A sluggish economy has forced companies large and small to reprioritize and streamline their efforts. When shaping your organization's culture and focus, there are a few things to remember when it comes to Gen Y: today's 20-somethings are eager to work, and ready for you to hire them.
It's important not to get stuck in a rut of only hiring people who are familiar in their work experience, or who have an abundance of experience. For small businesses especially, it's vital that you have innovators on staff who can set you apart from competitors, boost your prominence and round out your offerings.
With Gen Y poised to make up most of the consumer base, adding younger staffers to your team is crucial. You need people who can understand the nuances of the clients you'll cater to—that's the only way you'll best serve them and keep them coming back.
But because they've been slammed by a recession, grown up in an intensely technological age, and have been raised with a certain set of values distinct from generations before them, today's young workers require a certain amount of adjustment if you're running an office that still caters mostly to Baby Boomers.
Here are some pointers:
Technology is expected
Generation Y has grown up with access to cutting-edge technology, and so has an innate ability to master it. Because of that second-nature skill, they have readily integrated technology (smartphones, Web-based tools, text messaging, etc.) into their daily lives.
Of course, it's expected that those devices carry over into their work life. Chances are, if you can't offer reliable, up-to-date technology, younger workers won't take your business seriously.
…but so are real relationships
They have grown up in an environment that prizes collaboration and cooperation. They value technology, too, but tech-based tools (like text messaging and e-mail) should not serve as a substitute for real, more direct interaction. That includes relishing the opportunity to link up with older colleagues at work, according to Deloitte research on Gen Y in the workplace.
That said, it's important that Baby Boomer employees and younger ones share a mutual respect for one another. A culture in which both ends of the age spectrum can learn from and teach each other is one that will propel a company forward and drive innovation.
They understand (and are relatively sympathetic to) tough times
Because they've been throttled into a bleak job market and, in many cases, have already faced joblessness themselves in their young careers, the younger generation is aware of the hardships faced by businesses and workers alike in a tough economy.
That, in turn, has shifted their view of what longevity at a place of employment means. They've accepted that spending a few years at a given company is sufficient, says Gen Y expert and author Lindsey Pollak. It's not just that they're itching to move onto the next new thing, they also have a different expectations, thanks to a rapidly changing work world and a recession that has limited their options to benefit from traditional up-the-corporate-ladder opportunities and job-seeking strategies. If you treat them well, though, they will stay loyal—even if that means partnering with your business after they move on to another.
They're don't want a traditional workplace
A study by Mom Corps reported in Time shows that a sizable chunk (roughly one-third) of young workers would prefer a pay cut if it meant increased flexibility at work. That means showing up outside the standard 9-to-5, if they're showing up at all. This generation more than any before it has favored more free-form work arrangements, like telecommuting.
As Dan Schawbel, a young entrepreneur himself, points out, employers that demonstrate an understanding of emerging workplace trends signals a company that's tuned into not only the future, but also its employees needs—two big pluses if you're dealing with the youngest members of the professional workforce.