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How to work with Gen Y

Date

Kelly Gregorio

Zoom in on this story. Explore all there is to know.

Don't assume that a Gen Y, or Millennial, employee will fit straight into your workplace culture.

Don't assume that a Gen Y, or Millennial, employee will fit straight into your workplace culture.

The interview went well. The candidate showed up in something other than jeans and with no mobile phone in sight. They did not update their Facebook status mid-interview, nor did they cite Pinterest as their portfolio. In fact, the candidate seemed eager to learn, optimistic and even projected a certain palpable energy.

So you took the leap, and with a shake of your hand you hired someone of the Generation Y persuasion. Someone born somewhere around 1978-1994 will now join your team and — fingers-crossed — will blend in.

Trying to blend them in often results in failure; working successfully with this generation demands adaptation. 

Millennials – as they're also known – have largely been encouraged to take the time to obtain at least one degree, be thoughtful when it comes to their careers, and establish a personal identity above all. This type of mould creates a sometimes overly-confident and self-centered job candidate. Trying to blend them in often results in failure; working successfully with this generation demands adaptation.

To those who are stomping your foot in declaration that, “We were here first! They should adapt to us!”, we understand where you're coming from; however, if that was the world we lived in we would all still be staring at the blue screen of a Commodore 64.

It's all about mindset; you can welcome Millennials into your working space with a few simple changes that will benefit you all. Adapting to Generation Y is not appeasing a group of spoiled brats, it's bringing your business up to speed for the coming onslaught of able bodies. Here are the four key adaptions that may be required:

1. Feedback and Recognition

Between texts and tweets and posts, it is no giant leap to say Millennials are hungry for interaction and thirsty for acknowledgment. No, this does not mean you need to pass out a participation trophy with each payslip. But commenting on their progress makes the greater-good-serving Millennial feel they are working with a purpose.

How to put this into practice: Keep them engaged in the position by staying engaged in their efforts. Your level of checking-in is up to you; feedback can be as formal as requiring a weekly wrap-up report, or as casual as a water cooler comment. The key is to be present and be consistent. The Generation Y worker is happy to put in the time and effort, as long as you're willing to acknowledge it.

2. Flexibility

Your Millennial employee was raised with an array of alternatives at their fingertips. After all, they grew up on the internet, the mass appeal coming from the ability to provide an infinite amount of options. This does not mean you are required to relinquish all structure and control when it comes to assigning projects. However, your Millennial employee will serve you better if you give them the flexibility to find their way to your desired results.

How to put this into practice: When faced with a project, explain to the Generation Y worker what you want as the end result and what checkpoints you want them to hit along the way. Offer suggestions as to what has worked in the past, but then take a moment to discuss with them how they might tackle this project. Allowing Generation Y to make their mark on their work will root them with a personal investment. Remember, you'll be checking in to give feedback so you're not throwing them into a deep dark ocean; you're simply giving them the room to swim their own stroke.

3. Wellness, balance and being green

Ask your Generation Y employee and chances are that while attending university they took a class or two that lectured on burnout and/or the physical and psychological needs for human recreation. Taking a lesson from generations past, the Generation Y worker values their livelihood and sanity by committing to the ideal of working smarter, not harder. For the independent Generation Y worker, the 9-5 workday hosts many pockets of wasted time; one being the daily commute. Why spend 30 minutes each way in traffic when all that is needed to complete the work is a Wi-Fi connection? This is what the Generation Y worker thinks about, and why they value an open-minded employer.

How to put this into practice: When applicable, offing your employees a telecommuting option can save time, money and the environment. Do you absolutely need them in the office? Then don't give telecommuting a second thought, but do extend wellness benefits by offering reimbursements for gym memberships or by replacing swivel chairs with posture-pleasing exercise balls. Also, making conscious steps to keep the company green wherever feasibly possible (i.e. recycling bins, proper disposal of printer cartridges, energy efficient equipment) will help satisfy the socially conscious Generation Y.

4. Growth

One of the biggest complaints about the Generation Y worker is that they have no loyalty and their job hopping is high. It is true, stick Generation Y in a dim-lit cubicle and see how long it takes them to move on. Save yourself from the tedious process of interviewing, hiring and training, and instead try adapting to increase job retention. One powerful way to achieve this is to afford the Millennial employee the opportunity to continue learning and building their skills.

How to put this into practice: For a Millennial, your best role as a higher-up will be as a mentor. Aspirations are high for the Millennials new to the workforce, and establishing yourself as a professional role model will only help. Make the time to have a conversation with your Millennial about their future working aspirations. If applicable, draft out a plan for their professional path and see how you can align those ideals within the company. Another way to support growth is by permitting time for seminars and industry-related conventions. By making an investment in their continued education, you are providing yourself with a more appreciative and knowledgeable employee.

As Generation Y continues to age, so do their ideals. Despite the indulgent and experimental paths that lead their resumes to your HR department, they want to be a part of the workforce and build a lasting career. The question is, will they find the flexibility, recognition and support they need to be able to build that career with you?

BUSINESS INSIDER

150 comments

  • Pretty much same as every generation before. During good times they;ll get their latitude - in tough economic times they will receive a bracing dose of another reality.

    This lot happened to be minted during an extended period of economic plenty - unfortunately that doesn't set them up well to both navigate - but as importantly - enjoy - the times now confronting us.

    Which just means the naive k7' voters in their 20s will likely become wowser conservatives in their 50s. i look forward to their home made jams & sauces.

    Commenter
    dr strangelove
    Location
    sydney
    Date and time
    January 25, 2013, 9:27AM
    • " ... the naive k7' voters in their 20s will likely become wowser conservatives in their 50s."

      Hasn't this been true for all generations since Adam was a lad?

      After all Boomers who marched for peace in the 60's thought it was a great idea to bomb and invade Iraq for oil when they got political power.

      Commenter
      frankenfurter
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      January 25, 2013, 11:32AM
    • Actually I'm not sure the ex-hippies really were going all the way with GWB.

      Whilst not wanting to over-state the social activisim of the 60's, you certainly don't see the young-uns today getting out in the streets for political protest at nearly the same rate (coming from someone who is themselves very apathetic about these things).

      Commenter
      hehe
      Date and time
      January 25, 2013, 12:09PM
    • Spot on - most of this is applicable to me as a Gen Xer anyhow. This is not a handbook for good management of the under 35ers, but good management in general. And this would be applicable to even some Baby Boomers I know too.

      The only difference is the collective conceitedness that management has to deal with from Gen Y.

      Commenter
      DJCJ
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      January 25, 2013, 12:36PM
    • "Here's a tip bosses- treat your young staff with the same respect that you would if they were 35."

      Why? you are just starting out so why should you get the same as someone who has probably got 15 years experience on you. Realise you are at the bottom of the rung and work your way up. respect isn't given freely its earned. This is what i find to be wrong with Y'ers, they think that they have been with a company for 5minutes that they are deserving of a promotion etc. Wait your turn, show that you can do the job for a period of time (longer than 6months) and rewards usually follow. Dont expect it to happen quickly cause it wont. work for it and it will.

      Commenter
      shamorau
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      January 25, 2013, 12:45PM
    • True for each generation indeed. I remember reading loads of articles like this about Gen-X when I was a moody Gen-X teenager.

      Commenter
      HighlyDubious
      Date and time
      January 25, 2013, 2:25PM
    • @Frankfurter - yep, us Baby Boomers were champing at the bit to invade Iraq. Do you want to buy some cheap oil? We all got heaps. My Holden EH ute doesn't use much as I only drive it to meetings of the right wing faction of the Liberal Party these days.

      Commenter
      Stop the rot
      Date and time
      January 25, 2013, 3:07PM
    • Yawn, not this same old stuff again - I was born in 1977 and have been working in and studying HR for a while now and reckon this inter generational management theory is rubbish. The examples provided in this story is the approach managers should take with all their employees, wherever possible. Unfortunately many of my HR colleagues love this whole concept of gen Y and how different they are and the special measures employers need to take with them.

      Other than the external differences, particularly globalisation, technology development and the economy - how different can the work and life expectations of someone in their 20s now really differ from someone comparable (educationally and socioeconomically especially) 20 years ago.

      Commenter
      gazza
      Location
      CBD
      Date and time
      January 25, 2013, 3:17PM
    • Agreed dr strangelove, just wondering whether this article is taking the micky or not because it is so ridiculous.

      Commenter
      El Seano
      Date and time
      January 25, 2013, 3:49PM
    • I'm happy to fob off all the crappy work I don't want to do to GenY and the Millennials. If they don't like it - well - I will find a late Boomer to do it and is happy to have the work. If I can't find that, I will find a foreign national with the biggest labour arbitrage. I'm GenX and this is how this how my generation has been forced to roll.

      Commenter
      Jimmy
      Location
      Not_Oz
      Date and time
      January 25, 2013, 5:21PM

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