AS A leader, manager and supervisor, what can you do to increase your effectiveness when motivating and managing Generation Y staff (those born between 1980 and 1995)?

Influence and inspire

As a Gen Y worker myself, and from discussions with my peers, the two values Gen Y employees admire most about their leaders are their ability to influence and inspire. Leaders Gen Y staff look up to are those who can empower and excite them about not only the organisation’s goals but personal excellence as well.

Many bosses find themselves in leadership positions without ever having consciously made the choice to become a leader, let alone a great leader.

For these bosses to evolve into an exceptional leader for younger workers, they first have to understand them better. They have to show them that they (the bosses) were exactly where they (the younger workers) are when they started and that it is indeed possible to climb up the corporate ladder to reach the position they are in now.

Here are some practical guidelines on how to do this:

•           Talk to them: Everyone wants to feel important, and what better way to make your employees feel valued than to get to know them on a personal level?

Share with them your personal journey about how you reached the top of the “food chain”. Provide them with that sense of belonging that motivated you to stay on with the organisation and it is likely that they will stay on for the same reason.

•           Hang out with them: No, I don’t mean that leaders have to be weekend buddies with their staff. There still needs to be a boundary between boss and employee — and yes, everyone is entitled to his own life away from the office.

What you can do as the boss is to organise a get-together every now and then to show your employees that you care and that you are genuinely concerned about their well-being and their happiness in the organisation.

Office retreats don’t have the same impact as they are usually organised by a corporate team. You need to show that you are interested and involved in the team bonding efforts that go on in the organisation.

•           Be a confidante: Everyone loves a listening ear, especially younger employees who may have the impression that the boss is someone who gives orders and is not to be messed around with.

Be firm but kind; offer to be a friend to your employees. Don’t just listen, but hear them out, their problems and what challenges they are facing. Help them understand the reasons for some procedures and the direction the organisation is heading in the next few years. That way, everyone is on the same page.

Gen Y employees are the future. They will be part of the organisation’s succession plans and thus, there is a need to invest significantly in them.

Leading and engaging Gen Y at work

Gen Y employees are arguably less hardy than their older colleagues. Bad experiences with employers cut deep and they will remember them for a long time. Your corporate brand may suffer a couple of dents too — Gen Y workers are likely to air their grievances on social media.

But treat them well and Gen Y employees will make it a point to go above and beyond the call of duty and produce exceptional work. All they ask in return is acknowledgement. A simple pat on the back and words of encouragement often do the trick.

Leaders play a vital part in the success of their younger workers’ professional journeys. Connecting with Gen Y staff is not an easy task. It takes a lot of effort and may be a little time-consuming but the results will be tremendous.

Surely, today’s bosses will feel proud to eventually hand over their roles (and offices) to their successors who were once young and inexperienced, but who grew in wisdom and stature under their guidance.

Give leaders the right training

The “Peter Principle” states that in modern organisations, most bosses eventually rise to the level of their incompetence. What this means is that people are often promoted to a position based on their performance in their current role rather than on their abilities relevant to the intended role.

So the specialist who is so good at his craft is promoted to a management position where he is “in charge of people” without having mastered any real leadership skills. And then, not surprisingly, he bombs. It is not his fault — he was promoted into the position with little or no training or mentoring, so it was a sink-or-swim situation.

Managers thus face a critical challenge: how to adapt their practices and styles to get the best out of their Gen Y employees. Organisations have a responsibility to help their leaders understand how workers’ expectations have changed and how they can adapt their leadership style to these new conditions.

More importantly, organisations needs to provide managers with the tools and processes that allow them to reward and recognise, train and develop, and empower Gen Y employees. In other words, go beyond managing to leading them more effectively.

Article by Adam Bawany, business development manager of the Centre for Executive Education (CEE Global). He is a recent graduate of Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Business and Accountancy, and a member of Gen Y. CEE Global offers executive coaching and leadership development programs. For more information, e-mail or visit