Ally Maughan of People Puzzles explains how to make the most of Generation Y

The working landscape has changed. The number of ‘job for lifers’ is dwindling and Generation Y has well and truly arrived. And with them they bring a completely new set of attitudes and aspirations.

They are a generation that live their lives online. They expect to move jobs frequently and to move through the ranks at breakneck speed. Despite their complexities, however, Gen Y-ers have a huge amount to offer and a unique insight that could bring your business to life.

For example, many firms feel like social media is passing them by; along with the associated opportunities to grow their business. Bringing Gen Ys onboard can change that.

One client we have looks at Gen Ys with a very open mind. They choose to build job responsibilities and the hierarchical structure of the company around their Gen Y recruits’ interests and skills instead of trying to mould them to fit specific roles.

Gen Ys might not be in your business for life but, if you handle them in the right way, you might keep hold of them for a while and reap the benefits they can offer. The question is; how do you make the most of them while you’ve got them?

A new management style

There’s a misconception that Gen Y-ers don’t need much management. But it’s just that, a misconception and many Gen Y-ers actually really value regular feedback. For many, the time they spend in your business might be their first real experience of work. This means that instead of needing less feedback, if anything they need more.

That doesn’t need to be formal feedback. A quiet informal pat on the back from a manager or peer could be far more appreciated and successful than a more formal system. But this does take a little time – and a switched on manager – to realise it’s important.

Would a Facebook ‘Like’ go down better than an engraved pen?

We know that simply offering Gen Ys a job just isn’t enough to keep them interested – and it’s fair to say a gold watch after a few years probably won’t go down too well either.

You need to think outside the box. As business owners, managers and HR professionals it is our challenge to come up with new ways to recognise and motivate the Gen Y-ers.

Many value flexibility over money so a flexible benefits package is a must. How about offering travel or experience
vouchers as an alternative to the watch?

But make sure you tailor rewards to the individual; one employee’s exhilarating ‘once in a lifetime’ skydive could well be another’s nightmare.

The social media instant feedback generation

The newest trend in employee recognition is to use social media in some way. This can be as simple as a manager endorsing an employee’s skills on LinkedIn or could go as far as announcing an achievement on Facebook.

Showing praise by posting a comment on Facebook or LinkedIn may seem a bit ‘out there’ but, for a generation glued to their smartphones who frequently keep tabs on their friends, why not?

And keep it regular. For a group that moves jobs frequently the concept of a yearly appraisal may be fairly pointless. Make sure recognition is frequent.

Judged by your peers

Many of us frequently work in teams of peers which can become very highly functioning teams that inspire, challenge and produce measurable results. While I don’t claim to be Gen Y myself, I’m in a team such as this at one of our clients. Each meeting involves reviewing previous actions and setting new ones.

Instead of raising any little niggles we have with each other to a manager and expecting them to sort it out, we raise them with the person directly. This has led to some interesting conversations, a lot of personal challenges for all involved, growth and change.

Working like this means instead of spending time whinging about each other we get things sorted quickly. With everyone involved in the process we are all committed to the end result and we work hard to get things done. This self-managed peer group which reports on tangible actions is a great model to use in wider contexts.

Gen Ys will value the regular feedback peer-to-peer assessment brings as well as feeling an active part of the process.

In conclusion, the more you put in to developing a bespoke approach for Gen Ys the more you’ll get out of them. Don’t be afraid to think differently; they could offer just the spark your business needs.

Ally Maughan is founder of People Puzzles; a specialist consultancy providing practical HR solutions for growing businesses