Hiring Gen Y (Part 7): Engaging and Managing Young Professionals

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by Traci K and BrightMove Staffing Software and Recruiting Software

Almost every organization has young employees belonging to Generation Y. This generation is ever-becoming notorious for the characteristics they hold that are unique from others before them. These include the level of work ethic, motivation, skill sets, and also the ways in which they become engaged and are most easily managed in the workplace. Organizations should fully understand the high cost of turnover and the effect of employee engagement on productivity. As Millennials are the future of our corporations, finding ways in which to ximize their efficiency levels and keep them loyal to your company should be at the forefront of current business plans.

In an article for Entrepreneur.com, management professional Heather Salmon details things to keep in mind when managing Gen Y employees. Though written in 2007, these challenges are still considered to ring true today:

They don’t respect the manager’s position.
Respect is to be earned. They take more notice of actions and role modeling than words. They believe they have the right to query, challenge and ignore rules and policies unless they can see the point.

They value education over experience.
They believe they have better solutions because of their higher education. It’s likely they will have higher qualifications than you. They consider experience has little value in a world of constant change. So they challenge and question constantly.

They have an inflated view of their own worth.
They expect high salaries and quick promotions. They have little interest in business realities of income and expenditure. They are likely to threaten to leave if their salary is not increased within three months.

They are easily bored.
They lose commitment to the job, don’t turn up for work, often without letting the manager know. They see work as a social activity and lose sight of performance objectives.

As many managers today are members of older generations and stereotypically have differing views on workplace expectations, not only are these characteristics hard to understand, but they can be baffling when considering how to manage them. A few key tips can help get he most of Millennial employees and maintain management sanity. Salmon suggests:

Regular team meetings.
Allow team members to facilitate these, with limited input from the manager. These are times for the manager to listen rather than talk, to present issues or problems for them to consider and solve. Use these as an opportunity to refer to the needs of the business and the long-term strategy. Generation Y will absorb these quickly and incorporate them into their solutions and decisions.

Communicate expectations.
Be firm and clear about what the job involves sand your performance expectations. Agree on a regular timeframe or performance discussions and stick to it. Give honest feedback. Confront issues of non-performance firmly and quickly. Give praise for good performance. Let them take an active part in problem-solving performance issues. Where issues are non-negotiable, say so firmly and consistently.

Agree on required results, but wherever possible let Generation Y take responsibility for the process. Give them responsibility for piloting an innovation they have suggested. Encourage them to set up or work on project teams but ask for regular feedback on progress or these could easily degenerate into social activities.

Tailor the job.
Generation Y loves challenges. Give them extra responsibilities, such as special project work, acting up for someone on leave, buddying someone new, and speaking to clients. Be flexible with when and where they work. Agree on hours of work that suit them as well as the company. They like to travel, so incorporate some travel in the job.

They value technology, so perhaps they could use different methods of communication. But you may have to be firm about how often they can upgrade to the latest. Help them see that expenditure has to be matched by increased productivity. They want to get ahead fast so introduce them to useful people. Take them with you when visiting clients, providers, business or political contacts. Make them an associate member of a professional organisation you belong to. If they feel they’re getting what they want out of the job, they’re likely to stay with you for longer.

Train and train.
Generation Y believe in learning, but they want to know that it is relevant and will enhance their portfolio of skills. They like to have some control over what and how they learn. Self-paced learning, team projects, coaching and mentoring may all be suitable. If you suggest a workshop, make sure they understand how it will add value to them and their work. If possible let them make the final decision to attend.

Reward achievements.
Avoid rewarding for poor performance. When they have achieved well, give suitable rewards. These might be dinner or entertainment vouchers, team celebrations, or extra travel. Promote internally if at all possible. Offer new projects or challenges as a reward for proven performance. Only provide bonus payments when they can see there is a clear connection between their improved performance and revenue earned.

Share your passion.
Help them see the contribution your organisation is making to the wider world, and their place in making that contribution. Be a role model of high performance. Share your own enthusiasm for your work. Make the workplace a fun place to be, with humour, good personal relationships, novelty and energy. Find opportunities for quick wins and celebrate.

Not all of these tips will work for your organization or for certain roles, however, they provide good insight into the direction current management processes should be moving. The evolution of the current workplace will happen rapidly as more Generation Y employees
step into the scene. As leaders learn more about who they are and how to manage them, the strength of the organization will ultimately benefit. Finally, in Step Eight – The Intergenerational Workforce, fine-tune work relationships and mutual understanding between generations to gain a cohesive, team-oriented environment.

Traci K. is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration.  When she’s
not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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