In praise of the Gen Y employee

30 07 2011

I should start by declaring that I am not a Gen Y. I am Gen X. So no conflict of interest to declare here!

Recently there has been a lot of traffic regarding the Gen Y employee. They move around a lot, they don’t have the same loyalty that Gen X and particularly Baby Boomers have. How do you motivate them? How do you keep them? How do you manage them? How do you deal with their concept of work-life balance?

In every challenge, there is opportunity. This posting is in praise of the Gen Y employee. Providing you get the right one. (See Harvard Business Review Blog: 3 tips For Hiring New Graduates for hints in this area.)

1. They are IT literate. Not only can they ALL type, they are also a generation brought up understanding the logic behind software programs. Hence they are not only familiar with the range of Microsoft programs, they also pick up other IT programs quickly.

2. They can be outspoken if something is wrong. Unlike those of us who have been in the office for a long time, Gen Y-ers are often not acculturated to the office, and they are confident that their opinions are of value. So if you have a process that makes no sense to them, you will hear about it. And maybe you needed to hear it.

3. Their work-life balance can mean a positive and happy person in the workplace. Which is great for team morale, providing they are also doing their work.

4. They have a low boredom threshold. Must be growing up in the technological age with computer games providing constant stimulation. The low boredom threshold can work in you favour providing it is channelled correctly. This requires both the right attitude from the Gen Y-er, and from the supervisor. If they are coming to you telling you they have finished their work and they are bored – find something new for them to do that will stretch them – a developmental or quality improvement program that no-one else has time to do. They are often keen to try something new, and this may be a great way to keep them interested, encourage them to stay and see what ascertain their potential.

5. They move around a lot. While some see this as a negative, it can also be a positive, providing they are not moving every couple of months. Picking up ideas and processes from other workplaces and other industries is a great way of gaining different perspectives which can be applied to your workplace.

6. They are often less interested in financial compensation compared to other forms of reward which facilitate their lifestyle. Which is possibly a lesson that we should all learn. And in these days of tightening budgets, learning about other ways to reward employees may be of benefit to the organisation at large.

Gen Y is a label for a stereotype and therefore does not apply to every Gen Y-er – any more than the terms Gen X and Baby Boomer apply to every Gen X and Baby Boomer. However Gen Y is the future so we, the other generations, need to know how to work with them for the betterment of us all.

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