Don't Let the Economy Alter Your Gen Y Strategy
by Leah Reynolds
Generation Y, whose members are 14 to 27 years old, often is portrayed as being self-entitled and spoiled by the baby boomers. In the workplace, they have a reputation as being overly ambitious dreamers who want higher salaries and more time off without paying their dues.
Deloitte's latest snapshot on Gen Yers already in the workforce presents a different picture. Gen Yers are a hidden powerhouse of employee potential: They are future-oriented, ready to contribute now and opportunity-driven. And they may just be a key asset for your business in tough times.
Gen Yers are driven less by rewards and more by opportunity. Career enhancement is more important than salary or a more secure job. When ranking factors in their decision to join their current employers, 63.5 percent cited development opportunities, while 49.8 percent mentioned salary and benefits.
They are adept at collaboration and teamwork. The chance to partner with older, more experienced workers is welcomed, and they are full of fresh insight on how to reach their peers in the consumer market. When asked what encourages them to initiate new ideas or participate in innovative efforts, their top two responses were opportunities to work with senior staff and executives (53.5 percent) and a culture that embraces contributions from all levels (52.9 percent).
They take on tough challenges and work toward ambitious goals.
...managers can tap this hidden powerhouse of employee potential, especially in this time of tight budgets and economic uncertainty. It can be a difficult challenge, but these ideas can help:
-Cut with a scalpel, not an axe: The current economic situation may require staff cuts, a process stacked against Gen Yers, who lack seniority and may not be top performers in traditional ways. Stick to a longer-term Gen Y strategy by expanding elimination-decision criteria to include competencies such as innovative prowess, technical savvy and willingness to take risks.
-Don't be afraid to ruffle feathers: Older workers may not be happy that young upstarts are getting great opportunities, but do what's right for the business. Try assigning older workers as mentors for younger staff, and change traditional reward structures to encourage participation. Older workers will feel valued and respected, while younger workers' desire to rocket up the learning curve will be satisfied.
-Acknowledge the challenge: Today's young workers have different expectations, and this isn't likely to change. Find ways to meet their needs by adjusting the strategic workforce plan, organization models, rewards, recognition and development programs - or another company will.
Gen Y is the future. Companies won't survive without them, so figuring out how to harness their capabilities is good business. The sooner you start, the sooner you'll see the benefits, and a bigger lead you'll have over your competition.
To my Gen Y readers: more and more of the management gurus are saying good things about you. I believe them and I believe in you. Feel good and do good. Make the world better.
To my non-Gen Y readers: We have no choice but to accept the inevitable but when we do it willingly and with understanding we become a part of the change, and we are able to influence it subtly. Don’t overvalue age or experience or knowledge, this century is all about the fresh use of knowledge, new perspectives and innovation. We not only don’t have any advantage over the upcoming generation, our so-called wisdom can be a barrier. True wisdom is constantly working to keep ourselves adaptable in all aspects of our lives.
I remember more than a few occasions during my childhood when I was irritated to hear elders lament along the lines of, “These days kids don’t know this,” or “This generation does not appreciate that.” One thing I swore to myself on one such occasion was I would not fall in this particular trap; when I am older, I will not deride the inexperience of youngsters. It’s not been easy but I have stuck to this promise made decades ago. All it takes is spending more time with younger folk and keeping the child in all of us alive – perhaps by being a little naughtier, a tad humbler, and above all, willing to laugh at oneself.