How to Maximize the Greatest Potential When Working with Generation Y Employees (initially published Summer 2012)

In my work with employers dealing with conflict in the workplace, I often hear the frustration of supervisors and managers in trying to understand and work with the youth from what they call the new generation. I had an opportunity to spend some time over the summer months with some young people calling themselves the Generation Y / Millennials / Generation We and they shared some of their thoughts with me and I am in turn sharing with you.

Interesting there are about 75 million ‘millennials’ either preparing to join or are joining the workforce which makes it vital that we learn how to use this resourceful generation group effectively. They are the fastest growing generation in the work force. And they are encountering the most interaction with our clients and customers, either by answering the phones, bring in coffee, greeting clients, and providing ongoing service to them directly because they have the entry level positions where they meet the customer face to face daily. These up and coming employees of our future were born between the late 1970s and early 1980s to the early 2000s, so they are between the ages of 16-18 at the young side up to 34 years of age.

They are described as optimistic, determined, motivated and culturally diverse; this group is commonly known by an increased ease with communication, media and digital technologies. Their brains automatically spot inefficiencies, such as dial up internet and seek ways to fix them. They are prepared to join your workplace with a smaller percent off pay in order to work in an environment where they feel valued, challenged and included.

I discovered in my conversations that there a few inexpensive strategies to work with their natural tendencies, and you will reap the rewards.

Six ways to get more results from your generation Y employees.

Providing them feedback: Take five to ten seconds a month to say “thanks for coming through for us. I liked the way you were there for John.” Then stop talking because they are already texting their friends saying, “My boss has just talked to me!” So don’t do it constantly, it is the worst thing you could do. Most companies have the philosophy that if your boss is talking to you have done something wrong. The Generation Y were taught that if the boss is not talking to them then something is wrong, and they feel they may be getting fired and become anxious. So five seconds of feedback can mean five months of motivation.

How do you give them incentives? Experience and time more than money. Invite them as project leader to quarterly executive meeting. Ask them to sit in the back and observe the interaction, pay attention to the dialogue and learn from what they see. This is huge… huge for them. This experience provides them with the opportunity to get exposure to what they will be doing in the future for you. So position their job based on challenges and projects rather than duties and responsibilities. They are seeking jobs where they can solve their own problems. Develop their skills by giving them stretch projects. Coach them to ask for opportunities to research and stretch their abilities develop their skills faster, which will also move your organization forward. They often have great ideas.

Third, this may seem funny but remember them on their national holiday, which is their birthday. When it comes to their birthday, for them, it is not just their day or week. It is their month! Say happy birthday, no card because they don’t get mail. One company did this for all employees not just Gen Y. They gave them $20.00 and told them to spend it on something they have never done before and take pictures. One person used to towards air gliding, one towards volunteering, another took his girlfriend out to dinner maybe for the first time. Their birthday is their special moment, and it builds rapport and shows them that you care. So just sending them an email or text to say “Happy Birthday” really makes them feel accepted and shows you care.

If only do one thing. Do this…make their first day at job unforgettable. Gen Y decides on their first day whether they will be remaining with your company or not. Some even make that decision by lunch and are texting their friends to apply at your workplace or will be searching for another job by the second day.

So two easy ways to make this day special. Most companies start new employees on Monday, which is the most stressful day of the week for most organizations. New employees arrive on Monday; are greeted and told see you tomorrow and left alone. So a suggestion is to start your new hires on any other day. It will make that experience so much different for them. If you cannot change the day because HR says everyone starts on Monday then have them show up at 10:00 am so all emergencies are dealt with by then.

Once they show up and in the work environment give them a tour. A suggestion for all new hires is to pair them up with someone from the same generation and same gender. Research indicates they ask more deeper and meaningful questions and make a friend. It is important that you provide a generation Y with a same gender because the opposite gender makes the tour a date! Not what you may want to start.

Remember when they start they are excited, nervous and anxious to make a good impression. So stop them when they first arrive at the door. Give them a small box; have them open it in front of you. In the box should be 10 pre printed temporary business cards with their name printed, which you did on your computer. This says to them “Welcome to our team. You now represent this organization and we represent you”. You know the first person they give their card to is their mom… when she picks them up after work!!

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