Organisations today are facing increasing challenges in managing the millennial generation, or Gen Y, whose members will make up around 60 per cent of the workforce within the next three years. 

Born between 1981 and 1994, Gen Y workers have attracted much media attention in the last few years. They are reportedly not keen to accept “hierarchical” ways of working and are challenging the status quo and long-standing processes. They have their own unique blend of personalities, values, traits and priorities, and are creating a Gen Y work culture.

Employers are grappling to understand members of the “Why” generations. They are aware that while this group of tech-savvy and multi-tasking young talent, who are currently aged between 19 and 32, has the potential to make significant contributions to organisations, it can also be a worrying source of workplace friction.

But are Gen Y employees really so different? Organisations need to invest time, resources and energy to listen and stay connected with this highly agile, capable, creative and knowledgeable generation.

If there is one thing we know for sure about them, it’s that they like to have their voices heard and to feel empowered.

Gen Y workers do not like to do the “what” without understanding the “why” behind any request or command. To engage them is to simply communicate openly and listen to them, whether in the virtual or real world.

Let us look at the drivers of Gen Y — summed up in the acrostic “CONNECTION” — that will help keep workplaces aligned with the new challenges posed by these employees:

 

Commitment

Gen Y workers question the concept of “a job for life”. This should not be taken as a lack of commitment; Gen Y prefer to focus on short-term success. The reality today, anyway, is that jobs for life are few and far between. Set clear goals and get them into a routine that they can master.

 

Open communication

Trust is built through open and effective communication. Considering the short attention spans of Gen Y, short interactions with clear and to-the-point instructions are key to getting messages across.

 

New Ideas

Innovation and teamwork allow for the exchange of new ideas. Online knowledge sharing will keep these fast movers motivated at the workplace.

 

Need for work-life balance

Development and work-life balance are more important than financial rewards for Gen Y employees. Offer mentoring, coaching and continuous training within organisations to retain their talent.

 

Establish and build trust

Leaders must set expectations, be true to their word and keep their promises. Gen Y workers value trust. Be trustworthy, as well as trusting.

 

Collaborative culture

Rewarding individual success is necessary but not sufficient. Gen Y believes a collaborative work culture will drive competitive results.

 

Tech-savvy

Gen Y workers are tech-savvy and prefer virtual communication and intensive use of electronic gadgets and media. Tune in to communication channels favoured by Gen Y and you can connect with them instantly.

 

Invest in development

Organisations need to invest in their Gen Y employees to motivate, develop and retain this high-potential talent pool. 

 

Outcome-driven

Gen Y workers are results-oriented and like to set “stretched goals”. They value a results-driven work ethic and efficient operations that allow for greater work-life balance and flexibility.

 

Need for recognition and feedback

Members of Gen Y view regular feedback as recognition of their contributions. Regular feedback gives them greater motivation and results in higher productivity at work.

 The key takeaways:

•   Gen Y staff prefer working with relationship-oriented leaders than with task-oriented managers;

•   Finding common ground will help to bridge the generation gap;

•   Communicate to inspire “commitment”; and

•   Tap into their potential and engage to “motivate” Gen Y.

The responsibility is mutual. Older generations have extensive experience that millenials can leverage on and younger generations can shed light on demographic and technology trends that call for an efficient work environment.

Reaching out to your Gen Y staff may be as simple as starting with a coffee and a walk.

Article by Anjali Parmar, Assistant Director of Training Edge International. She has 13 years of professional industry experience that includes higher education, corporate, hospitality, municipal and visual arts projects in the United States, India and Singapore. E-mail her at anjali@trainingedgeasia.com or visit www.trainingedgeasia.com