Understanding Gen Y Part 2: why employers need to learn to love them
by Isabel Wu
Businesses globally are unprepared to face the challenges of the changing business environment, as they struggle to manage the demands of Millennial (also known as Gen Y) employees and adapt to disruptions in labour markets.
This was the finding from a Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey released earlier in 2014.
Gen Y are frequently made out to be lazy and entitled. An article from the Melbourne newspaper, The Age, a few months ago, “What your boss really wants to say to you”, included a quote from one employer that typifies the sentiments shared by many, ““The younger generation seem to want the boss’s job and pay but they don’t want to work for it,”
Gen Y have now been in the workforce for a decade or more. It is time for us to get over the stereotyping and do what we should be doing: making sure the workplace is keeping up with change.
Four ways to get the best from Gen Y
- Develop an organisation where context is clearly defined. Gen Y do not care about skills they way you do – they have all used Youtube to learn a skill. They care less about your knowledge – information has always been at their fingertips. Also they have grown up in a world knowledge and skills can be outdated in fewer years than it takes to complete a degree. If recognition and authority is based on skills and knowledge alone in your organisation, they will expect to move quickly.Gen Y do care about wisdom and experience. They want to be guided through real life. Show them how skills and knowledge work in context so they learn it is not what you know or what you can do, it is how you use what you know or what you can do.
- It’s all about values. Gen Y use the word ‘values’ in the same way we used the word ‘career’. It drives their decisions about where they work, what they do, what they aim for, and what they are prepared to do to get there. It is the importance of values to Gen Y that they will prefer lifestyle and flexibility over money and promotion, and choose an employer for what it cares about over the job it offers. They work on the basic assumption that things can be fixed with enough people who care coming together to make it happen.
- Replace formal goal-setting with regular coaching. You will get better performance from Gen Y by supporting them in the here and now. Think about gamification which rewards incremental gain not goal achievement. The thing that makes Gen Y easy to manage is they are practically hard-wired for change and continuous learning (such as the way they barely seem to notice when functionality changes on their iPhones while we complain with every upgrade).
- Gen Y are not impatient and insensitive so much as they are often poor at soft skills such as prioritising, managing relationships, workplace etiquette, teamwork, planning and managing distractions. These are all trainable skills that somehow, in the way they are being schooled, they are underdeveloped. They have a great capacity for feedback and work better with regular input and the opportunity to reflect on their achievements and improvements.
So with Gen Y in the workplace in increasing numbers and starting to reach management levels, looking down our noses at all their shortcomings is a cop out. We have done a great job with them as parents, now our role is to coach them in their development at work.
Remember when we began our careers, as a whole we were more qualified than the generation before us. They called us upstarts who needed to experience ‘real life’ before we earned the right to contribute.
It was true then as it is now that organisations will benefit from investing time in early career development as well as changing practices to encourage greater input.