How to engage your Gen Y staff

Engaging GenY staff

By 2025, it’s predicted that Gen Y will make up 75% of the workforce.

This reality is enough to fill many managers with fear and trepidation. Perhaps this is no surprise, with all the hype that surrounds Gen Y in the workforce: from self-centered and entitled to optimists with a genuine desire to help others, this generation has been branded with a staggering number of stereotypes.

The reality is, the working world is changing – and your Gen Y staff members probably don’t want to hear about how it’s “always been done that way”. Instead of standing still, businesses that are open to positive change and nurturing the talents of their staff, are likely to succeed, no matter what generation their employees are.

Here are some hints to engage your Gen Y staff and set your business up for success.

1. It’s all about engagement

Only 28% of Millenials feel that their current organisation is making full use of their skills. This concerning statistic is a huge waste of talent and potential productivity.

Build engagement by ensuring new employees have a proper workplace induction, clearly articulating team members’ responsibilities and discussing potential career paths within your organisation with your Gen Y staff. In my experience, feeling shut out from a team and its leaders is one of the biggest sources of discontent amongst junior staff. Trust me when I say, a little effort in this regard will go a long, long way when you are engaging your Gen Y staff.

2. Foster collaboration and shared outcomes

Like it or not, your Gen Y staff wants to feel like they are part of your business and have an impact on its outcomes. A recent IBM report found that the best and brightest Gen Y employees are likely to prefer working in a collaborative organisation where they are encouraged to contribute new ideas.

These days, collaborating is so much more than sharing ideas around the board table. There are a number of great collaboration tools that allow contribution from all levels of business. Bonus points are awarded to businesses that embrace online collaboration tools and apps… don’t forget that Gen Y has grown up with technology at their fingertips, it’s second nature for them to meet online, instant message co-workers and share ideas from their mobile device.

3. Strike the right balance with mobility and flexibility

Striking the right balance between flexibility and structure within your organisation is a vital, but often difficult, step to engaging your Gen Y staff.

Gen Y staff are used to always being connected – they want to be able to work on the train to the office, and are most likely going to be checking emails out of hours. In fact, 37% of employed American Millenials said that going mobile increases the amount of work they do out of hours.

Over time, you will be able to work out the right balance. Going mobile can be great for your business, once the trust has been established.

However you decide to approach this, setting clear boundaries will provide an effective framework in which all members of your staff, no matter what generation, can operate.

4. Encourage leadership and reward those looking for extra responsibility

If a Gen Y member of your staff has approached you to take on extra responsibility or with an opportunity to develop their skills, foster this drive and help create opportunities for them.

Gone is the assumption that a job is for life. Avoid retention problems by providing professional development and learning opportunities to keep your Gen Y employees engaged with your business and its outcomes, and their role within the business.

5. Feedback and mentorship is more important than ever

Flowing from Gen Y’s desire for leadership is the knowledge that they need to develop skills and expertise to get there. To do so, feedback and mentorship is critical.

Your Gen Y employee is unlikely to be satisfied with a basic annual performance review. They want timely feedback, and mentorship opportunities to learn from managers and leaders in your organisation.

Setting goals and identifying areas of development with your Gen Y staff member will command respect for you, and increase their motivation. If a Gen Y staff member asks you out for coffee to discuss their career, don’t see this as a waste of time; rather, embrace it as a motivational tool to connect your employee in your workplace.

And finally, don’t worry about the hype: if you are willing to put the time and effort in to engage your Gen Y staff your business will reap the rewards of a hard working, enthusiastic and driven staff member.

Be patient and open minded – every day is the opportunity for you and your business to grow and learn.

We’re currently conducting a survey on work-life balance and would love to have your input. To take part in the short survey, please click here.

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About the author

Phoebe is a digital marketer, blogger and social media lover based in Australia. In typical Gen Y style, three years into life as a corporate lawyer she decided that this wasn’t the career for her and set out on a career change journey, learning from thought leaders and connecting with other young professionals. She shares her stories on her blog, Making It Up. Connect with Phoebe on Twitter and LinkedIn. More blog posts by Phoebe Vertigan ››
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