Softworks Blog

How to keep Generation Y engaged in 2014

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Tue, Jan 7, 2014

First there was talk about Baby Boomers, then we heard about Generation X and today’s conversation is focused firmly aound Generation Y.  So who are this generation and why is it going to be so important to keep them engaged in the workplace now and in the future?

Generation Y generally refers to people who were born between the late 70s and 80s although the group is sometimes expanded to include all those born between the late 70s and 2000. When it comes to defining a generation, the boundaries are quite loose.  The point is, Generation Y are now all grown up and are set to become a significant force within the workplace and keeping them engaged could be key to your company's success or otherwise. 

Certain traits have emerged that are distinguishing this generation from previous generations. One of the most significant differences between generation X and Y cited, is that  generation X are often seen as the “abandoned generation” or "latch-key kids" due to the fact that they were raised at a time when both parents had to work so they had to fend for themselves.

Generation Y, on the other hand, are often considered to be the most parented generation in history. They are also the largest generation of youth in history being three times larger than Generation X.  Generation Y includes terms such as Millennials, the Net Generation and the Trophy Generation (due to the tendency for kids in this demographic to get trophies from activities regardless of their actual achievement levels!)

Generation Y resized 600

Generation Y are idealistic, digitally-enabled, social and ambitious and research tells us they are likely to have a distinct set of characteristics and expectations from their managers.  The implications are that the management styles that may have worked for previous generations may not have the same impact or motivation factor for this generation.  

Due to the endless positive feedback bestowed on generation Y kids from their parents, the young adults of this generation tend to be extremely confident. They tend to enter the workforce with high expectations both for themselves and for their employers. They have higher salary expectations and unlike previous generations, they don’t overly fear losing their job, as they have had the luxury of bouncing from one job to another until they found one that suits. This lack of fear tends to make them more outspoken and less afraid of the boss than previous generations.

This generation is likely to "work to live" rather than "live to work". Working assists them to do the things they really want to do. They would rather an interesting job for less money that allows them plenty of time out of the office (or working at home/flexible working) rather than putting in 12-hour days for a six-figure salary. In summary they want engaging work with opportunity for change and growth. Both on a personal and professional level.  They expect instant feedback at work, in the same way they receive feedback in their personal lives via text messages or "likes" on Facebook.  They want work to be an enjoyable experience and if this experience can include working with their friends in a casual and fun environment – even better!

So if you are looking to engage this generation consider the following motivation and retention strategies for 2014...

  • Share the company vision – This generation will look for meaning and by explaining your company vision you will give them a clearer sense of purpose.
  • Give encouragement and regular feedback – honest supportive feedback will go a long way; they have received this from a young age and continue to receive it via Facebook etc.
  • Coach rather than manage – Generation Y need to feel they are learning, and they especially appreciate being coached.
  • Offer more flexibility – Work life balance ranks high on their agenda. To Generation Y-ers, a 9-5 shift can seem like a prison sentence!
  • Stretch the comfort Zone - Generation Y people welcome new challenges.  
  • Provide education and professional development - Facilitating their continuing education and hobbies will go a long way towards keeping them happy and engaged
  • Promote team cohesiveness and social interaction - Team loyalty is a key tool for motivating and retaining Generation Y members who enjoy working in a team environment.
  • Give time for personal projects – Offer time to work on personal projects as this keeps them engaged and can also boost innovation within your business.
  • Set multiple tasks and goals in a structured way - They are excellent multi-taskers and enjoy variety at work.
  • Allow time for social causes – Generation Y feel responsible for making a difference in the world and like to give back via volunteering, supporting charities etc. Support them by allowing some flexibility in their hours to facilitate. It's good for them, it's good for your business and it's good for the world in general :)

Topics: Jobs, Employee Retention, Flexitime / Flexible Working Hours Arrangement, Work-Life Balance, Flexible Working, Working From Home, Motivation, Performance, Generation Y