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How ready is your organisation for Gen Y?

Gen Y, also known as Millenials, (born 1980 – 2000) are a huge part of the present workforce and are the next wave of senior leaders. Many have already assumed entry-level managerial roles and the most talented of these are advancing into bigger and more complex leadership positions. So, what are the key themes of this generation, and generally speaking how can you prepare your organisation to make best use of their talents?

The characteristics of Gen Y

Gen Ys are characterised by having more liberal social and cultural attitudes and by being more civic and community oriented. Despite being hit hard by the 2008 financial crises they still have high expectations for advancement, salary and for a coaching relationship with their manager. Moving forwards organisations will need to adapt to accommodate and make the best use of Gen Y’s talents, for example, by providing more feedback, responsibility, and involvement in decision making at an earlier stage in people’s careers. Hackman and Oldham (1975) identified some key job characteristics that are essential to employee motivation. Research indicates these still matter to Gen Y, with a couple of additions:

  • Highly motivated by technology and like to stay connected
  • Value flexibility and seek variety
  • Want to feel a sense of identity and purpose
  • Value honesty, transparency and are ethically driven
  • Hold feedback and structured guidance in high regard

Is your organisation Gen Y ready?

The role models here are Google, Virgin, Apple and Facebook – companies that excite this generation because of their brand, values, use of technology and the positive impact they have on society.  Clearly not every organisation can be like this. However there are still some simple steps to making any organisation more attractive and rewarding to Gen Y.

How to build a Gen Y friendly Talent Strategy

There are some key considerations that will allow Gen Y to adapt to your workplace more quickly and propel themselves towards leadership positions. From our experience, there are six things organisations need to consider:

1. Emphasise feedback and development
Feedback is prized by Gen Y. This generation more than any other likes to know how they have performed and to be given this information quickly. Providing authentic, constructive and developmental feedback is therefore key to building motivation and engagement.

2. Pick up the pace
This is a generation that has been shaped by instant feedback, be it from the internet, X Factor or one form of social media or another. This means that the idea of annual appraisals is outdated, and simply too slow to be interesting. Recruitment processes also need to be exciting and to show an appreciation that candidates have a choice. Leave Gen Y candidates hanging at your peril.

3. Provide active career development
The popular mantra of employees needing to take responsibility for their own development is also under challenge. The Gen Y population expect to be served in exchange for their energies and loyalty. Whilst comfortable operating in less structured environments it is critical that individuals feel that their future is being considered. Line managers therefore need to be prepared to dedicate regular time to discussing this and Talent Review processes need to be felt rather than hidden away.

4. Invest in personal 121 development initiatives
Development is extremely important to Gen Y and a simple solution is for them to seek mentorship from Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), with whom they actually share some characteristics.  In fact studies indicate that Gen Y are more likely to look to Boomers for professional advice and guidance than Gen X (born 1964 – 1980).  More often than not Gen Y are actually the children of Boomers and have been famously treasured and protected by their parents. This may explain why there are similarities that skip over Gen X.

Tom Banham, Head of Academy Talent Acquisition at Nestle UK & Ireland commented that “New Gen Y employees who enter our academy get a mentor to support them, usually a senior person in the organisation.  However, now we’re going one step further and are trialling a dedicated manager who will provide support, be a coach, counsellor, whatever people need.  Someone who is neutral and can be a confidante in situations when perhaps the senior people can’t be.”

5. Build flexibility into the work environment
Additionally, Boomers and Gen Y both share the value of ‘making a positive impact’ and value flexibility in their working arrangements, allowing them to have a better work-life balance. A recent study showed that 70% care about flexible working hours, whereas only 46% care about base salary. Developing a flexible reward strategy and implementing solid CSR initiatives are clearly things that will motivate Millenials and will make an organisation more attractive as an employer.

6. Communicate transparently and honestly
Finally, honesty and transparency form a large part of a Gen Y’s thought processes, as social media is able to expose the flaws and failings of corporations and their leaders. Talent acquisition and development programmes need to reflect this. Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive at the AGR commented: “Gen Y respond well to openness, so organisations shouldn’t be afraid of honest conversations over non-traditional platforms.” So clarity in terms of roles, development plans, expectations and goals is critical to them – or they will hop on their smartphones and find out the truth.

In summary, the generation gap is an important discussion point at the moment and the progression of Gen Y into more senior leadership roles needs consideration. However, the challenges are not insurmountable to organisations that take a proactive approach to Talent Management. Initiatives, as above, executed in the right way can help retain and nurture key talent, and gain an edge in the re-emergence of the war for talent. In theory, Gen Y leaders should be well equipped to lead Gen Y employees. Time will tell.

If you would like more information on how to ensure your organisation is optimised to attract, develop and retain the best emerging Gen Y leaders then contact Dan Brieger on 0207 2242071.

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