Tools for Managing Generation Y

Article by:
Kent Lewis, EO Portland
Kent Lewis
EO Portland

Kent is President and Founder of Anvil Media, Inc., a search-engine marketing (SEM) agency. He is also an adjunct professor at Portland State University. He can be reached via e-mail at kent@anvilmediainc.com.

Also referred to as "Millennials," Gen Yers are sociable, talented, well-educated, collaborative, open-minded, influential and achievement-oriented. Born between 1980 and 2000, they’re the first generation to be surrounded by digital media. I’ve discovered their traits include optimism, goal-orientation, civic-mindedness and inclusiveness— all attributes one desires in an employee, especially when it comes to business opportunities.

Opportunities
Also referred to as "Millennials," Gen Yers are sociable, talented, well-educated, collaborative, open-minded, influential and achievement-oriented. Born between 1980 and 2000, they’re the first generation to be surrounded by digital media. I’ve discovered their traits include optimism, goal-orientation, civic-mindedness and inclusiveness— all attributes one desires in an employee, especially when it comes to business opportunities.

Challenges
As with any generation, Gen Y employees offer a handful of challenges. I’ve noticed there is the general distaste for menial work, minimal skills for dealing with difficult people or situations, impatience and a general lack of experience and (sometimes misplaced) confidence. Additionally, they tend to have unrealistic expectations, compounded by the inability to consistently meet or exceed those expectations.

Environment
I’ve noticed that Gen Yers require a positive work environment. They also appreciate a little fun, excitement and irreverence to lighten the day-to-day workload. In my company, we’ve incorporated happy hour on Fridays, monthly potlucks and quarterly field trips for this reason. Similarly, Gen Yers are environmentally conscious. I’ve found that "going green" can be a great recruiting tool.

Community
Along with being environmentally aware, Gen Yers are also socially oriented. This means that they are accustomed to being organized in teams, making certain no one is left behind. Similarly, Gen Yers prefer to work with people they like, and they are very community–focused. I make it a point to provide one volunteer day per employee, per year.

Growth
It’s not that previous generations lack ambition or drive, but Gen Y blows the bell curve. They are particularly growth-minded, which means they expect a clear career path, training and other professional development opportunities. I have found it wise to outline growth opportunities and how individual contribution will make a difference. Gen Y appreciates (if not expects) personalized rewards, in addition to group-based rewards.

Empowerment
Due, perhaps in part, to their wired nature, members of Gen Y prefer to conduct their own research in order to make informed decisions. As such, they prefer not to be "sold" ideas by management. In fact, Gen Yers prefer to be a part of the decision process. In their day-to-day work, they also like to work the best way they see fit.

Meaning
Gen Yers are particularly focused on deriving purpose out of their profession. As such, they expect a workplace that is challenging, collaborative, creative, fun and financially rewarding. One way I create meaning in a job is to demonstrate the impact of Gen Y’s output, and how it moves the needle for my company. I’ve discovered that companies that are inherently compartmentalized or do not provide opportunities to socialize are at a disadvantage.

Structure
Creating an organizational structure that works for Gen Y is tricky. Members of this generation enjoy flexibility and a dynamic work environment, which seems counter to a highly structured corporation. At the same time, their lack of experience and confidence can wreak havoc on an unstructured company. One solution is to empower leaders with honesty and integrity to communicate the company mission, vision and purpose.

Communication
I’ve learned that a clear and concise approach to communications is critical to retaining Gen Y employees. In my company, I set expectations up front, outline objectives, provide necessary training and manage expectations. I also embrace technology as an element of corporate culture, as it is a means of sharing company information and fostering collaboration.

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