Firms failing to recruit, engage, retain Generation Y

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By Tim Hawkes

Members of Generation Y – people born between 1979 and 1991 – are our leaders of the future. But a clash in attitudes and outlook between older age groups (the Generation Xs and Baby Boomers) and this upcoming generation has created a divide in the workplace, making it difficult for organizations to connect with, inspire, and motivate younger workers.

A fundamental change is therefore needed to ensure a robust and talented workforce for the future, which has implications on bosses today, and how they manage and develop people.

Much of the change that needs to take place is in how employers become magnetic to workers in their 20s. Understanding what motivates Generation Y will mean you are one step closer to keeping them engaged with your business or organization. 

They are described as the generation that believes they can have it all – and will ask for it. Members of this generation have grown up in a period of stability with no serious economic uncertainty or war. They have lived in a highly sociable, collaborative environment with the latest technology at their fingertips. Generation Y is independent, innovative, and creative, and is used to constant contact. 

As a result, people in their 20s like to work as part of a team, to solve problems collaboratively, and to have fun and make new friends. They want more flexibility than their parents in how and when they work, and the lines between social and work life are more blurred.

So when they step into business, they're expecting a collaborative working approach, which often isn't there. Instead the management style is dictatorial – and this is where we're seeing a clash in attitudes and minimum employee engagement. 

A nurturing approach

Employers can't expect people in their 20s to lead and advise others if all they've known is team working and shared problem solving.

Managers therefore should be moving from a dictatorial style to a nurturing/coaching-based role, which gives support as well as help in learning and understanding the benefits and tools of leadership and management.

Generation Y will feel more engaged with managers who listen and set clear, open objectives that are time-bounded, but do not dictate how it should be done.

Communicating with the boss regularly – at least once a day – is the key to Generation Y, and managers should be building in strategies that allow them to stay in regular contact with team members.

The latest technology and tools to communicate also can be used to give young workers an environment they feel familiar with and can be used in ways that benefit the business. Organizations could look at open forums to share ideas and solve problems, or allow young workers to use social media to talk and engage with customers about their products or services.

Magnetic companies also reach out to potential young employees by having a good presence on the Web that engages with people – for example, forums such as Facebook and Twitter are the fastest growing ways to find jobs.

Flexible working

Retaining young employees involves giving them flexibility, freedom, and support. Traditional one-job, life-long careers are not relevant to them. They want to work for companies that allow them to switch jobs, continue to learn new skills, take sabbaticals, and build a portfolio career.

Part of any engagement strategy also should include the use of coaches and mentors. Younger employees ask for coaching and mentoring support much earlier than previous generations because they've seen successful older managers benefit from it.

Coaching and development for Generation Y has evolved and needs to be more flexible to meet the needs of young people's personal timetables and requirements, and have regular reviews built in to monitor success.

Becoming a magnetic employer that engages young workers is about developing an environment of total transparency with people who take personal responsibility through fully understanding themselves. It's a place where managers and leaders are authentic and who embrace new forms of technology and communication.

If businesses and organizations can offer an environment in which young workers thrive, then they will keep the very best talent in the Generation Y pool.

About the author:

Tim Hawkes is managing director at Unlimited Potential, a coaching and leadership development company that specializes in coach training for managers and implementing a coaching culture.

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