How to deal with Gen-Y in the workplace

How to deal with Gen-Y in the workplace

They want to work with you, not for you.

Let's get something straight: Gen-Y wants to work with you, not for you. Yes, its members have short attention spans, their attention to detail is poor, and they expect instant access to any level of the organisation. But they also have abundant energy, they are IT savvy, and they want to work for organisations that are ethical. One final thing: they are ambitious. If you're the type of manager who can't deal with such mercurial types then there are rough days ahead.

Something else you may not know about Gen-Y -- they want real careers. This is one finding of recent research by recruiting experts Hays. In a survey of 668 jobseekers, about half of Gen-Y respondents said they are now less inclined to take career risks.

"One big change in perspective for Gen-Y has been the replacement of salary with career progression as the most important consideration when looking for a job," says Grahame Doyle, Director of Hays.

"Another change in their perspective came from the importance of an organisation's stability. Fifty per cent of Gen-Y said that when looking for their next role, a company's stability is far more important than before the GFC. This is likely because for the first time, Gen-Y has seen first-hand how comforting employment with a stable company can be in times of broader economic turbulence."

IBM CIO, Steve Godbee, a Baby Boomer, says Gen-Ys always come with certain motives.

"They want a job that not only meets their professional expectations, but that also has added value -- things to test them. Their desires are different to other generations.

"When I went into my first job, people stayed with the same company for a long time. Today, people want more flexibility. That's one of the challenges for IBM. When we get good people, we want to ensure they stay for the long haul. So it's up to us to provide more than a job.

"For example, we've run an initiative in the past couple of years called IBM Tomorrow. Our graduates volunteer to work with social collaboration technologies, available internally or externally. They talk to people in our business to see what their needs are so we can match social media technologies to our business.

"This has been a great exercise for IBM. Not only has it given our graduates extra challenges, but it has also helped them to network across IBM. They get to know others in our organisation and build their understanding of our business."

"It's great for all of us to see how the jobs we do contribute to the business. It makes us feel we are more than just a little cog in a big wheel."

Angelo Grasso, a Gen-Xer, is not as sure about Gen-Y's rationale.

"Back in 2007, it was the law of the jungle," he says. "There were lots of demands from Gen-Y. They had zero loyalty because it was a seller's market. That changed through the GFC, but now it's a seller's market again.

"We need to be aware of Gen-Y, but don't be mesmerised by their wants. It's important to have some of them in your team because they have new ideas, energy and drive. You should nurture them, but if they get a sniff of something better they'll be gone. And really, you should help them move on. You never know -- they may acquire new expertise that you need and you'll hire them in another role.

"The alumni process is vital. You need to help people grow and appreciate that at times you have to let them fly the coup to achieve personal goals.

"This also creates opportunities for other people to grow within your organisation or for you to bring in new blood. You just need to keep a balance."

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