these funny so-called commandments are: “Hardship makes you ill,” “The early bird is more tired,” “Being nice makes people not so nice,” “If you can't enjoy it, try to avoid it.”

The irreverent commandments are for those in their 20's to mid-30's, the generation that began working in the 2000s. They have been at the forefront of the sea of change that technology has brought to the workplace and our daily lives and are gaining more and more influence.

Not surprisingly, the tone of the commandments can aggravate older workers. The difference between the old and new generation at some workplaces may be so wide that it may be hard to believe they live in the same age. But the older generation's concerns for the younger generation are nothing new. In particular, the older cohorts oftentimes ask themselves, “Should I try to understand them and act accordingly or advice them to change?”

It would be easy to dismiss the younger generation as naive and inexperienced. However, with the vast potential and capabilities this generation possesses, it would be a mistake to disregard them. With a totally different background, for example years of experience abroad, proficient IT skills, wide range of interests and network formation, the new generation is able to think outside of the box. They also don't hesitate when it comes to expressing their emotions and ideas and are passionate about their endeavors.

These characteristics are no longer seen as just mere impulse or bravado but recognized as factors for success. They are also changing the way we do business. The creators and founder of Twitter came together to change how people around the world communicate with each other. And no introduction is needed for Mark Zukerburg, who launched Facebook from his Harvard dorm room.

According to a Statistics Korea survey, those born after 1980 comprised 21.3% of the workforce as of August 2010. How companies merge the new generation's personality, tech savvy skill set and innovative ideas with the older generation's stereotypes and strict order of rank in Korean society must be tackled to raise competitiveness. In addition, extensive research must be done as the generation is fast rising as a key consumer group.

Samsung Economic Research Institute interviewed and surveyed regular workers between the ages of 20 and 34, some of whom were middle managers, to find out the characteristics of this new generation and effective ways of management. After the responses were compiled, they were divided into five chief characteristics:

"Broad Network & Specifications" (those with an extensive social network and seeks to accumulate work experience); "Reward-Sensitive" (sensitive to performance evaluations and rewards); "Adaptable" (unafraid of new things and are highly adaptable); "Voice" (open and honest about their thoughts and emotions); and "Oriented to myself" (personal lives take precedent over work).

Taking the first letter of each category, the new generation workforce has been named the "BRAVO Generation." How should the BRAVO Generation be handled to tap into their true potential?

Firstly, for those in the first group (B), managers should actively provide opportunities for growth by allowing them to form networks both in- and outside of work. This includes encouraging them to participate in various research groups or clubs thereby helping them to quickly adapt to the organization and cooperate with their co-workers. In turn, the company could use their vast network to find top quality talent while creating a close-knit, learning organization.

For those in the second group (R), an objective evaluation criterion should be established, and the evaluations should be conveyed immediately. Another system is also needed to allow the evaluations to be challenged. Good job performance needs to be acknowledged and congratulated. And in addition to financial rewards, opportunities for career development should also be provided.

Companies may want to fully utilize instant messaging and social network services such as Twitter to effectively provide business information to those in the third group (A). Also, a work environment where digital equipment is often used should be established because the group's proficient IT skills will not only improve work efficiency but also contribute to the company's marketing and product development.

Efforts should be made listen to the opinions and ideas of the fourth group (V). Various communication channels must be established and creativity must be encouraged. Also, it is imperative that orders be fully explained, including the goal and background, and continuous coaching and support is recommended to ensure efficiency.

Finally, for those in the fifth group (O), their privacy must be respected and they need be provided with a certain level of balance between their work and personal lives. Management should think of ways to enable employees to work effectively within office hours. And the conventional focus on quantity of work time needs to be shifted to quality of the work results.

It is obvious that the difference between the old and new generation is vast. It is imperative that companies first recognize these differences and uncover the potentials and strengths in order to utilize them for further development. The new generation must now take on the role of leaders of our society and businesses. And it is the role of the older generations to pave the way and provide support so that they can successfully lead us to a brighter future.

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