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Managing The New Generation Y Workforce

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According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is estimated that Generation Y employees (born in the 1980s and 1990s) will comprise more than 40% of the U.S. workforce by 2020, far outnumbering any other generation.

Some critics contend that Gen Y is no different from previous generations and that the qualities that define Gen Y employees are simply signs of youth. Gen Y employees are often criticized as spoiled, impatient, and most of all, “entitled.” As these young workers enter the workforce, companies must accommodate their demands for faster promotions, greater responsibilities and more flexible work schedules-much to the annoyance of older co-workers who feel they have spent years paying their dues to rise through the ranks. A 2010 Pew Research study found that while baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) cited work ethic, respectfulness, and morals as their defining qualities, Gen Ys chose technology, music, pop culture, and liberal leanings-followed by superior intelligence and clothing as their defining qualities. They are also likely to prioritize lifestyle over salary, and to foresee changing careers.

Employers must understand that Gen Y is coming into the workforce with high expectations of their managers. They expect their managers to have all the answers and to be as educated as themselves. Gen Y expects their managers to adapt with them and leave the “old school” practices behind. They believe they should be learning new practices and not have to teach them to their managers. Concessions are necessary to retain the best of Generation Y. They bring fresh skills to the workplace, are tech-savvy, racially diverse, socially interconnected, and collaborative. The Gen Y age group wants the opportunity to stand out without dealing with routine or hierarchy. Gen Ys are motivated when given the freedom to work as they please. These employees do not want a manager telling them what to do at every second, but they do desire regular feedback. They prefer a guiding hand instead of a micromanager. Employees want to know if they are doing the job well. If they are not, it is up to the manager to help train and motivate them to be the best they can.

A very important role for managers is to create mentorships within the company. This allows the senior employees to reach out to the Gen Y employees and offer them advice and counseling in a new environment. This is a very successful way for Gen Ys to learn about the values of the company, as well as gain insightful knowledge in an industry that is foreign to them. Companies looking to accommodate these younger workers must tread a fine line. Too much special treatment…and older workers would feel neglected. Too little…and younger workers would leave. If they don’t feel like they’re making a contribution to the organization overall, they don’t stay. Communication is one of the most important aspects of dealing with Gen Y. If they feel their job has a sense of purpose, they stay motivated and open to direction and leadership from mentors. Employees who are open-minded are more apt to grow and develop in their industry. Ideas and knowledge can be transferred successfully through generations as long as everyone is open to new and old ideas and can find a way to build them into the daily office routine.

It is crucial for managers to understand that Gen Y craves continued education from their colleagues. They seek challenging tasks and have a desire to gain knowledge by working with the employees around them. Gen Ys grew up multi-tasking in multiple aspects of life. From school, to sports, to internet, they are able to complete tasks without hesitation. They crave goals that allow them to complete a job quickly and move on to the next. Every goal accomplished is a small step to a larger goal they have in life. Along with goals, upon entering the workforce, Gen Y is ready for responsibility. They don’t want to sit back and wait for a manager to give them a task; instead, they look to how they can better themselves by constantly asking for more work and completing the job well.

These generational differences may be why baby boomers often gripe about their younger colleagues as arrogant kids who don’t know how to dress appropriately, deal with customers or close deals. But their impatience shows an ability to question the status quo and devise new ways of doing business.

Never has there been a generation like Gen Y. Their potential is unmatched by any generation before them. They are a generation that is motivated, educated, and have higher expectations than ever before. Technology is second nature to them and their understanding of it will make them a valuable part of society. They are entering the workforce with ambition and they have the “whatever it takes” attitude that could potentially make them the most successful generation yet. One thing is certain – this generation is now entering the workforce and others will have to find a way to work successfully with them.


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