Gen-Y Employees: How to Motivate Them
Do you have a retention strategy for your young, talented people? Does it boil down to, “Pay them more and they will stay”?
If so, you’re in trouble. On its own, money is rarely enough to keep employees on board and engaged. That’s especially true of younger talent, which is likely to come from Generation Y.
Members of Generation Y are hard driven, tech savvy, ambitious, and well aware of the social context of their life and their work. Sure, they want money and “stuff,” but they also value the communal and social aspects of their lives.
Given the characteristics of people in Generation Y, what are the best ways to keep them happy, productive, and working for you?
Make your expectations clear
Talented individuals get frustrated when they feel they aren’t getting anything done. That’s why unclear expectations and ambiguous directives are a recipe for burnout and resignations. For Generation Y, accomplishments are the steppingstones to success. Without a sense of accomplishment and forward momentum, Gen-Yers feel as though they’re spinning their wheels.
Develop and coach
Generation Y employees view their jobs as a continuation of their educations. They need to feel they are learning, and they especially appreciate being coached. That means you have to actually be competent in coaching techniques. Otherwise, your concern for your young talent’s development might not seem authentic. How you listen, question, speak, and give feedback are essential to keeping your Gen-Y staff engaged and motivated.
Stretch the comfort zones
Generation Y people welcome new challenges and a manageable degree of risk. This is an adrenaline-driven generation that craves change and challenge, and members won’t shrink from assignments outside their comfort zones. They see an opportunity to take on a new challenge as a vote of confidence in their abilities.
Promote team cohesiveness
Team loyalty is a key tool for motivating and retaining Generation Y members. They identify strongly with their team, often more strongly than they identify with their company. The team is a source of social and professional support and gives them a base from which they can move forward. You need to enhance their collective culture, their sense of team, and their feeling of cohesion and social integration.
Encourage career planning--even outside your company
Generation Y members insist on growth and mobility. Keep them up to date about growth opportunities at your company, and work with them to understand their interests and set a timeline for greater responsibility. If you aren’t able to give them the opportunities they want, it’s important not to stymie their job hunts elsewhere. If your Gen-Y employees need to leave your company to grow professionally, don’t make them feel disloyal.
Generation Y people don't expect or even desire lifetime employment at any one place. They do value knowing that as they move ahead, you will be there for them. The more they feel that you are a true partner in their career, the more likely they are to stay and fully contribute to your start-up.
SAMUEL B. BACHARACH | Columnist | Director, Cornell's Institute of Workplace Studies
Samuel B. Bacharach is the co-founder of Bacharach Leadership Group (BLG), specializing in leadership development programs with an emphasis on micro-skills: change, execution, negotiation and coaching. He is the McKelvey-Grant professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University's ILR School. His books include Get Them on Your Side and Keep Them on Your Side.