Engaging Gen Y

Wednesday, October 2, 2013 - 07:43

By Leon Gettler

Managers accustomed to using certain practices are going to have to change their ways – and practices – if they hope to engage and retain Gen Y. It’s absolutely essential. Over the next 15 years, we will witness the exit of almost half of our workforce, mostly from the retiring Baby Boomer generation. Within the next decade, it will be a completely different workforce. By then, most employees will be Gen Y. Managers have to start dealing with it now.

The Human Capital Institute says this group is different. They are tech natives and grew up with access and dependence on technology, they are ethnically and culturally more diverse, they are the most educated workforce in history with the most educated female demographic in history and, more to the point, they will be the largest proportion of the western workforce by 2025.

To engage them, the institute recommends giving them flexible work options like telecommuting. It also recommends companies embrace social media as a learning tool.

They should also give Gen Y constant development with lots of training, tuition reimbursement, mentoring and coaching and stretch assignments. Managers have to map out their career paths, give them more frequent feedback than they did with Gen Xers and boomers and also keep in mind that this generation prefers recognition rather than rewards. Indeed, cash is not a big motivator for them.

The Ivey Business Journal says managers have to go down this path with some caution. After all, showing favouritism to any one group is bad management. The key challenge, it says, is to create approaches to engagement that are perceived as equitable across generations.

“Employers should design strategies for each of their major employee groups: baby boomers, generation Xers, and millennials. By doing this, employees across generations should become more engaged, and will hopefully notice the commitment their employers have made in improving their employee experience.”

Online recruitment company, RecruitLoop has similar advice but also suggests managers should involve Gen Y as much as possible in creating ideas.

“Gen Ys like being part of a team. They are constantly consulting with friends and colleagues, so use that need for teamwork to involve them in work-related activities. Encourage them to share their ideas, which are their strongpoint. Not all may be good, but they can sometimes bring a fresh perspective to an old problem.”

It also says managers have to create a stimulating environment.

“Companies like Microsoft and Google know all about managing Gen Ys. They provide a stimulating work environment that is a cross between work and home, with areas for rest, play, interaction and solitude, which employees are encouraged to use as they see fit. Their employees work longer hours, but because it doesn’t all seem like work, they are happy to do so and are more creative because of it.”

And finally, they have to give them deadlines. “Gen Ys are not good at time management or working towards long-term goals. They are the ‘cram the night before the exam’ generation, so set them lots of small deadlines that they can achieve.”