Four ways to manage Generation Y workers

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Generation Y was born between 1980 and 1994, and is becoming a huge part of the workforce.

Unfortunately, Generation Y employees also have a reputation for being notoriously hard to retain. Even during the height of the GFC in late 2008, a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that 61% of CEOs reported that attracting and retaining Generation Y candidates was an enormous challenge.

Many businesses that I speak to have started to accept that members of Generation Y are less loyal than previous cohorts of workers, and feel it’s inevitable that their younger employees will job hop every year or two.12-_Paula_Maidens

It doesn’t have to be that way: when Gen Y are engaged and motivated, they can become arguably the most loyal generation if you follow these four tips.

1. Know what they want
Multi-generational understanding is essential to retaining your top employees, whether they are from Generation Y, X or are Baby Boomers. Stereotypes can only take a business so far when it comes to retention – to get a real understanding of what staff really want we need to ask them directly.

To find out what motivates your employees, ask the tough questions during a one-on-one conversation or group workshop: “What are the three things that will make you stay?” and “What are the three things that will make you leave?”. This isn’t about using their answers as a desperate attempt to retain employees at any cost, but instead using their motivators to develop a flexible retention strategy that fits within your budget.

2. Show them where they can go
Gen Y employees have a reputation for being disloyal, but their behaviour usually stems from their desire to continually develop new skills and experience. Simply put, they’ll look elsewhere if their needs aren’t being met. Energise your staff for a long-term future with your business by showing them where they can expect to go and develop if they perform well.

Future opportunities shouldn’t necessarily equate to a promotion: consider both informal and formal development/training opportunities that you can offer to staff, including lower-cost options such as on-the-job learning, job rotations, and online learning with blogs and webinars, plus formal training.

3. Create a positive work environment
Recognition for achievements is a sticking point for most Gen Y employees. An effective recognition strategy is essentially a communication strategy that demonstrates two things to employees: that their high performance is valued and which behaviours equate to ‘success’ in the business. Gen Y’s drive for praise is often due to a desire to know if they are on track and contributing meaningfully to the business.

By fostering a positive work environment where recognition of accomplishments (both individual and business-wide) is a core component of workplace culture, your business will experience dramatically improved employee satisfaction – across all generations.

4. Don’t forget about the other generations
While each generation has its strengths, managing and motivating a multi-generational workforce can sometimes become challenging. Experienced staff can sometimes feel neglected with an influx of fresh talent, while younger workers can become frustrated by organisational structure and hierarchies.

To engage all generations in your business, consider asking your experienced staff to become mentors or run group training workshops and share their knowledge. This not only shows these employees how much you value their skills but combats knowledge loss, while allowing employees of all experience levels to see each others’ strengths in action.

Generation Y will be extremely productive and high performing if engaged and motivated well. However, they will also be more difficult to recruit, retain and manage than any other generation in history – so far!

Managing a multi-generational workforce is a challenge but when done well, results in higher employee satisfaction and a workplace environment that excites employees of all generations.

Paula Maidens is Managing Director of Recruitment Coach, a coaching and consulting firm for small businesses, specialising in recruitment and retention techniques. For more information visit www.recruitmentcoach.com.au


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