A lot of rumors are going around that Gen Y employees are unreliable, lacking in ambition, and even just plain lazy. I know most companies can find many examples of these stereotypes in their work force, so I won’t try to argue that these allegations are unfounded.
I think it is important to realize that these less than favorable attributes are not simply the product of poor breeding or a generational inclination towards mediocrity. Rather, these are the results of not being properly motivated. I realize that you think you are doing everything you can to motivate young employees. However, if you want to get the most out of your young employees, you need to give a little to in order to get a lot.
I know you’re probably thinking, why should I go so out of my way to make young workers happy? I worked my way up, what makes them so special? Why won’t they do the same?
Simply put, the game has changed. Even 30 years ago there was some reasonable assurance that if you worked hard at a company you’d continue to move up and eventually retire from that company with a pension. To my generation this scenario sounds about as plausible as the Easter Bunny. Most of my generation expects to switch jobs multiple times throughout our lifetime. Once appalling to hear of a company laying off employees during a merger, after decades of loyal service, now this news is common, if not expected.
How motivated would you feel to “pay your dues” at a company you strongly believe will fire you at some point, even if you have done nothing wrong?
Moreover, they might fire you even if you are a great employee, doing an amazing job, just because they need to balance the books one fiscal quarter. When you consider the workplace from our point of view it is easy to see why we are lacking motivation. The incentives of job security, consistent promotions, reliable raises and retirement are no longer in the equation. So if you want motivated young employees you must provide new incentives.
What are some changes your company can make to motivate young employees and keep them performing at peak levels out of respect and admiration for their company?
1. It is important to be willing to re-evaluate many aspects of your operation to consider if they are still valid and necessary. For example, when much of our work can be done online, it seems silly to expect us to be at work at exactly 9 a.m. We have to fight traffic which makes our 15-minute commute take over 45 minutes, just so we can sit at a company desk and do the same work we could have done on our own laptop.
2. You need to learn and understand our values. As a generation we are fiercely altruistic. It is not uncommon for many of us to have spent our entire summer volunteering to help the less fortunate. If you incorporate a significant and visible outreach program into your company you will quickly gain the respect of your young employees.
3. Make young employees feel they are an important part of the organization. Most companies still function on a pecking order system, where new employees are made to feel their opinions are not valued. Instead, form a system where employees at any level are encouraged to contribute ideas to better the company. This helps your young employees feel engaged and validated.
4. Let your employees know you care about their future. This can actually be accomplished quite simply through free educational programs. Teaching young employees how to manage their finances or how to successfully network in business communities will help young employees feel their company cares about their future. As an added bonus this education will also make them better employees.
If you take the time and focus on motivating your young employees, I think you will be amazed to see just how capable and productive we can be. After all, we are a generation that had full schedules in the first grade that included multiple after-school activities. Moreover, we have had more straight “A” students than any previous generation and more college graduates. We are most companies’ greatest assets, if they could just take the time to understand how we think.
Gen Y Collectively
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