By now the lower ranks of the proverbial corporate ladder have been completely taken over by Generation-Y, a group of people roughly between the ages of 18 and 29 years. Much has been made about the unique characteristics that define this generation, from their constant need to be connected, to their rather conservative perspective on the market. Just like the generations before them, there is also well-documented tension between Gen-Y and their older counterparts. Gen-Y is often perceived by some as being lazy, having a sense of entitlement and lacking in social skills. Regardless of your position, the simple fact is that soon this generation will assume the responsibility of middle-upper management, and their performance will largely determine the success of our economy in the next few decades.
According to Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, Gen-Y will make up approximately 75% of the global workforce by 2025! So there is incentive to better understand and prepare young professionals for the next steps in their career (As well as incentive to maximize their productivity in the workplace today!). With that said, here are four ways that you can be a better manager to your Generation-Y employees.
1. Make them feel like they have an impact on your business
Gen-Y wants to be a part of something, and they don’t want to wait 10 years until they are able to do it. Now certainly, this doesn’t mean that every entry-level employee should be given control of the budget or allowed to make strategic decisions for the company. However, there are small things that you can do as a manager that will go a long way in both developing them as leaders and maximizing their productivity. Give them the autonomy to make basic decisions on non-critical components of a project. Create an environment where they are comfortable with and encouraged to share their thoughts and opinions. Even if those opinions aren’t acted on, the sense that their contribution is valued will make them more productive for your company.
2. Build loyalty in smaller doses
Let’s face it, corporate loyalty is almost something that can be taught in a high school history class. Gone are the days of pension programs and employees beginning and ending a career at the same company. Gen-Y workers simply aren’t motivated by traditional means such as higher salary (Of course they are motivated by money, but there are other factors that are considered by them, such as growth opportunity, freedom of social media access and job security). Many companies have unrealistic expectations about corporate loyalty, where the employee is expected to associate with the brand name first and their co-workers second. Gen-Y employees are far more loyal to their immediate co-workers and superiors than to the brand they serve. As a manager even of a small group, create a culture of teamwork, recognition and growth, and you will find your employees far more satisfied, and much less likely to jump ship.
3. Set a clear success path for employees to grow within the company
This one goes hand in hand with building loyalty. Gen-Y employees do not feel loyal to corporations, because they don’t believe that corporations are loyal to them. They came of age during one of the worst economic time periods in our nation’s history, and they have seen their parents and other adult role models let go from companies that they had been ‘loyal’ to for a number of years. In their minds, that loyalty isn’t reciprocated, and their experience in a down economy has taught them to look out for themselves. To this end, members of Gen-Y change their first jobs after just over 2 years! Still, despite Gen-Y’s pessimism, many would prefer to stay with their organizations and grow. They leave because they feel like they have no other choice. So when onboarding Gen-Y new-hires, work with them to determine their career goals, and develop a pathway for them to reach those goals. Designate specific milestones and metrics that will help them to move their way up the ladder and not feel as though they have to leave in order to advance their careers.
4. Embrace their way of doing things
Gen-Y is inherently different from Gen-X and the Baby Boomers. They are a results-driven group, and don’t enjoy the confines of a 9-5 work day. That may draw criticism, but they are ready and willing to work nights and weekends to get their work done. They may be connected to the Internet and social media almost too much, which may lead to distraction at the work place, but it also has given them an unmatched network of information, and they are able to conduct research at light speed when compared to prior generations. Clearly, there is a balance, but by harnessing the characteristics of Gen-Y, you will give them a sense of purpose and value while at the same time improving your business’ success.
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