Born between 1980 and 1995, Generation Y boasts 70.4 million members, representing 26% of the American population and more than 35% of the workforce. Like any group of people, you will find some difficult or impossible to manage, but with most, you’ll do just fine as long as you’re willing to work with their idiosyncrasies.
Generation Y has different work requirements and expectations than the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who manage them. Understanding these differences will help managers to be effective and their Gen Yers to flourish.
The goals for managing Generation Y include:
1. Help them integrate into the work setting without scaring them off or turning them off.
2. Provide them with solid primary experiences that lay the groundwork for their careers.
3. Keep them from self-destructing.
Tips for Managing Generation Y
Create Opportunities to Bond
One complaint employers have about Generation Y is that they don’t seem to care about their jobs. We agree: Many Gen Yers, especially the younger ones, don’t care about their jobs in the same way many of us didn’t care about jobs when were that young. But like any generation, they need jobs to earn money to pay the bills. Given their close family upbringing, jobs that offer Gen Yers a sense of belonging and a family-like atmosphere will have the most appeal to them.
Gen Yers like to feel bonded to their bosses. This puts you in the role of concerned coach. It’s a step beyond “benevolent boss” but short of “loving parent.” You still must insist they follow the rules, complete their tasks, meet their deadlines, and produce for the organization. If they do, you will applaud them. If they don’t, you will help them, coach them, encourage them, and counsel them—just like their teachers did at school and their moms and dads did at home. If they continue not to meet expectations, however, unlike their parents, you will fire them.
Avoid the “Good Old Days”
“When I was your age . . .” “Back in the day . . .” “The way we used to do it . . .” Blah, blah, blah. It’s tempting to reminisce about the past. Really, Generation Y can’t imagine being as old as you are, so stop rambling on about the way it used to be. Your responsibility is to coach them to succeed, not to relive the touchdown you scored back in high school.
Be Open to Virtual Work Environments
Baby Boomers live to work. Generation Xers work to live. Generation Yers don’t see work and life as any different; they blend into one. To most Baby Boomers and many Gen Xers, there is a clear distinction between working face-to-face and working remotely. A Gen Yer feels comfortable being home at 10 o’clock on a Sunday night listening to iTunes, editing his blog, checking his Facebook page, and sending a report to a client with a CC to his boss. Make sure your technology is up-to-date. Generation Y comes to work assuming you are as high tech as their latest iPhone or Wii.
The ability to plan their own time and the freedom to work when they want to are major motivators for Generation Y. Not all work schedules can be a free-for-all, but examine the work schedule and determine if more flexibility can be offered. Establish what duties and assignments must be completed at the office and what can be done on the Gen Yer’s own schedule. The more options you can give to Gen Yers who show they are responsible enough to handle them, the more likely they will stay loyal and go the extra mile for you.
Generation Y is accustomed to getting instant feedback from parents, friends, and even video games. Waiting until a six-month review starves a Gen Yer of the information he needs to know if he’s on track. We suggest weekly or even daily doses of feedback from you, the manager, to each of your Gen Yers. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. A couple of comments describing what he’s doing well or where he needs to improve can do wonders.
The Bottom Line
Generation Y grew up with parents who spent time communicating with them, who praised them for even the smallest victories, who asked for their opinions when they were children, and who devoted time to making life fun. They expect similar services from their Baby Boomer and Gen X bosses.