The interview went surprisingly well. The rumoured needy, entitled candidate showed up in something other than jeans and with no cell phone in sight.
They did not update their status mid-interview, nor did they site Pinterest as their portfolio. In fact, the candidate seemed eager to learn, optimistic and even projected a certain palpable energy.
So you took the leap, and with a shake of your hand you hired someone of the Generation Y persuasion. Someone born somewhere around 1978-1994 will now join your team and—fingers-crossed—will blend in.
This is where the problems start.
With their mums and dads getting married and starting a family so young, Millennial babies have largely been encouraged to take the time to obtain at least one degree, be thoughtful when it comes to their careers, and establish a personal identity above all. This type of mould creates a sometimes overly-confident and self-centered job candidate. Trying to blend them in will result in failure; working successfully with this generation demands adaptation.
To those of you who are stomping your foot in declaration that, “We were here first! They should adapt to us!” We understand where you’re coming from; however, if that was the world we lived in we would all still be staring at the blue screen of a Commodore 64.
It’s all about mindset; you can welcome the Millennials into your working space with a few simple changes that will benefit you all. Adapting to Generation Y is not appeasing a group of spoiled brats, its bringing your business up to speed for the 70+ million able bodies that (they promise) are not going anywhere.
Adaptation #1: Feedback and Recognition
Between texts and tweets and posts, it is no giant leap to say Millennials are hungry for interaction and thirsty for acknowledgment. No, this does not mean you need to pass out a participation trophy with each paycheck. But commenting on their progress makes the greater-good serving Millennial feel they are working with a purpose.
How to put this into practice: Keep them engaged in the position by staying engaged in their efforts. Your level of checking-in is up to you; feedback can be as formal as requiring a weekly wrap-up report, or as casual as a water cooler comment. The key is to be present and be consistent. The Generation Y worker is happy to put in the time and effort, as long as you’re willing to acknowledge it.
Adaptation #2: Flexibility
Your Millennial employee was raised with an array of alternatives at their fingertips. After all, they grew up on the internet, the mass appeal coming from the ability to provide an infinite amount of options. This does not mean you are required to relinquish all structure and control when it comes to assigning projects. However, your Millennial employee will serve you better if you give them the flexibility to find their way to your desired results.
How to put this into practice: When faced with a project explain to the Generation Y worker what you want as the end result and what checkpoints you want them to hit along the way. Offer suggestions as to what has worked in the past, but then take a moment to discuss with them how they might tackle this project. Allowing Generation Y to make their mark on their work will root them with a personal investment.
Remember, you’ll be checking-in to give feedback so you’re not throwing them into a deep dark ocean; you’re simply giving them the room to swim their own stroke.
Adaptation #3: Wellness and Balance and Being Green
Ask your Generation Y employee and chances are that while attending college they took a class or two that lectured on burnout and/or the physical and psychological needs for human recreation. Taking a lesson from generations past, the Generation Y worker values their livelihood and sanity by committing to the ideal of working smarter, not harder. For the independent Generation Y worker, the 9-5 workday hosts many pockets of wasted time; one being the daily commute. Why spend 30 minutes each way in traffic when all that is needed to complete the work is a Wi-Fi connection? This is what the Generation Y worker thinks about, and why they value an open-minded employer.
How to put this into practice: When applicable, offing your employees a telecommuting option can save time, money and the environment. Do you absolutely need them in the office? Then don’t give telecommuting a second thought, but do extend wellness benefits by offering reimbursements for gym memberships or by replacing swivel chairs with posture-pleasing exercise balls. Also, making conscious steps to keep the company green wherever feasibly possible (i.e. recycling bins, proper disposal of printer cartridges, energy efficient equipment) will help satisfy the socially conscious Generation Y.
Adaptation #4: Growth
One of the biggest complaints of the Generation Y worker is that they have no loyalty and their job hopping is on the high. It is true, stick Generation Y in a dim-lit cubicle and see how long it takes them to move on. Save yourself from the tedious process of interviewing, hiring and training, and instead try adapting to increase job retention. One powerful way to achieve this is to afford the Millennial employee the opportunity to continue learning and building their skills.
How to put this into practice: For a Millennial, your best role as a higher-up will be as a mentor. Aspirations are high for the Millennials new to the workforce, and establishing yourself as a professional role model will only help. Make the time to have a conversation with your Millennial about their future working aspirations. If applicable, draft out a plan for their professional path and see how you can align those ideals within the company. Another way to support growth is by permitting time for seminars and industry-related conventions. By making an investment in their continued education, you are providing yourself with a more appreciative and knowledgeable employee.
As Generation Y continues to age, so do their ideals. Despite the indulgent and experimental paths that lead their resumes to your HR department, they want to be a part of the workforce and build a lasting career. The question is, will they find the flexibility, recognition and support they need to be able to build that career with you?
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