Managing Generation Y

Dec 13 14:19 2008 Kim A Huggins Print This Article

Generation Y is causing quite a stir in the work environment.  This generation has very different expectations and preferences when it comes to employment and how they want to be managed.  For other generations, Gen Y can be frustrating, especially when you are their manager.  Read on to learn 5 tips on managing Generation Y.

Generation Y is causing quite a stir in the work environment.  This generation has very different expectations and preferences when it comes to employment and how they want to be managed. 

Members of Gen Y were born between the years of 1982 and 2000 and are currently ages 7-26. Today they represent about 15 percent of the U.S. workforce,Guest Posting and by 2012, that number will increase to more than twice that size. The most technologically savvy of all generations, they possess multi-tasking skills that many of us only wish we had. They volunteer in the community, work part-time, and start their own businesses as early as age 10.

For other generations, Gen Y can be frustrating, especially when you are their manager.  Here are five helpful tips for managing Gen Y that will assist with bridging the gaps.

1.       Set Clear Expectations

It’s important to meet with your Gen Y employees and set expectations early on in the employment relationship.  Many managers just assume that Gen Y is familiar with the “corporate rules.”  This is not necessarily true and Gen Y has different interpretations of those rules.  Some important areas to clarify up front include: 

·         Work hours – if there are standard hours that all employees are expected to work, tell them.  Also, let them know if there is flexibility in the hours of work or if they can work remotely. 

·         Dress code – company dress code should also be discussed.  Gen Y is typically more casual in their dress.  Don’t assume that they know what business casual means.  We’re talking about the generation who spend a lot of their time in flip flops and yoga pants.  They are not opposed to dressing a certain way; they just need to know what it is.

·         Use of technology – this issue is becoming more prevalent as more Gen Y’s enter the workforce.  This generation is great at multitasking.  They can work on a term paper, engage in multiple conversations through instant messaging and surf the web at the same time.  Be sure to make clear the policies around use of technology including the company computer and internet.  Remember, Gen Y relies primarily on technology for communication.  They will utilize the technology that is provided to them as well as their own.  If you would prefer that they do not text message their friends during work hours, tell them.    

2.       Offer Flexibility

In a recent survey conducted by our company, over 58% of Gen Y rated flexibility as extremely important or very important to them.  While we realize, it is not always possible to offer flexibility, you should attempt to where you can.  Gen Y is involved in many activities outside of the workplace and they value the concept of flexible working arrangements.  Be willing to discuss options with your employees.  This is a key area for retention purposes.  If Gen Y’s don’t feel like they are able to balance their work and personal lives, they will find another job quickly.

3.       Leverage Their Strengths

Like all generations, Gen Y’s have many positive attributes that they bring to the workplace.  To get the most from this generation, find ways to leverage their strengths.  Provide them with projects and assignments where they can add value.  I recently was told a story by a manager who said that her Gen Y employee was “in 30 minutes able to electronically streamline a process that we had been doing manually for years.”   Gen Y’s enter the workplace excited, passionate and with lots of great ideas.  If you can find ways to utilize their skills and channel their energy, you will experience productive results. 

4.       Show Them Respect

This sounds so basic but it’s not.    Frequently, Gen Y’s complain about being treated as their “manager’s child” rather than their employee.  They also feel they are chastised because they are viewed as having limited experience as compared to other employees.   Gen Y tends to ask a lot of questions and challenge the status quo.  This generation has been coached to get involved and they participate in major family decisions.  At very early ages they set up the cell phones for their parents, hook up the family computer and provide consultation on the best web sites.  Resist the urge to brush them off because of their age and show them the respect that everyone deserves.  

5.       Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Never underestimate the power of communication.  As mentioned earlier, Gen Y relies heavily on technology to communicate.  However, we have found through our survey data that, in the workplace 52% still prefer face to face communication with their bosses and peers.   They keep in touch with literally hundreds of contacts on a daily basis.  Because of the way they use technology, they often assume that this is the preferred method for everyone.  Share your expectations of when you want to discuss issues face-to-face and when it’s appropriate to use technology.  It doesn’t hurt to be proactive and establish communication guidelines early in the relationship.  This will help to avoid mis-communications down the road. 

Managing Gen Y doesn’t have to be as difficult as some make it out to be.  The key is to set clear expectations and establish open lines of communication.  Follow these tips for a positive experience with your Gen Y employees.  They will be the future leaders of the business world someday.  Let’s take the time now to foster their success. 

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About Article Author

Kim A Huggins
Kim A Huggins

Kim Huggins is the President of K HR Solutions, LLC based in Harleysville, PA.  Her company offers services in the areas of organizational effectiveness, leadership development and team dynamics.  Kim is a nationally recognized trainer and speaker on the topic of Generational Differences. 

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