Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How do We Motivate Gen Y?

I stumbled across an article today on CIO's advice section by Carolyn Douglas titled Motivating Gen Y. As a Gen X startup guru and manager of Gen Y employees, Douglas' column highlighted key points from a recent panel discussion on recruiting and retaining Gen Y.

In her post, Douglas states:

"For Gen Y, studies indicate their top wish list includes:
  • Work/life balance
  • To be heard and valued
  • Regular recognition
  • Work in a fun atmosphere
  • Motivated by challenge and a collaborative environment"


Although Douglas' advice is valuable and has nuggets of truth, I'm always surprised at the ambiguity in the advice for managing Gen Y.

What I mean is this; show me someone who likes to work 18-hour days, to be ignored and unvalued, to receive little or no recognition, work in a boring atmosphere, or work in an unchallenging and back-stabbing environment. Can you think of anyone? Implicitly, management gurus and hiring managers seem to think that Gen Y demands these things, but Gen X or the Baby Boomer really doesn't value these attributes.  Even if a hiring manager does all these things, will this really make us happy?

I don't think Gen Y management is about the five things Douglas mentions.  Sure, they help, but they're as applicable to Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y.  What makes Gen Y special, and how do you leverage the human capital inside this demographic?

In reality, it boils down to a few things:

  1. Taking time to know our goals and dreams: This is probably the single most important thing to understand when hiring or managing a Gen Y employee.  We were born with the belief we can do everything, and every management book out there tells us how talented, good looking, and fashionable we are.  However, it doesn't matter how great a company is; if Gen Y does not find value in a position, they will most likely burn out and managers will lose valuable human capital.  Take the time to know what we want to do and where we want to go.  Better yet; show us how what we're doing today will get us where we want to be tomorrow.
  2. Recognizing all Gen Y are different: Please, people; stop thinking we're all the same.  I have friends who enjoy collecting state unemployment and friends who consistently work 14-hour days.  Do not stereotype us that we are supposed to only want to work 35 hours a week, we want to volunteer for Green Peace on Friday, or we want (or don't want) money.  Understand each Gen Y is different; know us and what we want, and we will make you successful.
  3. Understanding the pace of Gen Y life: For the longest time, if we wanted something, we could have it instantly.  From microwave dinners to broadband downloads, we get what we want in three minutes or less. However, we now work in a world with boundaries, deadlines, and scarcity.  Make sure managers communicate career path timelines and the pace of corporate America's promotions, job changes, etc. before hiring a Gen Y employee.

1 comment:

WesleyG said...

perhaps the state of the economy plays a part in motivating Gen y :(

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