Managing Generation Ys

February 5, 2012

Generation Y is largest generation behind Baby Boomers. Often referred to as Millennials or Generation Next, these workers, born between 1982 and 2000, are just now entering the marketplace and seem to be creating quite a stir in companies all over the world.

Unlike the generations who came before, Generation Y has grown up during the high tech revolution and as a result, has never known a world without video games, compact discs, the internet, microwaves, and ATMs. They’ve also had the benefit of growing up during a child-focused time period, where they received plenty of positive reinforcement and investment in their skill set from doting parents.

Because of these differences, Generation Y seems to have a hard time meshing in workplace environments stymied by lack of progress and those rigidly stuck in past ways of doing business. To best understand how to manage this new breed of employee, capitalizing on their strengths and minimizing their weak spots, you must first understand how they think and what they value.

  • Provide Clear Leadership and Direction – For a generation raised on plenty of structure and supervision, Gen-Y feels most comfortable when they know what is expected of them by leaders that provide clear direction.
  • Stimulating Challenges – The Y Generation craves learning opportunities because of years packed with the stimulation of scheduled activities like music lessons, karate, and dance. As a result, they do best when assigned projects they can learn from. They are also less interested in staying on the company track and more interested in building a career path. Giving them opportunities for growth and to amass more skills, keeps them satisfied.
  • A Fun Environment – Growing up during the most casual and prosperous time in history to date, has given this group a preference for a laid-back work style (and dress code), as well as an overall positive outlook. Injecting a bit of levity in the work day, or fostering an environment of camaraderie in the workplace will reward you with an engaged group of employees, comfortable with sharing ideas and working together towards a common goal.
  • Diversity & Technology – Both have always been a part of this generation’s existence, which is why most are not only at ease communicating via email, Skype or text but prefer these tools, as well as working in environments that support and celebrate diversity.
  • Value Feedback and Input Gen-Y values giving and receiving feedback on a regular basis, allowing them to feel like valued members of a team and to gauge their performance. They have an expectation of respect for themselves and their ideas, even if they are new or inexperienced. By measuring specific goals and doling out constructive criticism and plenty of praise, you will build loyalty with this group.
  • Flexibility Sometimes referred to as the busiest generation, Yers value their lifestyle over career. A rigid schedule or overly demanding schedule that cuts into their work/life balance is the best way to lose a Gen Y employee. Flexibility in the workplace is essential to retention of younger workers, according to a 2009 study released by Corporate Voices for Working Families. Offering flexible schedules, job shares and work from home options are sure-fire ways to keep these employees involved.

Though this may sound like a huge shift from your current management style, it’s one you’re going to need to start embracing more and more, since Generation Y is the future and it’s your job to groom them for it.

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