The most digitally advanced people in today’s workforce are setting off a new wave of business and social transformation.
They are the Generation Y (Gen Y) employees, who not only bring energy and innovation to the workplace but also pose challenges to management.
There is no definitive agreement on birth years for Gen Y but many argue that they range from 1978 to 1995.
According to Tamara Erickson in the Harvard Business Review article titled Gen Y In The Workforce, members of this generation are innovative and creative.
Learning to cope with Gen Y employees could lead to a highly robust workforce that accepts constant change, collaboration and value addition.
Gen Y could be viewed as a group of young complainers or champions of a highly dynamic workforce that could develop a wealth of positive outcomes for the organisation.
This generation has high expectations of themselves and their managers.
Key characteristics of Gen Y are as follows:
Highly flexible, unconventional and mobile;
Opportunities to learn (including overseas exposure) are a major priority;
High expectations in terms of compensation and access to management-level positions by their early 30s;
Constantly seeking independence in the decision-making process;
Their workplaces should be located in urbanised areas with access to social and commercial facilities;
Emphasis is on doing things differently;
Provision of right technological resources including high-speed broadband, wireless and mobile services; and
Vibrant office atmosphere in terms of colour, design and room layouts.
Employers who are baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) will find it impossible to deliver all these demands.
Hence, success is about compromising and determining the essentials.
As baby boomers retire, it is vital to strike a balance between meeting the needs of Gen Y and organisational development. Hence, a toolkit is proposed for optimal relationship building:
Talent-focused recruitment strategy: Recruitment should be directly linked to the ability of each Gen Y candidate and a deep understanding of their potential contribution to the organisation. Avoid recruiting merely to fill up available positions.
Transformational learning experiences: A highly customised learning journey is what Gen Y employees are looking for. They are ready to learn anything from technical to soft skills, but these should link to their interest areas and their job roles.
Tap on expertise: Gen Ys take great pride in showcasing their knowledge. Some may go against conventional processes but believing in their abilities could lead to positive outcomes for the organisation.
Trap the ingenious with creative remuneration: Gen Ys value their contributions to organisations and want a larger share of the profit pie — or they call it quits. Remuneration packages could include qualification upgrading, sponsorships, equity share, a performance-based promotion path and membership to fitness centres.
Tolerant and society-centred organisation: Gen Y is the most cross-culture, cross-creed and cross-colour generation so far, due to exposure to different ethnic groups and markets. Internationalising business strategies and adapting to different ethnic requirements within the organisation will lead to a solid workforce.
Technology integration: Gen Ys are now in the best position to teach the world about social media and next-generation tools for connectivity. Embracing their technology-centred lifestyle could lead to new products and services.
Think unconventional: For Gen Ys, an office is considered to be inspirational if there is a pantry offering a free flow of beverages, fruit and even muffins in the morning.
Create an ambience of fun, play and work: Fewer rules on dressing and punctuality can lead to higher motivation levels. Remember to have a games area with a variety of board games.
Take collaboration seriously: Organisation policies should recognise collaborative efforts. This requires redesigning the workspace to allow team discussions. In the past, offices devote more space to desks or cubicles. Now, it is all about meeting rooms or access to breakout spaces.
In Singapore, members of Gen Y have enjoyed economic growth and prosperity.
Will they continue to be a special generation, feted and wooed for their talent?
For now, as the labour market tightens, organisations have to embrace change to extract the most from this group of human capital.