How to Lead Generation Y’s

The first thing I do every morning after turning my alarm off is check the news and Facebook on my mobile phone. Today I came across an article on our spoilt teen generation – the shocking element of this article is that 74% of these youngsters do not want to work for an employer and would rather work for themselves. With 56% confessing they are impatient and prefer instant gratification. In ten years’ time this generation is going to be coming up through the ranks – how are we going to lead these people who do not want to work for an employer and want instant gratification?

I am sure the generation above me is facing the same challenge now with Generation Y………. my generation. Generation Y are people who have birth dates from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. We have grown up in the digital revolution. Our classrooms were the first to have computers. We got more freedom growing up and we were encouraged to talk as well be seen. We have had to find jobs in a recession. We have lived with our parents for longer than either parties really want. We wait longer to get married and to find the perfect career or company. We have high expectations for advancement, salary and demand a coaching relationship with our manager.

My piece of advice for anybody who wants to recruit and retain a member of Generation Y:
1. Ask us what we want
2. Communicate what is going on
3. Do not take yourself too seriously
4. Give us instant gratification (or feedback)

Ask us what we want. We learn better by having someone coaching us rather than telling us what to do. My current place of work has an employer’s feedback scheme. Simple steps like this make it feel like my opinion matters. There are many companies that are trying to improve their relationship with the Generation Y’s of their team. A good example of a company trying to do just this, Goldman Sachs, conducts training programs that use actors to portray Generation Y’s, who assertively seek more feedback, responsibility and involvement in decision making. After the performance, employees discuss and debate the generational differences they see played out and propose how to capitalise on them for corporate benefit.

Ask us what we think. Get us more involved and we will feel motivated. I have been in previous marketing teams where the marketing managers have had whole day meetings about strategy (I think!) and they have come back to the office and not
told anyone in the rest of the team what was discussed. This just makes you feel totally disconnected from the managers. Why would I want to work on a marketing strategy that I had no input in?

Communication We can have any piece of information at a touch of a button. We can find out which country our friends are in, we can see how much money is in our bank, we can get up to the minute news. We are so well informed and we demand to be. Therefore, if we then work in an organisation where we are not communicated to effectively or kept up to speed with what is going on, we are going to get frustrated. Company briefings are vital to any organisation, any department and every employer. Also make sure you tell us the truth. If the company is not doing well – be honest – tell us why and what we can do about it. If we feel like we are all in the situation together we are more likely to work hard to try and rectify it. I have been in business briefings for a company which was failing, but instead of being truthful in respect of what was going on and how we were going to fix it, we spent most of the briefing being told how many Health and Safety “near misses” had been reported and what the new recycle bins looked like. I felt like there was a huge white elephant in the room and the company was avoiding the main issues. Why would I want to work for a company who hides what is really going on?

Do not take yourself too seriously One of the things that attracted me to the company I work for now is that when I went for my interview the Finance Director was doing a presentation. Now this should not seem like a reason to join a company, but the Finance Director was doing the presentation dressed in a full cricket suit, pretending to hit invisible balls that represented which end of year numbers the firm had hit or had not hit last year. I remember thinking how great it was that a Director firstly did not take himself too seriously, and secondly had thought of an entertaining way to present something boring, and what’s more, I actually remembered the numbers!

I like that I can have a normal conversation with any of my Directors and I actually respected them more than Directors who only talk with you if they want something done.
Instant gratification

As I have touched on previously, Generation Y do expect instant gratification. This is because we have grown up expecting it. I came out of university with the belief that I knew everything and I could be a Marketing Director by the age of 30. A few years in industry knocks this out of you! That said, I still want to know what I have to do to get to the next level and what areas I need to work on. At a recent sales conference where the marketers have to sell their plans, the Sales Director took time out from his busy schedule to give each marketer feedback. I thought this was great – I now know some key areas to work on and felt like I had instant feedback on my work.

Personally, I crave feedback. I want to know if I have done a good job and if so I want to be rewarded. I do not expect an unrealistic bonus for doing a good job, but I do want to feel appreciated. At one of my previous companies they had a weekly recognition programme. You could nominate anybody in your team for the weekly award. These nominations were read out every Monday morning and the one who was picked then received a prize. It was only a token prize such as a bottle of wine, to leave an hour early or an M&S voucher; it wasn’t the prize that mattered, it was the recognition that you were doing a good job. By simply giving feedback it makes your Generation Y know where he or she is and what they need to work on. It makes them want to improve. I am no expert on how to get the best out of my generation and as we know everybody is different. The examples highlighted here are what has worked for me and what makes me want to work for a company that motivates me to do the best job possible.

I leave you with the thought that the Generation Y mentality is more “work to live” than the baby boomers “live to work”. This I believe is true – you only have to look at the amount of Generation Y’s that travel the world before getting a ‘proper job’ to prove this point. Our motivation is to enjoy life. That said, I work hard at my job and that is because I love it and it does not feel like work, it just feels like an extension of my life. If you can make your Generation Y feel like this then you will have one hard working, motivated employee on your hands.

Holly Shaw Brand Manager for Original Source @ PZ Cussons