GENERATION Ys are a fantastic, unique group of employees and it is essential for any forward-looking organisation to take the time to understand, appreciate and nurture their needs.

According to the Singapore Human Resources Institute, Gen Y represents about 20 per cent of Singapore’s labour market. This generation is looking for companies that provide defined career development paths and relevant training opportunities.

With a greater focus on career mobility and a faster pace of career development than other generations, Gen Ys want to quickly progress up the career ladder — either within their own company or with an organisation offering this opportunity.

Certainly, the tight labour market means it is a great time to be a job seeker. But it also means that employers need to be more strategic in their recruitment and management of the Gen Y generation.

The following tips are some of the ways business leaders and HR managers can create a workplace environment to foster the development of the dynamic Gen Y generation.

Provide challenging work that matters

Gen Ys thrive on conquering challenges. As a group, they have generally graduated with a dynamic mix of university degrees, and gained valuable work experience.

The result is that they are searching for roles that are intellectually challenging as well as meaningful. While this generation likes stimulation, the reality is that they are also the younger and more junior generation in the workplace. Therefore, they are required to do mundane work at times.

To keep them motivated, provide them with a mix of everyday work as well as more challenging projects that offer greater responsibility.

Give feedback on performance

Having been brought up in an era where they are able to make their own choices and are often rewarded for their work, Gen Y employees appreciate timely and regular feedback on their performance.

If you recognise the need to speak to these employees openly and provide honest feedback on their work, you will find that they will be more engaged and motivated to put their best foot forward at work.

Frequent encouragement and acknowledgment of their efforts will also reap better work attitudes from Gen Y employees.

Grant advancement opportunities

Gen Y employees are focused on career development. They value education and are excited by the desire to take on new challenges to expand their capabilities.

According to the recent Randstad Workmonitor survey, 70 per cent of Singaporean Gen Y employees said they would quit their jobs should there be no more room for personal development. This highlights the priority that Gen Y employees place on career progression — even higher than salary — so there is a need to factor this into how employers manage this generation.

Understand Gen Y’s concept of work-life balance

Gen Y employees define work-life balance differently than most of their older colleagues. To them, it is not only about knocking off on time.

They have the ability to combine their work day with social activities, and they rely on technology to enable them to do this. You might find Gen Ys listening to their iPod and sending friends SMSes as they work.

They want to work for an organisation that makes work enjoyable, is tolerant of humour and accommodates concepts such as “casual Fridays”.

Employers who understand this concept and who adopt creative practices for work-life balance tend to be favoured by Gen Ys and will reap the rewards of having them onboard.

Adapting your employment strategies to harness the force of Gen Y will improve retention rates, add diversity and value to your workforce, and ultimately contribute to your company’s bottom line.