Chances are you know a young person… You’ve seen these young people multitasking five activities at once Don Tapscott, Grown Up Digital
One of the most prominent pieces of feedback about I-Geners is the lack of attention span that they have. They are used to multitasking like no other generation has been. Multitasking is typically associated with slower performance and increased errors.
Generation Y are incredibly tech savvy but I-Geners have been born into an age where they can have multiple sources of connection keeping them wired and online wherever they go and constantly.
There is much debate as to whether this is a problem or not. Feedback from other coaches has been regarding concentration levels and the need to be connected all the time, we are hearing more examples of times when coaching has been interrupted by the client responding to a text message or answering a call.
Many laboratory studies have proved that multitasking is not efficient. However, Rosen (2010) feels that these laboratory studies are not reflective of real life, for example there are often unlimited time periods to perform tasks in the real world whereas laboratory studies are more restrictive. He uses the study of students who were asked to study for a test and take it, the first group were uninterrupted the second had many text messages etc. The first group were quicker at answering the test but both groups did equally as well in the final test. He also states that there is often “slack” time when you are completing more than one task, when you are waiting for a reaction and multitasking can actually be beneficial with utilizing this unproductive wait time.
I-Geners appear to crave multitasking and many experts are now starting to see that although there may be some disadvantages there can also be some advantages too. A study (Kenyon and Lyons in 2007 stated by Rosen, 2010) recently found that those that multitasked actually had 46% more useable time in their day than those that didn’t. Another study conducted at the American University in Washington (2007) found that I-Geners felt that instant messaging and chatting were things that were done in the background while doing some more primary tasks. As non-I-Geners we also need to understand that they potentially will get bored if they are asked to unitask.
Identity – IRL or URL?
The I Generation are used to being able to create their “ideal” image online and that means they can filter out their perceived flaws. This is a generation who know how to build their own brand image, so that they can grab exposure for the things they want to. They live their life through online media.
The behind the screen confidence they have helps them in real life. Rosen (2010) states an example of a teacher who was struggling with a classroom where students were too shy to discuss in person the topics raised in a book. However, once he had opened up a forum in Facebook the students opened up on the forum and then began to be more confident in class sharing their thoughts face to face.
They are also a generation who have more contacts than any other group – and those contacts are from across the world. Increasingly they are third generation children and have less easy to follow cultural backgrounds. Therefore their identities are created individually.
The I-Generation are connected online all the time. They utilize their global network and understand far more about the larger world than any generation beforehand. They can virtually visit other countries and see no difficulty communicating with people around the globe.
Interestingly though, contrary to the original belief that this generation would be socially awkward there is some discussion as to whether this is actually the case.
A 2014 study by Randstad states that they actually crave face-to-face and direct experiences. They live for real life experiences and have coined the phrase IRL not URL (In Real Life not URL). This face-to-face support also reinforces the importance of their family. Rosen (2010) states a 2007 MTC and AP Youth Happiness Study which found that the number one thing that made teenagers happy was spending time with their family and 57% stated their number one role model as a family member.
Decision Making – I want it all and I want it now!
With instant feedback and news sound bites there are some arguments that I-Geners will have lost the ability to analyse in any depth and to understand nuances (Elias Abojaude, Stanford University). Rosen (2010) argues that we should be adapting the way in which we teach to ensure that it is suitable for this generation. They need small, manageable bites of information not lengthy information to read.
Rosen also states that the issue that will face the I Generation is that although they do not need to study the way previous generations did where we needed to store lots of information in their own brains, they now need to learn a new skill of analyzing what is an opinion of someone against what is fact. A study of college students by Rosen (2008) found that 42% used only the first five links on a internet search engine and only 3% used links on more than the first three pages which most educators would argue is necessary to find the best and most reliable information.
Rosen (2010) states that I-Geners are also strongly motivated by positive reinforcement, which will affect their decision-making. They want people to appreciate their work and reinforce their decisions. This comes not only from the immediate social interaction they have with others on social media but also through video gaming.
The social networks also increase their need for collective reflection, by discussing online through networks, blogs etc. the I-Geners have learnt that learning collectively is more fun than individually and this will also affect their ability to make decisions on their own.
So what does this mean for a coach?
Recently I have had the opportunity to coach a few clients who are classified as from the I Generation and just making their entrance into the business world.
Lets take the example of John a 19-year-old entrepreneur and a self-funded client of mine. He has amazing focus and resolve to be successful, he chose to be coached because a lot of his role models in the business world talk about having a coach and he therefore thinks it is the “right” thing to do. There is a lot of discussion about what he can do to be the best he possibly can be. We discuss ways in which he will work to be in the best possible shape to succeed. He sets tough targets for himself in terms of personal growth (meditation and fitness) and professionally. He works hard at everything he does and has made his own identity and path by dropping out of one of the top US universities to focus on his own business. He appears to want to create his own brand identity. He is committed to the coaching but often he gives me the impression he is distracted – that the conversation is not as deep as it could be and that maybe he is not giving me the depth some of the other clients I have coached. At this point I started to question what value I was bringing to him, I wondered if although he clearly would happily pay for the session to be inline with his business idols it was really the right time or I was the right coach for him. However, about session 4 he began to open up to another level, he began to give me more information about his feelings and issues that were bothering him rather than just the practical. It moved to a deeper level of coaching.
I also had a couple of clients who were very engaged to begin with but appeared to find it overwhelming to commit to a larger number of sessions. They regularly missed our appointments. I also noticed a bit of difference in attitude when they approached a difficult topic often shying away or hiding if they had changed their mind – in one specific case to the extent that one of my clients completely dropped out of coaching on what I believe was based on the fact that she felt she had let me down by changing her mind.
On the other hand, other clients I have had have absolutely astounded me with their maturity and ability to self analyse where they are from and where they are going. They recognized the growth they were achieving from spending time finding out about themselves.
Is there a market?
Although the jury is still out about this generation, as you will now have discovered this is a generation who are complicated. They have a strong desire to be the best they can and have many conflicting challenges on their own identity both in real life and also behind the screen.
The independence that they have and strong belief in their relationships will I believe mean that they are desperate to find support from their network to get them to where they want to be. I believe that they will be looking for people to challenge them and support them to get them to where they want to be. So why can’t that be someone who has coaching skills?
How do you get yourself selected to be part of their team?
I believe there are a few considerations though we as coaches need to take on board to get “selected”:
- You have 8 seconds to grab their attention!
- I-Geners look for fun stuff, which they can interact with. They are not interested in newsletters and anything that is too text heavy will be very quickly unsubscribed from
- You will need to be looking at multi-media promotion
- They are looking for bargains and good customer care. If you make a mistake you need to apologize and show you are real. They are willing to pay for quality but if you do not deliver on this then they will choose something else
- Don’t patronize with your marketing - They need you to understand that they are not kids anymore but just haven’t got it all figured out yet.
- Avoid unnecessary jargon
- Share motivational quotes or aspirations but ensure that this is personalized rather than generic – for example pick quotes or articles to share based on conversations you have had rather than just appearing to send them out to everyone.
- Ensure you take the time to be clear of expectations on both sides
- Consider using “bite-size/laser” coaching sessions to begin with to build up their understanding of what value coaching can offer – this will fit around their need to for instant information, multitasking etc
- Consider using online group coaching (maybe even anonymously) to encourage sharing behind the screen
- Utilise this idea of online and “face-to-face” coaching to ensure that they have support in different ways
- Consider how you will deal with their need to multitask before it happens
Your role as a coach
- Encourage – they need to understand how to meet and exceed their own expectations and those around them
- Customize – ensure that they feel like an individual and that you are both clear about how they want to be coached
- Intentions – ensure you are clear about what they want and how they will benefit from coaching but you are clear about your intentions too
- Consistency – ensure you can support them in a stable manner so they know what to expect and how the sessions will run
- Authenticity – be honest and do not patronize them
Ultimately if you want to engage with the future generations and ensure that there is a market for your coaching you need to continue to observe what is going on and what matters to them. Keep up to date with generational research and what is going on in their world! This will enable you to become part of their network so they believe you are a fundamental part of their support crew!
References and further reading:
Recruiting Redefined, 2014
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1HyDn7dZ1o – Randstad (2014) Introducing Generation Z
Larry D Rosen “Rewired” Understanding the I Generation and the way they Learn (2010) – Published by Palgrove Macmillan, New York
Elias Aboujoade quoted in
http://www.fastcoexist.com/3045317/what-is-generation-z-and-what-does-it-want JEREMY FINCH
Multitasking in children http://www.regainyourtime.com/unleash-your-genius-dovidio-part-5/