Managing Generation Y Employees

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Published 7/25/2015

Whether we like it or not, there is always a regular infusion of youth into the workforce. It is essential to understand the psyche of youngsters before making heroes out of them or, at the other extreme, deriding them as being immature.

You must have seen people in the office who are hooked to their smartphone—always thumbing away at it. They get their news from Facebook and Twitter instead of from the papers or TV.

Such people have their ways, mysterious ways (to those who are not in the know), of spreading information. The buzz travels at astonishing speeds, and before you know it, the news is passe. Just a few years ago, there was the smoke break. Now there is the Facebook break. Tweets, retweets, and hashtags are all the rage. Things go viral just like that. You know what we are talking about—fresh-out-of-college millennials, who are the talking point in management circles these days.

Managing baby boomers with a hierarchical approach proved to be a handful in the beginning. However, over the decades, after a host of management theories propounded by experts from big-ticket B schools were put into practice, those apprehensions have been laid to rest. With Generation X, which followed them, there was a rethink of authority, along with the rise of soft power. Now, although forming the majority of the global workforce, baby boomers and Generation Xers are gradually making way for millennials.

Is there a significant enough difference to warrant a change in management strategies to cater to the needs of Generation Y? A number of studies have been conducted, and the answer is a resounding yes.

The social milieu in which millennials were born was a world apart from the pre-PC age in which there were pockets of excellence concentrated in certain domains and demographics due to inherited advantages.

However, the ubiquity and democratization of technology has made the playing field more level.

Millennials have grown up with the Internet, literally!! It has been said that, if your brother was born 3 years after you, you wouldn't be able to understand his lingo, and so on. That's the way it is.

With the inexorable march of technology and the corresponding changes in the social fabric to adapt to that technology, the world is a much different place than what it was even 25 years ago. For example, it was predicted that, every 2 years, the number of transistors that can be fitted onto a microchip would double. That's fodder for another article.

The world of social media is bringing about a paradigm shift even in the way we converse with our near and dear ones. And, Generation Y has embraced this change like a fish takes to water. They are fabulously adept in the use of gadgets. They have even morphed the spelling of words beyond recognition, mainly with their type-on-the-go use of mobile devices. Generation Y is adventure seeking, intrepid, and headstrong. They look for creative solutions to newer and newer challenges, on which, needless to say, they thrive. Managers feel the need to engage them more effectively.

It goes without saying that millennials are all for a flatter organization with more power devolving to the ones in the thick of the action. They are Generation Xers on steroids, as it were.

One thing that irks proponents of old-school management is the high attrition among millennials. It's often said, and certainly practiced by Generation Y, that talent always moves on and it is only dead wood that stays. This is proving to be a conundrum for managers. But demand-supply has a mind of it's own. And, taken together with the dynamics of social/corporate interaction, this assumes paramount importance in the HR agenda.

We could say that a person from Generation Y typically has a shorter attention span, digs fancy designations, wants to be the in thing, and is a part of cliques.

Generation Y is also "notorious" for laying great emphasis on quick career progression. Then, they want things such as flexible timings and periodic bonuses—things that they will not compromise on. One can hear in water cooler conversations things like "Loyalty is for dogs. I am here for the money."

Although they don't prefer to be called greenhorns, the fact remains that these newbies require continual training and mentoring to get to grips with the organization and their role in it.

It has been seen that millennials like to be associated with the word "project", implying that they aim at short-term challenges. The ones that rise up the corporate ladder precociously prefer the designation "Project Manager" over "Team Leader".

Further, the millennial woman has a worldview. She is more assertive and aware of her rights. Women nowadays are at least on par with men in the workplace if not a notch higher.

With over 50 percent of the world's population under the age of 30, millennials and others after them will continue to enter the job market with challenges, expectations, strengths, and weaknesses that are all their own.

About the author:

Carolin Rekar Munro is the author of the insightful Managing the New Generation by Packt Publishing