Small Business Development Center
At Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry
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Working with Gen Y’s

By Chemeketa SBDC

Marcia Bagnall, Chemeketa SBDC Director

Are you starting to employ younger workers in your business? If so, you may be wondering who these young people are and how best to manage them. What you probably know for sure is they aren’t like you, but how can you turn that into an advantage?

The latest generation to join the workforce is the Next Generation, sometimes referred to as the Y-Generation (“Gen Y”) or “Echo Boomers.”  This group, born roughly between 1977 and 1997, is about 70 million strong. They are comfortable with technology and can create new trends overnight. They have short attention spans, but high social consciousness. They are the beneficiaries of “everyone gets a trophy” parenting and school systems. They seek meaning in the workplace and will give up financial and security rewards to get it.

So what’s an employer to do? Here are some smart strategies to turn the Gen-Y’s tendencies into a win-win situation for your business and for them.

  • Create feedback systems and work them regularly. Gen Y’s as a rule were raised with parenting techniques that were heavy on self-esteem. These young people believe in themselves, which can make them high performers. It can also make them high maintenance, as they crave continuous feedback and praise.
  • Allow for an open flow of communication, and respond quickly. Consider assigning the Gen-Y a mentor, which links him or her to a more experienced person and provides an additional avenue for feedback.
  • Lay out a plan of advancement (with a lot of small steps) to help them understand the realities of your workplace. Although they may expect a corner office and big salary right away, this won’t happen and they need to be clear on that (keep in mind the parenting their generation got praised someone just for showing up!) 
  • Discourage the use of a “control” style of management. This generation prefers to speak their minds and have input. A top-down, “my way or the highway” style doesn’t resonate with these young people. They’ll choose the highway every time.
  • Show them how their work makes a difference to your company, point out their contribution and its value. Gen-Yers seek meaning in what they do. This generation volunteers in their communities more than any other in American history. So capitalize on that by letting them know their work matters. You’ll benefit from their increased commitment to your business.
  • Harness their use of technology. Allow a Gen-Yer to show you how to build efficiencies into your workplace using technology (shorter meetings, more immediate communications, upgrades to your online marketing, etc.)
  • Offer flexibility. For Gen-Yers the line between work and home is blurred (thanks to technology) and they’re big believers in work-life balance. They’re also world champion multi-taskers. So allow for flexible work schedules and telecommute options. They’re high achievers; they’ll get the work done. And they’ll work harder if they get to choose how.

About Chemeketa SBDC

We provide the tools and environment for small business owners to make great decisions.

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