Managing the expectations of Generation Y employees
Although the exact classification of Generation Y appears to be blurred, there’s no arguing over the fact that this group of young people will soon account for the majority of the world’s employed population.
Taking many definitions into consideration, Generation Y (Gen Y) usually focuses on those born in the 80s and 90s. It is a generation that has grown up with economic uncertainty, great technological development and some fortunate, if not long-overdue, employment law changes.
At the risk of generalisation, Gen Y-ers are typically university-educated, continually connected via mobile devices and easily bored. They also have specific career expectations that are quite different to those exhibited by Generation X or Baby Boomers. In order to recruit and retain the best of Generation Y, it’s important to manage these expectations effectively. Here are a few examples:
Expectation: Fast progression. The average Gen Y-er has a burning ambition and wants to move up the ranks swiftly. Having undertaken unpaid internships, carried out extra-curricular CV-boosting activities, there is understandably a feeling that they deserve quick progression and the spoils that come with it. That said, they are prepared to work hard for it and don’t expect an easy ride; even the briefest of work experience has emphasised that point for many.
How to manage: Introduce talent management programmes. It’s beneficial for the business that the most promising employees are nurtured and a talent management programme will identify precisely who these people are. A programme might incorporate training, personal development and mentoring, but ultimately it signals that the company wants to invest in the employee and that while there might not be any suitable positions at present, progression is certainly a reality.
Expectation: To use the latest, intelligent technology. The average 18-30 year old most probably has access to some of the most recent devices and software at home; they rate their own technical abilities largely as ‘above average’ and so perhaps unsurprisingly, they want to work for a company that is similarly progressive with their IT infrastructure.
How to manage: Review your IT restrictions. A blanket ban on social media, use of personal mobile phones and downloading non-approved software might be viewed as out-of-date with the arrival of Gen Y. Therefore, a review of the company’s IT policies and procedures, to reflect the expertise of these younger users, is a good idea. Consider using newer technologies – i.e. instant messaging services, to allow for quicker communication between colleagues – and introducing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to allow some employees to use their own tablet or smartphone for work, Naturally, you’d need to ensure that your security provisions are up to scratch.
Research shows that Gen Y’s technology preferences are unique also; they would rather communicate via text, instant message or email than face-to-face and favour online training webinars over traditional classroom-based learning. This presents opportunities for employers, providing they can let go of any historic hesitations about these channels. Communicating a concise IT policy, which clearly states what constitutes abuse is vital for the building of trust.
Expectation: Work to live, not live to work. A survey cited by The Guardian discovered that many Gen Y-ers want to ‘rebel against their parents’ values, determined not to lead a life that revolved so heavily around work’. Their priorities are markedly different; used to free time at university, they value time with their friends and families. It’s something they’re not prepared to give up.
How to manage: Be open to flexible working. One of the most important perks an employer can offer right now is flexible working. In some cases, it’s considered more valuable than a competitive salary. It stands to reason, therefore, that a business which promotes work-life balance through flexible working practices will be seen as more attractive over one that doesn’t. To counter any suspicion associated with working from home, etc, it’s key to set up some fair rules and give employees access to systems and documents no matter where they physically are.
It’s something worth taking steps towards, as by the end of this year, the legal right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ service. While that doesn’t mean that employers must grant every request, they certainly should be more open to the concept, particularly if it helps them retain their best talent.
Expectation: Instant recognition, reward and praise: Remember, this is a group that has become used to publically posting their achievements and exploits online and receiving immediate congratulations from their myriad Facebook friends. It’s little wonder, therefore, that they seek a comparative level of recognition in the workplace.
How to manage: Create a rewarding culture. Recognition is a good thing. It’s one of our basic needs; something that feeds our self-esteem and promotes job satisfaction. With that in mind, ensure that your business operates within a culture where saying “well done” is second-nature. Even better if you can set up internal recognition schemes that allow individuals to be publically praised by their colleagues. These don’t have to result in physical rewards; temporary ownership of a team trophy for a week would suffice – it’s all about saying thank you.
Ultimately, a business that can pre-empt and manage the expectations of this generation is one that is far more prepared for the future and likely to have their pick of talented Generation Y employees.
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